I was invited to sample out the 'Lighter' menu at Prezzo this weekend, and it was a very much welcome intermission from snowball fights and building an army of snowmen using rapidly freezing snow.
We often visit Pizza Express for a family treat on the weekend as the children's menu is such good value, but I'm not too keen on their lighter options as they seem a little uninspiring. As we're creatures of habit, we'd never ventured into a Prezzo restaurant before, I must admit that I'd thought them to be more of an adult restaurant, and hadn't realised that they had such a good children's menu with an extensive selection of child-friendly meals available.
I was there to sample the lighter options menu, which was launched to kick off the New Year for a limited period and comprise a starter, four main courses and a dessert, each under 600 calories each.
This limited edition menu (available until 4th February 2013) comprises of: a starter of chunky tomato and oregano soup; four main courses – buffalo mozzarella flatbread, super detox salad, grilled vegetable flatbread, chicken Andria; and a dessert of a choice of sorbets.
I was really pleased to see that the main courses contained four vegetarian options, it's often the healthier option anyway, and although I am not a fan of tomato soup I was happy to give it a go.
- Me: chunky tomato and oregano soup (130 calories)
- The Boy: Garlic bread with cheese (from children's menu)
- Mr. TBaM: Mozzarella in Carrozza (Mozzarella cheese deep-fried in breadcrumbs served with pomodoro sauce)
I was really pleasantly surprised by the taste and texture of the soup. The tomato soup I've had in the past has usually come from a tin, or of a similar consistency: like thick passata, gloopy and overwhelmingly strong in one taste. This soup was so far removed that it was a pleasure to eat. The chunkiness proved that it had actually once contained whole tomatoes (something I am normally left wondering!) and the oregano really added an extra dimension to the dish. I suspect that there may have been some form of spice or chilli in there as well because, as well as it retaining its warmth, it also had a mild, spicy glow. It was a huge portion and I managed two-thirds of it before having to admit defeat.
- Me: grilled vegetable flatbread (482 calories)
- The Boy: Penne Carbonara (children's menu)
- Mr. TBaM: Pollo Carbonara (Seasoned chicken, pancetta bacon and spaghetti in a creamy grana padano cheese sauce)
I was astounded with my main meal. The quality of all three was excellent, but mine was really superb. The flatbread was the perfect size and depth with the right amount of tasty vegetables; aubergine, courgette, peppers, onion and mozzarella drizzled with basil pesto, served with a side salad and low calorie Italian dressing. The pesto over the top added another layer of flavour that made the pizza-style bread lip-smackingly delicious. It was also beautifully presented on a wooden board that I knew my woodturner father would have approved of!
As an aside, it's worth nothing that quality of the meat in the other main meals was excellent; the ham and bacon were thick quality like gammon, and off the bone not processed. The chicken in the Pollo Carbonara was large chunks that were tenderly cooked.
- Me: Lemon sorbet (129 calories)
- The Boy: chocolate ice-cream
- Mr. TBaM: Honeycomb Smash Cheesecake (Blended and topped with crunchy honeycomb pieces coated in chocolate)
I tend to find that sorbets can be either wishy-washy in flavour or basically an ice-cream labelled incorrectly. Lemon sorbets can be so sharp to eat that I normally admit defeat amidst a gallon of water trying to revive my tastebuds. Not the case with this one which was delicately flavoured to truly clean the palette after a delicious meal. It was very enjoyable. I'll admit that I only ate half of it before having to surrender it to Mr. TBaM, as lemon sorbet is his favourite pudding.
While I was not there to review the restaurant as a whole (my remit being the 'Lighter Menu') I do need to point out how impressed I was with the branch we went to (St. Mary's Street, Cardiff). The blanket of snow over south Wales ensured that Cardiff's trade experienced a quiet day generally, and this obviously meant that there were more staff to serve the tables in the restaurant. However all staff were friendly and courteous (even when I had to answer a phonecall at the table), chatting easily to The Boy. Yes, they knew I was there to review the menu (and yes I felt like the food critic in 'Mystic Pizza'), however I could see from the surrounding tables that the quality of the food and service was consistent across the board. It was a pleasure to find a decent selection of healthy meals for children, food that didn't patronise their young appetities.
The value of this meal and drinks was approximately £59.00 which is a little more than we would normally spend on a three course meal for the three of us. However, the quality of the ingredients and cooking combined with the excellent service and pleasant surroundings means that we will be returning to Prezzo in the future. And I will be trying out the lighter options which are available on the normal menu because this has proven to me that it's the calories that are reduced, not the taste!
The meal and drinks were complementary in order to review the lighter menu; this does not affect my opinion in any way.