Saturday 27 February 2016

Frankie & Benny's, John Dobson St., Newcastle-upon-Tyne: a Review

Frankie & Benny’s is a national chain, I have visited occasionally over the years. It’s not haute cuisine, but the food is fair for the price and there is an extensive menu. On this occasion I was with two adult and one child companions.

[Image description: screen-shot of © Frankie & Benny's web-page for the restaurant reviewed, with location map - the purpose of which is to differentiate the specific branch critiqued here.]

From outside with all the windows one could see plenty of dark wood and banquettes; a cross between American diner and Italian restaurant - the food offering is basically the same.

We all immediately felt the warmth on entering after the mere three degrees outside. We were greeted quickly enough and asked how many our table would be for. My young chum answered, and we were led to table. Menus were placed on the table, before we had even had a chance to sit down, rather than offered to each of us in turn. Furthermore, the young female greeter failed to check to see whether or not the table was acceptable. As it happened the banquette was too low for myself (the disabled one) and we needed to move to a table with a sturdy chair. We could not attract anyone’s attention, despite us all still standing, so one member walked half-way across the room to discuss with the original greeter. She did not return to guide us nor again to check we were happy with our choice.

The drinks waiter came over and enquired what we might like to drink. We ordered a bottle of pinot grigio rosé and a child’s refillable lemonade. There was then a fairly long wait in which time we all had an opportunity to select our meals. A heads-up: the meal-offer separate menu meant that some of the dishes are cheaper to order with a starter than the price of just the main course from the primary menu. So cheesy garlic bread was ordered too and shared between three of we diners, who had not intended to have an appetiser.

Three wine glasses and the lemonade and a bottle of wine in a wine-cooler were placed on the table and the waiter rapidly walked off. All the wine-glasses were delivered wet, covered in water-droplets - something I have never seen at any restaurant prior to this occasion. As the glasses had not been dried and polished, it meant that it was highly unlikely that they had been checked. Mine of course had lipstick remains on the rim. After several minutes I rose and went over to the manager, who quickly scuttled away, but took some time to come back with a dried & polished clean receptacle. No apology though. My female companion then checked her glass to find remains of pink lipstick on hers. Then we discovered that the incorrect wine had been delivered - the waiter had not shown us the label when bringing to table - but then again it was also the wrong colour; white instead of pink. By this point I was annoyed, we still had not placed our food orders. I went over to the manager once again and made sure he understood our complaints and that this would affect our tipping.

Eventually two burger dishes (one adult, one child), a calzone and a fillet of salmon (for the writer) were delivered. Alas, despite making it very clear that the child wanted no tomato and no ketchup on the burger, it came with said sauce. Of course it had to go back to the kitchen for them to start again. In the end the child ate most of his meal and was fully sated; no complaints with the meal he finally was served. His mother ate her burger too with no complaints. My companion consumed his meatball calzone with gusto. It looked fabulous. He said the pizza base was really light, and we both considered that it appeared like genuine Italian pizza base. Scrummy! My thick salmon fillet was perfectly cooked, tender, succulent and tasty. Alas the accompanying potatoes were undercooked and harder than firm. The garden peas were either incompletely reconstituted or had dried out in the wait. The broccoli turned out to be two soggy floret-lets. Most disappointing.

We did not bother with dessert - we were not even asked.

We were only asked once whether we needed more drinks, when most of the wine was still in the bottle.

In summary: atmosphere was good (about a quarter to a third full for early-mid evening - on a Friday); food over all was fair (two good [child’s burger & calzone], one average [adult burger]; one below average [salmon]); service amiable but not what should be accepted across the board from kitchen-, waiting- & management-staff; toilets very clean and not malodorous.

The bill came to £67. We left a £3.50 gratuity (about 5%), half what is our usual starting-point - it would have been nothing if the staff had been less than affable. I advised the manager on departing that his whole team needs to work together to improve affairs.

Would I recommend or revisit? On reflexion, probably not.


Please note that there are several branches of F&B in the Newkie area.

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