Dinner at the Frankie & Benny's at Centre 27 in Birstall
Frankie & Benny's, Centre 27, Geldard Road, Birstall, Batley, West Yorkshire, WF17 9TB.
Frankie & Benny's are a chain of restaurants serving what they describe as New York Italian food. This branch is on the Centre 27 leisure and retail park in Birstall, with many other restaurants and shops in the area. The restaurant has a bar area, and some of the kitchen can be viewed from parts of the restaurant. The branch was visited late on a Sunday afternoon and was quite busy when initially entered, and got even busier during the visit.
There are a number of different menus available at different times. The Breakfast Menu, which is available every day until noon, the Lunch Menu, which is available from 11AM to 5PM Monday to Friday, the Main Menu which is available from 11AM every day and the Specials Menu, which is available all day Sunday to Friday.
There were salt and pepper pots on the table along with bottles of balsamic vinegar and olive oil, the latter two could also be purchased. Napkins and cutlery were also on the tables.
This was ordered from the Specials Menu, from which you can get a main course and either a starter or a sweet for £11.95 and an optional third course, again either a starter or a sweet, for another £2.50.
The drinks ordered were a pint and a 16 oz glass of Pepsi and a 330ml bottle of Strathmore Sparkling Water. The pint of Pepsi was much better value for money than the 16oz glass, as the latter was only slightly cheaper at £2.45 compared to £3.05. The sparkling water was served with a glass and ice.
The first starter was Crab Bruschetta. This was three pieces of toasted ciabatta bread that were topped with shredded crab and a mixture of tomato, red onion, olive oil and cracked black pepper, accompanied with watercress. There was definitely crab in this, and it did taste of it.
The second was Cajun Blue Cheese Mushroom Crostini which was garlic button mushrooms in a Cajun and blue cheese sauce served on two pieces of toasted garlic ciabatta bread. The pieces of ciabatta were substantially larger than those in the bruschetta. The Cajun flavouring added a slight spice to the sauce and the ciabatta was fresh and lightly toasted. Neither the blue cheese nor the garlic had that strong a flavour - both can quite easily be very noticeable - but the flavour was still nice.
A container of various different bottled sauces was brought to the table with the main courses.
The first main course was Chicken Carbonara Bake which is penne pasta tossed with chicken, pancetta bacon, sautéed mushrooms and a cheese sauce, topped with mozzarella cheese and then baked in the oven.
The chicken carbonara bake did not actually look like a pasta bake, but rather like boiled pasta that had been mixed with the other ingredients and then thrown into a dish. The mozzarella cheese was not actually melted and the food was much cooler than the dish it was in. It would have been expected for the dish to be bubbling hot, and the creamy cheese sauce wasn't. The meal was far too cool to begin with, and quickly became cold.
The second mains was the Ultimate Hot Dog which was a hot dog sausage which had been wrapped in two rashers of bacon, and then served in a toasted bun. Under the hot dog in the bun was barbeque pulled pork and it was all topped with barbeque and philly cheese sauce. Accompanying it were a piece of corn on the cob and a portion of chips and a small dish of fried red onions. The pulled pork, which the hot dog sat on in the bun, tasted like pork and was tender enough, but did not really stand out.
This main course was a bit on the cool side, but not bad enough that it was inedible. It merely tasted as if it had been stood for a few minutes too long, but it did need eating quickly before it cooled too much.
The speed of the service for the main course wasn't very good, as it took over an hour for them to be brought out after the starters were taken away. The food for the mains, as mentioned earlier, wasn't as hot as it should have been and, in the case of the pasta, almost cold. The waitress apologised before and after the meal for this, and the manager gave a discount. The place was simply too busy for the staff to cope with quite a number of tables waiting some time for their orders.
The starters were fine, but the main courses weren't. The meal should have come to £31.95 including drinks but one entire Specials order, of £11.95, was deducted by the manager, so the total actually came to £20. This was not the best experience of eating out, and quite a bit below normal for the chain, but the fact that they offered a discount without asking - some places would not even think of that - was a plus. The branch seemed to have been let down by the kitchen staff when it became very busy. If there hadn't been a refund offered, it would have scored even lower.