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Frankie and Benny’s, Cabot Circus: October 2015 Review

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I have nothing against chain restaurants, on the whole. Generally, you know what you’re getting, you know that the menu will be the same across the board and you know that the quality will be pretty much consistent. With some, you also know that you’ll easily find discount codes and vouchers online, making some chains pretty affordable places to visit.

Places like Pizza Express, Wagamama and Loch Fyne are all pretty consistently good in my eyes, but consistency can work the other way too. This trip to Frankie and Benny’s was only the third of my lifetime, but I can confidently say that all three were just as bad as each other.

We visited the Cabot Circus branch of this Italian-American chain restaurant on a Friday night: at 7pm the restaurant was pretty busy, aided, no doubt, by the fact that it was the first weekend after payday, and that children eat free on Friday evenings. Filled with leather-look booth seating, red and green napkins that felt unseasonally Christmassy and an open plan kitchen where you can see the chefs hard at work, the restaurant certainly has a chain feel to it.


Frankie and Benny's - Interior


We ordered drinks while we browsed the menu: a pint of Carling for Chris, a Frankie’s Cream Soda (£2.95) for me. I was told when we ordered that they’d run out of cherries to garnish the drink: I wasn’t that fussed, to be honest. The combination of lemonade, vanilla syrup and grenadine was far too heavy on the syrup, making it incredibly sickly sweet.

Browsing the menu, we were faced with a selection of starters, pizzas, calzones, pasta dishes, steak, meat, fish and burgers, with most dishes priced around the £10 to £15 mark. We decided to skip the starters and instead ordered a portion of dough balls (£4.95) to share while we decided on our main courses.

The portion was generous for the price: the dough balls themselves lovely and fluffy with a little oiliness. The menu stated that the dough balls were served with “garlic and cheese dips” – and both of these were awful. On the garlic front, we were expecting garlic butter – this was more like a pot of flavourless lard with a little garlic mixed in. The cheese dip, as you can see from the picture below, had probably never encountered real cheese in its life: it was like dipping dough balls into a pot of melted Kraft cheese slices. Disappointing.


Frankie and Benny's - Dough Balls


The mains had to be better though, right? Sadly not. My New Jersey Chicken (£14.95) was described as having all the makings of a great meal: “chicken breast topped with streaky bacon, pulled pork, BBQ and cheese sauces. Served with crispy onion rings, golden fries, coleslaw and corn on the cob.” What was presented to me (eventually, that is – our waitress initially put the wrong order through) was a dry, overcooked chicken breast, battered thinly and coated in specks of charcoal that made me wonder how often the grill is cleaned. The streaky bacon was ok, but the pulled pork was wet and flabby, the cheese sauce was more of the same stuff as we had with the starter, and the BBQ sauce was watery and lacking in flavour. The onion rings were great, but the chips were poor quality and undercooked, and the promised coleslaw (which was the best part of the dish) was a meagre spoonful in a small bowl.


Frankie and Benny's - New Jersey Chicken


Chris didn’t fare much better with his Chicago Grinder calzone (£11.45) – the menu promising “beef and pork meatballs, spicy pepperoni, chicken, red onion, sweetcorn, red pepper and mozzarella with BBQ sauce.” All of the ingredients were there, there’s no denying that. The first thing we noticed was the accidental mangled sweetcorn garnish on top – a bit offputting – and the sheer amount of dough – around the edges, there was about a two inch crust of unfilled dough. The filling was mostly pepperoni, sweetcorn, pepper and onion – he had three pieces of chicken, and the meatballs were awful – there was no texture to them whatsoever, as if they’d been designed for people with no teeth. He described the filling as watery too.


Frankie and Benny's - Calzone


Gluttons for punishment, we headed to the dessert menu…surely a menu section described as “Famous Waffles” couldn’t be bad? Wrong again. Chris ordered the chocolate and honeycomb waffle (£5.45): a cinnamon waffle topped with chocolate ice cream, chocolate sauce and chocolate covered honeycomb pieces. The cinnamon flavour of the waffle was lovely…but the texture was all wrong. Dry and dense, he left a lot of it behind – concentrating instead on the ice cream (cheap catering stuff), and the chocolate honeycomb pieces – far more chocolate than honeycomb here, and it was near on impossible to make out the flavour of the centre.


Frankie and Benny's - Chocolate Waffle


My banoffee waffle (also £5.45) was just as badly done. I’ve never had such a dense and dry waffle in my life. The sliced banana was nice and fresh, though…but the toffee sauce was more like golden syrup, and the toffee ice cream had barely any toffee flavour whatsoever.


Frankie and Benny's - Banoffee Waffle


What’s worse, though, is that I found a piece of string (at least, I think it was string) in my dessert. Not what you expect. To our waitress’ credit, she told us that she would remove both desserts from the bill when we complained.


Frankie and Benny's - Banoffee Waffle - String


After this meal, I can categorically state that I have no plans to head back to Frankie and Benny’s at any point in the future. With the bill coming to just shy of £50 for the two drinks, dough balls, two mains and two desserts, there are plenty of places in Bristol where you can enjoy (yes, ENJOY) a meal for the same price. I can honestly say that I have no idea why Frankie and Benny’s is so popular – maybe I’m missing something…


Please note: we received a £50 voucher to put towards our food and drink, but this in no way impacted on our opinion. We were not obliged to write a positive review, and the venue did not see this review before it was put up on the site.


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5 thoughts on “Frankie and Benny’s, Cabot Circus: October 2015 Review”
  1. Absolute pap guaranteed at F&B’s. Never met a person who enjoyed a meal. But turning down the lights, putting a song on and bringing out a free cake for kids birthday’s – a master stroke! Keeps ’em coming back and forcing the parents to pay. In my opinion this sort of food should be illegal.

  2. Frankie and Bennys really are awful! I found what looked to be a PUBE in my food last time I went there (Cribbs). The manager was so mortified she gave me my food for free (not that I fancied it after that), everyone else’s good half price and a free round of drinks. I think she took one look at it and realised what it was…

  3. I’ve only ever eaten at a Frankie & bennys once when I had to work in Merthyr Tydfil. I swore after consuming the worst pizza I’ve ever had never to eat at one again. Glad to hear my experience wasn’t unusual!

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