“ Cuisine: Italian / Address: 25 Fore Street, Taunton, Somerset, TA1 1JW / Tel: 01823 339233 „
A friend celebrated her 50th birthday recently and there was no way that we could let the occasion go unmarked so a meal out was called for. My friend suggested Prezzo purely because she had vouchers for there which meant that half of our meals would be £1 and the with there being ten of us it would mean a big saving, so being the skinflints that we are we booked a table at Prezzo in Taunton, Somerset. I must admit my heart did sink a little when Prezzos was initially mentioned as I have been there before and was not exactly overwhelmed by the place but that was a while ago and I hoped that it would be better this time - a little optimistic.
Prezzo is a large chain of Italian restaurants and you can generally find one in a town near you! My only experience of the chain is in Taunton where the restaurant occupies a building which used to be a bank and holds a prominent position within the town centre. It looks smart from the outside retaining its original imposing features and on the inside they spent a lot of money renovating the building to create a stylish two storey dining experience with an outside terrace. When you walk in you are met with a spacious room with tables well laid out to allow you plenty of space and there are a couple of couches near the bar area to wait on if you are waiting for your friends or a table to become free. A large staircase (which I fear I will fall down) takes you up to the next floor and a few small staircases take you to the toilets and the terrace - these can be a bit hazardous if you have had one too many but the super shiny floors are probably going to be the biggest hazard! We were shown to a table for ten on the upper floor, even though we were situated right in the centre of the room, all of the other tables are around the edge quite far away so we didn't feel "exposed" and we were quite happy - we all had plenty of elbow space and the chairs were comfortable.
After being seated the waiter took about fifteen minutes to come to take our drinks order - I think that this was far too long, although it did give us plenty of time to peruse the menu, but when he returned he didn't take our food orders - this took another fifteen minutes by which time we were all starving! I know that we were a large group but our food took thirty minutes to arrive which I really wasn't impressed with and when it did come they had messed up our order slightly and gave us different sides to what we had ordered - we jigged it around amongst ourselves so it wasn't a major problem but it was a basic mistake to make.
We had to catch a waiter's attention to get more drinks and they again took a long time to come but when it came to clearing the plates away and organising dessert and coffee they were on the ball and they were even faster at bringing the bill! The staff were very friendly but they did do that "is everything ok?" thing which drives me mad as you can guarantee that you will have a mouthful of food when they ask and don't worry, if everything is not ok I will let you know long before the fifteen minutes it took you to ask!
None of us had a starter on this occasion but there are ten to choose from, all around the £5 mark and three platter dishes to share which cost up to £10. I cook a lot of Italian food at home as I imagine a lot of families do as it is quick, easy and inexpensive which is why the main course menu is so uninspiring to me. Pizza, pasta, salad, risotto, grilled sandwiches - there is nothing special here at all in my opinion and it is made even worse by the massively over inflated prices. I chose a Ciabatta Millanaise with a side of fries which was so dull I would have been happier at KFC! It was a piece of (tough) grilled chicken coated in (stale) breadcrumbs in a cold ciabatta with a slice of lettuce, two slices of tomato and a slither of mayonnaise (it should have been garlic mayonnaise but I asked for plain as I cannot abide garlic) and the measly portion of fries on the side were cold and soggy. To make matters worse, my six inch long sandwich was served on a chopping board, and although it looked nice, it was warped so rocked with annoying consistency. For £8.95 I was expecting a lot more and the price stuck in my throat more than the sandwich - I do not even think that this is good value with 50% off!
We all had something different so I got a good look at what Prezzo has to offer and it isn't much. Even though the food all looks good and is well presented, the portions are small and the prices are ridiculous for what you get - £9.50 for a small portion of lasagne with no sides is daylight robbery and even a side order of a small green salad is £3.50 for a few pieces of lettuce! There is nothing worse than feeing ripped off, and in Prezzo that is exactly how I felt - I needed the time it took for our drinks to arrive to look for something which offered good value which I never accomplished!
The dessert menu is limited and, again, the kind of sweets that you would have at home - sticky toffee pudding, cheesecake, ice cream, fudge cake - all looks good and the portions are of a fair size and come in at slightly under £5. Their coffee is very good, comes in a variety of ways and is possibly the best thing about Prezzo and at £2.10 I don't think that it is too bad.
There is a children's menu which will set you back £4.95 for three courses and a drink which is good value but it is very basic - garlic bread pizza, meatballs... nothing to particularly whet the appetite and I can think of plenty of other places where I would rather take my children. I really think that it is an adults place and even though children are welcome, it fees a touch too "adult".
There is a large wine menu but to be honest, I'm no connoisseur and so price is the only thing that I look at- bottles of red and white start at £13.95 which is probably on par with other restaurants. Not much in the way of beer/lager to choose from (two varieties) and if you want a soft drink expect to pay £2.25 which I personally think is crazy.
I cannot fault the cleanliness of this restaurant, the toilets, floors, glasses and everything is absolutely spotless and sparkling. The contemporary feel to the restaurant is comfortable and the lighting is soft and welcoming. The staff are attentive (when they actually get to you) but the food is nothing more than average. Our bill came to £156 and this was including five free meals so without the vouchers it would be over £200 and considering three of us were driving so not drinking and we only had two desserts I was shocked and the prices alone would put me off going there again.
I really do not think that I can recommend Prezzos as there are so many alternative restaurants that offer a larger variety at much more competitive prices and with the current economic climate, I really think that Prezzos need to come up with something more original and exciting. If you want to see if there is one near you (there probably is!) or have a more extensive look at the menu you can look up all you want to at www.prezzorestaurants.co.uk