Sunday 7 October 2012

Frankie and Benny's Review

When I was offered the chance to review Frankie and Benny’s I thought it would be nice to make it a family occasion and go out for a family meal with Lee, little man, my mum and my sister.  It was great to be able to go out for food together as a family as it’s been a long time since we have all been together for a meal especially since my sister has moved away we don’t see her that often anymore so I was looking forward to spending some time together as a family and for little man to see his Aunty Boo. 

As Frankie and Benny’s is a New York Italian chain restaurant and bar there are many of their restaurants throughout the UK.  We decided to go to the Frankie and Benny’s at Morfa Shopping Park in Swansea so that we could do some shopping in Swansea the same day.  There were plenty of parking spaces available when we arrived for a late lunch during the week.  The building was emblazoned with red neon signage of the signature red Frankie & Benny’s logo with awnings adorned with key menu selections (steaks, hamburgers etc). 

Sitting in the comfy leather booths that are reminiscent of old New York Diners you can fully appreciate the atmosphere and theme of the Italian American restaurant.  The restaurant had low lighting, creating a dark yet cosy atmosphere with subtle lights achieving a feeling of intimacy and a relaxed environment.  The leather booths surround tables that look like marble encased in dark wood, with the wood theme continuing through the restaurant with wood panelling decorating the walls and solid wood doors leading to the toilets.  The kitchen is an open kitchen where you can see the chefs prepare and cook meals; with their presence adding to the feel and atmosphere of the place.  As well as numerous booths there is also a long wooden bar with tall, leather bar stools.

Similar to the awnings outside, there are key menu choices and food names high on the walls in bold, dark lettering.  The walls of the restaurant are sprinkled with Italian Americana memorabilia; including sun kissed posters from over fifty years ago promoting things like boxing matches as well as black and white and vintage looking photos of Mafioso and Italian Americans.  The old world atmosphere is completed with the sound of classic 50’s music with a mix of American swing and beat being played on the speakers.  The music along with the decoration achieves a fun, cosy and friendly ambience and with the likes of Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra crooning over the speakers it’s hard not to relax  to the sound of their voices as iconic songs are played and enjoy the atmosphere.

When we entered the restaurant we were quickly seen by a waitress who promptly took us to a nearby booth, gave us a selection of menus to peruse and brought over a highchair for little man.  The waitress also gave little man a balloon, which he was fascinated with, and some crayons and a colouring sheet to help keep him entertained.  The crayons were loose in a small glass and as little man is still young I think it would have been better and safer if they were in a pack.  As it was a late weekday lunchtime there were not that many other people in the restaurant.  Even though it was quiet the atmosphere did not suffer.  We were quickly asked if we wanted to order any drinks and then left to decide what food to have.  It would have been nice if the waitress had informed us that the kids meals comes with a drink and dessert included in the price when she took our drink order as I was unaware of this and had not looked at the menus yet.

The range of food is vast with lots of choices on both the lunchtime and specials menus; with the menus packed full of appetising meals and a range of starters, mains, sides and desserts available.  The choice was a little overwhelming and it took me some time to decide what I wanted however as Lee would describe me I can be a fussy eater so I was pleased that because the range of food was so vast I was tempted with a few of the choices which made a nice change to a lot of places where their menu selection is so small I struggle to like anything on offer. 

For children up to the age of 11 Frankie and Benny’s has two menus to choose from, catering for differing sized appetites; a smaller portion for younger children and a larger portion for older children with bigger appetites.   The younger menu is available for £3.95 and the junior menu is £7.95; included within the price is a main course, a dessert and refillable soft drinks as well as optional side of vegetables, side salad or Heinz baked beans.  They have a generous children’s menu with Spaghetti Bolognese, Hamburger, Chicken Strips, Margherita pizza, Fish Fingers, Chicken Pasta, Penne Pasta and Sausage, Mash and Beans available to choose from.  I was pleased with that there was plenty that little man would like and that compared to some places the choice wasn’t limited to a sandwich, chicken nuggets or fish fingers which I find is often the case in a lot of places.

We all decided to have a starter and main.  There was a little bit of a wait for our starters to arrive but I think it felt longer than it actually was because little man was ravenous and we had to keep him entertained in the meantime. 

I had the 2 crispy coated southern fried chicken breast strips served on honey and mustard dressed salad leaves with a pot of dressing on the side as did my sister; we both thought they were tasty as did little man who ate most of mine!  My mum had 2 oven baked flat mushrooms filled with mozzarella, garlic and breadcrumbs served with fresh rocket, Grana Padona and a balsamic glaze which she thought was pleasant.   Lee had potato skins fully loaded with crispy bacon and cheddar which he was a tad disappointed with as they were as tasty and impressive as the description implied; they were satisfactory but nothing special and not quite what he had expected.

Thankfully as little man was still hungry in spite of eating most of my starter we didn’t have to wait long after finishing our starters until the mains arrived.  Both my sister and I had wraps; I had the chicken, bacon, honey and mustard wrap whilst my sister had the BBQ chicken wrap.  We both found our wraps very tasty.  Lee had a fully loaded calzone which he thought was scrummy and very filling.  My mum had BBQ tiger prawns on a bed of mixed leaves tossed with a sweet chilli dressing, cucumber, tomatoes and red onion which she said was delicious. 

For little man I had decided to get the children’s pizza and when it arrived I was surprised at how big it was especially considering it was from the younger menu.   Considering how huge the pizza was for little ones and that little man had eaten most of my starter it didn’t stop him demolishing over half of the pizza!  The fact that little man ate so much of the pizza shows that he found it very tasty and I had a slice myself and I must admit it was rather good.  As well as getting little man the pizza I also got him corn on the cob as he loves it and he devoured it with delight as well.   After his main little man has a dessert of fresh fruit salad.  He thoroughly enjoyed it but he is mad about fruit and always loves eating it.  It came in a plain small bowl; it looked a tad drab the range of fruit wasn’t very exotic or vast but little man enjoyed it so that’s all that matters to me.

We had a few different waiters/waitresses whilst we were there; they were all polite but most were straight to the point and not that approachable.  One waitress in particular was very friendly and helpful and I liked how she talked to little man when she served us.   I found it a tad annoying that most of the staff would put drinks and food near little man, easily within his reach; personally I appreciate it when waiters/waitresses are aware that if they put things near a young baby/toddler they will inevitably reach out and grab what has been placed in front of them, perhaps knocking things over or hurting themselves especially when it’s hot food and drinks which could cause an injury.  I understand it may not be their responsibility but its only common sense to be aware of safety issues especially when it concerns little ones and hot food/drinks and I think taking this into consideration and placing things away from a little one helps make it a more family friendly environment.

The restaurant was clean and family friendly to a degree.   The disabled/baby changing toilets were not particularly clean when I used them to change little man.  The baby changing facilities were adequate.  I liked the big wooden, sliding door to the baby changing area however after changing little man when I put him down to wash my hands and gather my bag he had easily opened the door himself as the lock wasn’t very good and started to head out to the restaurant.

As well as providing customers with a huge choice of meals and a large selection of drinks from the well-stocked bar, Frankie and Benny’s also provides customers with the use of free WiFi which is great for people who want to stay connected.

In the technological age we live in with most people using smartphones, apps etc Frankie and Benny’s keeps up with trend of using apps by providing a free Frankie and Benny’s app.  The app is very useful; you can use it to find your nearest restaurant, view the menus and see their current promotional offers.  As Frankie and Benny’s have so many menus the app is great as you can easily navigate between the menus and because you can view all of the menus on your phone using the app it takes away the juggling act of looking at a number of large menus whilst sat in a booth with other people attempting to do the same.  The app also lists all of Frankie and Benny’s current promotional offers; I particularly think the offer they have so that kids can eat free when an adult main course is bought.  Unfortunately I was unaware of this app when we visited for this review.

I did not inform them when we arrived that we were there for review purposes as I wanted to get a ‘true’ opinion of the place as a customer.  When it came time to deal with the bill I politely gave the waiter the voucher, he seemed very confused about what to do with it and why we had it.  He briskly said he would have to get the manager and hurried off to find someone to deal with us, eventually we were informed that the voucher had been accepted.  The bill came to £54.65 which I think is great value for money for 4 adults and 1 child having 2 courses each. 

We had a lovely time at Frankie and Benny’s and I would happily dine there again.  I was impressed with the vast range of meals and courses available and I think the offers they have for having 2 or 3 courses is great as it helps save money.  Even though I thought Frankie and Benny’s was reasonably priced I did think the drinks, in particular the soft drinks, were a tad expensive.  I was very impressed with the children’s menu and thought it was an excellent price.   We thought most of the food was tasty and it was very filling, leaving us feeling satisfied.

In my opinion the highlight of Frankie and Benny’s is the Italian American theme and the atmosphere of the place.  I love the photographs on the wall and the great music which creates an enjoyable experience.  Little man loved the noise and atmosphere too and I like that because it is a family friendly restaurant I didn’t feel frowned upon for having a noisy little man.  I think it is a fun, family friendly and affordable restaurant. 

More information about Frankie and Benny's.

*I was provided with a £50 voucher to spend on a meal for review purposes, however all words and opinions are my own *


Since we went to the Frankie and Benny’s in Swansea for this review we have been to another Frankie and Benny’s and I thought I would share about our experience at another restaurant within the chain.

Whilst away we decided to have food at the Frankie and Benny’s in Manchester by the Trafford Centre.  It was late evening when we got the restaurant and it was very busy.  We were greeted by a friendly waiter who told us that there would be a 15 minute wait and provided us with a device that would vibrate when a table was ready whilst we waited at the bar.

When our device started buzzing we were seen to our table by a waitress who served us throughout the meal and she was extremely friendly, very helpful and very good with little man, talking to him every time she stopped at the table.

This time I used the Frankie and Benny’s app for little man to eat free by simply showing them the voucher on my phone.   Compared to our visit to the Swansea branch this time little man was given a goodie bag with coloured pencil and a booklet with pages to colour in and activities to complete instead of a loose sheet of paper and crayons in a glass.  I think the goodie bag is aimed at older children but it is great to be given it and little man had fun scribbling in the booklet.   Little man again had a fruit salad for dessert and it looked more impressive than the previous one as it was served in a sundae glass compared to a small bowl.

We really enjoyed our visit; the service was excellent, the food arrived promptly in spite of it being busy, and the food was tasty and very affordable.  Yet again the atmosphere was fantastic, with the photographs and music highlighting the Italian American theme.

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