High street dining on trial
Beef is British, chickens (‘reared in open-sided barns’) English. GBK also serves an intensely beefy buffalo burger from biodynamic farm, Laverstoke Park.
Starter or pud
GBK doesn’t do orthodox starters or desserts. Instead, it serves picky nibbles, such as halloumi bites and chicken kebabs, plus a selection of cheap, proprietary sweet things including Ben and Jerry’s, FA B lollies and Whittaker’s chocolate slabs. Olive says: save your money and have another burger.
GBK was founded by Kiwis, so you’ll find New Zealand drinks, such as Stein lager and soft drink, Lemon and Paeroa on the menu. Go for the first-rate Czech beer Budvar, 500ml/£5.15, or a milkshake, £3.75. For wine, order the Dashwood Pinot Noir, Marlborough, New Zealand, £19.55.
Stick to the smaller 6oz burger size and you can sample a couple of burgers. Get chips, too: frozen-fried rather than oven-cooked, they are crisp and fluffy.
55 branches. Starters from £2.75; mains from £6.25; desserts from £1. (gbk.co.uk) TN visited the Trafford Centre branch, Manchester
Zizzi is a modern Italian chain with kitchens featuring stone base ovens – which means the pizzas are a safe bet in most branches. The menu also offers classics, such as salmon salsa verde, at a range of sizes and prices. Serving staff are friendly – they were certainly charming and efficient on Olive’s visit to the freshly opened branch near Covent Garden.
The rustica pizza (Zizzi says the rustica is ‘bigger, thinner, crispier and loaded with even more toppings’) is extremely generously sized with a crackling thin base and a sure hand with the toppings. One will easily serve two people and any regular pizza on the menu can be made rustica style for a £1.95 surcharge.
Eggs are free-range, steak is from south west England and some ingredients come from Italy – green credentials are sacrificed for authenticity.
Starter or pud
Starters are good, but O recommends saving space for the gelato and sorbetti, made for Zizzi from organic ingredients by Kitty Travers at the Calon Wen cooperative in Wales.
Try Settesoli Fiano, Sicily, Italy, £16.80 or Sartori Valpolicella, Veneto, Italy, £16.30.
Should you happen to be a celebrity, most Zizzis have ‘discreet snugs and nooks’ where you can ‘keep a low profile’. Guy Ritchie, Lewis Hamilton, Dizzee Rascal and Sven Goran Eriksson are all reported to have taken advantage of this.
Over 100 branches nationwide. Starters from £4.75; mains from £6.75; desserts from £3.55. (zizzi.co.uk) TH visited the New Change branch, London
Nando’s has taken simple Portuguese/Mozambiquan peri-peri chicken and spread it over the UK. Orders are taken at the counter, but otherwise things operate like any other fast service restaurant. It’s a winning combination; informal, welcoming to families, with great tasting food in large, affordable portions. Meat is marinated for 24 hours, grilled on an open flame and served with piquant sauces. Nando’s huge list of celebrity fans includes JLS , Pixie Lott, Chris Moyles, Nicholas Holt, Pamela Anderson, Jay-Z and Beyoncé.
The Nando’s system lets you choose the size of your chicken portion, degree of spicing and a selection of sides. A half chicken with medium sauce is the most popular order.
The birds used are not organic or free-range – neither are they battery. They are ‘barn reared in well littered, well ventilated houses and have constant access to water and food free from antibiotic growth promoters’. Nando’s constantly reviews its policies but, at the moment, says: ‘Chicken welfare is extremely important to us but we do have to balance this with a price point that our customers are prepared to pay’.
Starter or pud
Starters are nibbles to kill time while waiting for your food. You may have trouble finding space for the desserts, which include the awe-inspiring choc-a-lot cake, £3.95. Save your cash for the salads and sides, including the outstanding corn on the cob.