Reviewed by Melanie Allen
We have visited this restaurant in the past at Christmas time and we weren’t particularly impressed with the service we received. However this time, it much very much improved. Our table for four (me, my husband, my 10 year old daughter and my 8 year old son) was booked for 7pm, and as we arrived 15 minutes prior to this time at the busy car park on the retail park, there seemed to be a mass exodus of people from Frankie & Benny’s.
As we walked into the restaurant there were no staff present at the welcome stand. We noticed a bowl of ‘free apples’ which the kids thought was quite amusing. The restaurant was still quite busy and families were well spaced out. Within 30 seconds what appeared to be the well-presented restaurant manager (no one had name badges on) cheerfully approached us and I gave my name. We were taken straight to our table, which was a booth at the far end of the restaurant. This table was clean and nicely set out with two kid’s packs already in place next to our menus.
We were immediately asked if we would like a drink, and as we hadn’t seen any drinks menus yet, I ordered a large diet Pepsi (which I later discovered was refillable), a pint of Budweiser for my husband (there was a choice of 3 draught lagers, Carling, Stella or Bud, unfortunately not refillable!) and the kids had a lemonade and a diet Pepsi. We were asked if we wanted any dough balls or garlic bread for starters, but I said we would like to see the menu first to see what was on it. Another server brought us our drinks out and asked if we were ready to order. We weren’t at this point, so we said we needed more time.
The 60’s music in the restaurant was playing at an acceptable level and matched the theme that the restaurant portrayed. The lighting was good and there were ceiling fans going around which added to the ambiance. The kids connected to the Wi-Fi whilst we viewed the menus. The waitress was very attentive and I could hear her also asking other tables if they were ok or if they needed anything.
My husband is a big meat eater and always had a Mixed Grill whenever we eat out, so this was naturally the choice for him. The mix grill included a 7oz rump steak, sausage, chicken breast and maple flavoured glazed gammon steak, served with a flat mushroom, roasted tomato, onion rings and golden fries. I thought the price was a bit steep for a dish like this, at £20.95 but we went ahead and ordered it anyway. He was also offered, and accepted the peppercorn sauce.
The kids ordered off the £7.75 junior menu, my daughter Chloe fancied chicken pasta, which was penne pasta and grilled chicken breast pieces. She choose the Neapolitan sauce to accompany this which was served with garlic ciabatta. She was given the choice of having this with a side of either vegetables, baked beans or salad, which I thought was quite an odd combination, but she ordered the vegetables. My son Ben, like his dad, also likes his meat. He ordered the Ribs and Fries, a half rack of juicy pork ribs glazed with special BBQ sauce and golden fries, with the same side options. He had baked beans to accompany his meal.
The menu was so vast and varied, I couldn’t decide if I wanted traditional Italian or a bit of American, so I opted for the Sorrento Swordfish steak, with spaghetti, peas, green beans, broccoli, capers and salsa verde.
The food came within 15 minutes and was piping hot. It all arrived at the same time so we could all eat together. We were asked if we required any other sauces or condiments and the waitress promptly returned with the mayo for my husband. Our drinks were constantly refilled. The kid’s meals were a good size and Chloe even said there was too much chicken in her pasta. After a few mouthfuls she decided she fancied some cheese on the top and was offered 3 different types (mozzarella, cheddar or smoky cheddar – she chose the first). My only complaint was that her garlic ciabatta was not at all garlicky and was quite chewy.
My husband’s medium cooked steak was a big piece, quite tough, gritty and not of a quality I would have expected in a place like that. In a mixed grill the steak is generally the centre piece and therefore should stand out from the rest of the serving. A smaller, better quality piece would have been better and a small portion of peas would have been a perfect side to accompany this meal. However the rest of the meat was beautifully cooked and flavoured, especially the gammon. My son’s half rack of ribs were, I quote ‘fab dabby dozy’ and the sauce for his ribs was ‘weird, but nice’, not like the usual bbq sauce but still very yummy. He cleared his plate in no time.
My swordfish was cooked to perfection, and the sauce on the spaghetti was delicious, and not something I would normally eat with fish, but it went well. The vegetables were crisp and tasty and the slab of butter on them enhanced their flavour (but not to everyone’s taste). This may be better served in a small butter dish.
We had 4 clean plates so decided to order desert with me and my husband sharing the Godfather, a pudding of warm chocolate brownies, crunchy chocolate malt balls, red berry sauce and cream, topped with ice cream and butterscotch sauce. The kids ordered Brownie sundae off the kids menu, and they thoroughly enjoyed it all. I asked the waitress about the kid’s cocktails that I had seen on the kids menu and asked if they had already had coke, could they still have a cocktail. The waitress was very polite, taking time to answer our questions. They ordered a Missy Licious and a Refresher, which they both enjoyed.
Throughout the meal, when guests close by left their tables, they were quickly cleaned and turned around ready to be used again. This was a good sign of well trained and motivated staff. All too often we eat out in restaurants and see tables full of plates, and food all over the floor, some of which can be quite off putting.
The women’s toilets were a bit untidy when I visited with bits of toilet paper all over the floor and the flush on the middle toilet appeared to be raised up but still worked. Apart from that they were very clean.
At 8.20pm, we finally left the restaurant, still not knowing any of the names of our servers (and we had 4 different staff members come to our table). The meal was very enjoyable, and we were well and truly stuffed.
I would rate this meal 4/5 (lost out on a point for the steak and the fact that we knew no member of staff’s names) and would recommend this restaurant to my friends especially those with children, as the kids pack kept my son entertained the whole meal.
For more information, to view the new menu or to book a table visit
Frankie & Benny’s, Ravenhead Retail Park, Milverny Way, St Helens, WA9 1JF