Mambo Italiano at Marzano

With the exception of a gluten, dairy free pizza at Zizzi, I’ve always hated chain Italian restaurants. I’ve paid £15 before for a bowl of pomodoro with no seasoning or flavour in general. Many people are a dab hand at cooking pasta dishes at home, and so the thought of paying over the odds for it at a restaurant disappoints me massively. Although I admit they have probably got a lot better at catering for a gluten and dairy free diet in even the past five years, my negative experiences have meant that I always walk right on by when I see a Bella Italia or Prezzo.

On a recent trip to York, I discovered that the city is literally a haven for foodies. In fact, during the whole five days of being in the historic hub, every restaurant that me and my fella ate at was one that we’d walked past and decided looked good. I even took a picture of each one to ensure that we remembered to check out the menu online. We stumbled across Marzano late one evening when taking a stroll through Fossgate looking for somewhere to enjoy a tipple. With a sign outside that said they could cater for gluten and free diners, we booked a table for the next evening.

We were met with a cosy decor inspired by the sights and sounds of Italia as we entered the restaurant. After ordering a bowl of olives and a nice bottle of Merlot for the table, I got to work quizzing the waitress on the menu choices, to which I was delighted that they could whip me up a traditional Bruschetta for starter and more incredibly, a Linguine Fruit Di Mare for main – for some reason, adding seafood to gluten/dairy free dishes at chain Italians has always proved much harder than pulling teeth from a lion.

The Bruschetta featured a nice mix of marinated and oven roasted tomatoes, basil and fresh rocket, alongside olive oil and salad. The tomatoes were incredibly juicy, flavoursome and the perfect accompaniment to the wine. Simplicity is key here and the whole taste sensation served to remind me of how much I absolutely love tommies!


Next came the Linguine. On first look, I was a little disappointed that I was served pasta spirals instead of spaghetti, as quite frankly, not only do I enjoy twizzling my spaghetti around my spoon and fork, but also, a Linguine in my opinion should be served with long strands of pasta. Hesitation aside though, I tucked in to probably the best pasta dish I’ve had at a restaurant.

I’m a huge fan of seafood and so the combination of king prawns, clams, mussels and squid, thrown into a pomodoro sauce with white wine and chilli went down very well with me and my belly. The portion sizes were good and for the first time in many years, the thought of eating out once more at Italian restaurants was starting to seep back into my mind.

Although the restaurant was busy on a Friday evening, the waiters didn’t rush us out at full speed – a nice touch as we got to enjoy the meal at a pace we liked in true Mediterranean style.

All in all, would I go back to Marzano? 100% yes! My advice to them would be to stock gluten free spaghetti for such dishes as Linguine and Bolognese, but on the whole, Marzano has restored my faith in Italian restaurants – a feat that is quite incredible for any premises outside of good old Italia.

Pit stop at Tapas Revolution

I know I talk about it a lot, but is there anything on Earth better than taking a short pit stop and propping yourself up at the bar of a little restaurant selling tapas? I love dipping in and out of different dishes, sitting chatting with a glass of vino in hand.

Recently, I was en-route to Digbeth to see a band (a family friend was the guitarist) and I needed a quick bite to eat before hitting Cleary’s Irish Bar. The band weren’t coming on until 11pm and so a full belly would only serve to send me to sleep before a heavy night on the booze.

Despite the fact that Birmingham’s New Street Station turned into a hub of shopping outlets and restaurants way back in 2015 and was renamed Grand Central, I am guilty of doing the typical thing that locals do and never sampling anything more than the prosecco on tap bar and nipping in to Boots. Quite simply, I would run in and out of the station faster than a shark on speed.

I’d read pretty good things about Tapas Revolution on Trip Advisor and due to it being one of the only restaurants in the station to be serving food after 9pm, I decided to sample what was on offer.

The gluten free symbol featured heavily on a lot of the choices. The struggle I had as usual was with dairy free dishes. After a conversation with the helpful waitress, I opted for Paella and Bacalao con Piperrada, roasted cod loin with slow cooked red peppers and olives, all washed down with a jug of sangria (to share obviously).

I’m a massive fan of Paella, especially when squid and prawns are involved, however, this time I would like to give a massive shout out to the chef who decided to combine cod with peppers and olives. Any fans of the traditional fish and chip supper will most likely agree that if you stripped the deep fried batter off this cold water fish, there’s a high chance it would taste dry and bland. Tapas Revolution created a masterpiece that left you wanting more.

The Paella was delicious. Granted, it didn’t compare in quality to the best I’ve ever tasted in Spain, but it filled me up and was fresh. Price wise, we ordered four dishes, olives and sangria and it came to under £40. There were also set menus on offer that were both reasonably priced and provided the opportunity to sample a selection of little dishes, although of course not all gluten free.

Overall, Tapas Revolution really hit the spot when I needed speedy, friendly service and tasty food. Will I go again soon? Perhaps not – I’ll be too busy running in or out of the station. I would though recommend it to people passing by, whether they be shopping, having a little lunch break or meeting someone for a quick business meeting.

Top marks Tapas Revolution!

Rockfish seafood restaurant – can I get sides with that?

One of my favourite things in life is seafood. There’s nothing better than cooking up a bowl full of fresh mussels on a Friday night accompanied by a nice bottle of red. In fact, when I’m holidaying in Greece, I will usually eat more fish than meat as I find it so fresh and tasty over there, which is why when I see what potentially looks like a great seafood restaurant here in Blighty, I try and book a table.

On a recent trip to Torquay I came across a restaurant right on the seafront called Rockfish. With a slogan of ‘tomorrow’s fish is still in the sea,’ and a backstory that incorporates two best mates having a vision to serve only the best seafood from the South Coast of England, it appears to be the sort of place you’d want to try at least once.

The place was packed as we walked in, a good sign and perhaps a strong indication of the fact that in 25 degrees heat like it was that day, people automatically crave the seafood rich diet that is so common in the countries that us Brits like to holiday in.

The one thing that drew me to Rockfish was the announcement that the menu could be made entirely gluten free. First, I ordered the half pint of Norwegian prawns, which I was told I couldn’t have, presumably because there may have been milk in the cocktail sauce. The only alternative for a starter that the waitress could offer was the fresh Devon crab with avocado and lime. It was my first time sampling crab and I do have to say it was absolutely delicious alongside the creamy avocado and spring onion.

For mains, I would have liked the gluten free fish and chips, but again was told I could only have it un-battered and only if it was cod. There wasn’t a lot that I could have off the menu without milk, so I opted for the chargrilled calamari steak but without the garlic butter. In Spain, there is a famous octopus dish that is served with tiny potatoes in olive oil that tastes amazing. I presumed that the calamari steak would come with chips, but it only came with a bit of greenery. It was pretty nice to begin with, but without the butter it got boring to eat on its own and didn’t fill me up.

I don’t know whether because it was a bank holiday the chefs didn’t have time to fire up the gluten free pans, or whether the menu isn’t as adaptable allergen free as first stated, but I left feeling a little disappointed. I have always said that a good chef can adapt dishes but here there wasn’t much choice, and besides, surely putting some potatoes or chips on the plate with the squid wouldn’t have caused too much trouble.

Overall, if you’re a regular eater and you’re looking for a fish restaurant in Torquay then by all means give Rockfish a go. For me however, I probably won’t be visiting again for a while.


I am happy to tell you that I gave Rockfish another go in 2019 – this time when on a mini holiday in Dartmouth – and I have to say, the food was exquisite. They have definitely made allergens a key priority since my original review and presented me with a comprehensive gluten free menu on arrival and the statement that almost everything could be made gluten and dairy free. I opted for a big bowl of juicy mussels and the seafood platter, consisting of giant prawns, langoustine, sprats, squid and onion rings – all cooked in a gluten free batter. I was absolutely delighted with my meal and it was terrific to be able to tuck into the impressive spread laid out before my eyes. Well done Rockfish!

(Pictured: Gluten Free Seafood Platter)


Bangin’ burger at Gourmet Burger Kitchen

What’s not to love about a burger? A big slab of juicy meat, dripping sauce, tangy relish and crispy bacon, finished off with a wedge of lettuce for a quick health kick are my combination of pure perfection when it comes to finger food. Okay, so it’s not exactly sophisticated finger food, but it sure brings satisfaction when you’re on the lookout for messy carbs.

My mom has always rated Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK) as her favourite place to get a burger. I’ve never really favoured chain restaurants over independent ones, but with GBK I can see where she’s coming from.

The 90+ restaurants, which are situated across the UK, offer a gluten free menu that provides an ample selection of allergen free meals, whether you’re looking for chicken, beef or veggie options. I admit to being a little boring when I eat at GBK, as I usually opt for the Classic Beef Burger with house mayo, relish and salad, with either bacon or avocado as an added extra, all of which are milk free too.

What do I love about GBK? Well firstly, you’re given an option over how your burger is cooked – a question that is not often asked in other establishments. I often find burgers in pubs to be overcooked, dry and on the odd occasion, burnt to a crisp. Not everyone realises that burger meat is just like steak in that you cook it to your own liking, whether well done, medium or on the rare side. I asked for my burger at GBK to be cooked medium rare, which meant that it was juicy and flavoursome.

Secondly, the burgers taste fresh. I don’t get the impression that the meat has been cooked in bulk and sat out on a counter for a couple of hours. Thirdly, the house sauces, which are apparently cooked fresh each day, taste amazing and I’m always chuffed when I re-visit the allergen menu and discover that they haven’t snuck milk into most of them. Fourth and final reason, the atmosphere is chilled, you don’t feel rushed and it’s a great place to catch up with friends or have a quick lunch during shopping. I even have the choice of ordering a dairy free milkshake if I want – an option that isn’t offered at many other restaurants.

I actually did a review on GBK back in 2014 when I was first introduced to the restaurant. I called it the burger equivalent of Nando’s in which you’d either love it or hate it. I can safely say that since then, my mind has been changed, which I think is due in large part to them changing the supplier of the gluten free buns, not overcharging for condiments and making the ordering of gluten free food as simple and enjoyable an experience as possible.

Overall, GBK is my favourite chain burger place to eat at. I’ve eaten at quite a few of the branches across the country and I’ve never had any complaints – quite an accomplishment since I’m not always a big advocate of chains. My only suggestion would be to introduce separate fryers for chips, as currently they are not listed on gluten free menus due to cross contamination. On the other hand, I still love the place and am looking forward to many more burgers to come.