We put a critically feted meal face to face with a chain-restaurant
The mission was easy: a restaurant rumble – connoisseur versus mainstream.
I spent £35 in critically-feted restaurant Leroy – a Shoreditch eatery with a robust Italian affect that received a Michelin star in 2019 and retained it till February 2024 – after which in high-street equal Prezzo, a well-liked Italian household chain.
Why? I wasn’t hoping to kickstart type-2 diabetes, I guarantee you. But with individuals so typically defaulting to a sequence restaurant once they’re trying to get bang for his or her buck, do they actually signify the most effective worth?
High-end eating places will incessantly supply fixed-price set menu lunches on weekdays – it helps unfold phrase in regards to the restaurant’s cooking and train-up workers for the extra intensive dinner service. So, the three-course set menu lunch at Leroy it was – then to see what £35 would get me at Prezzo.
So, which supplied the most effective worth for cash? Are connoisseur eating places stuffy, pretentious and boring? Did I’ve to take a nap after my meals? (Spoiler: sure.) Read on…
Katrina got down to spend £35 in connoisseur restaurant Leroy after which the identical in high-street equal Prezzo, a well-liked Italian household chain. Leroy affords three programs for £35 as a set lunch on weekdays
Leroy (above) received a Michelin star in 2019. High-end eating places like this can incessantly supply fixed-price set menu lunches on weekdays to unfold phrase about its cooking and train-up workers
‘With hardwood flooring, smoky jazz, and pure mild, Leroy (above) has straightforward confidence, like George Clooney,’ writes Katrina, who provides: ‘It’s a restaurant so conscious of its belongings it doesn’t should brag about them’
Haute delicacies queen: Katrina says the one chink in Leroy’s in any other case excellent veneer was a pricy wine record – however the drinks had been ‘staggeringly good’
If you anticipate starched white linens and a reverential, solemn environment from high-end eating places, Leroy might shock. With hardwood flooring, smoky jazz, and pure mild the entire joint has straightforward confidence, like George Clooney – a restaurant so conscious of its belongings it doesn’t should brag about them. It doesn’t need something from you however so that you can have an excellent time.
The menu, which adjustments weekly, does not over-write itself. No extraneous adjectives or obscure farm names in sight. No foraged foodstuffs, deconstructed dishes, or modish foams. In brief – nothing pretentious.
The waiters are pleasant and unobtrusive – educated and useful once I ask questions, dissolving into the kitchen like benign apparitions once I need to be left alone to moan contentedly at my meals.
I inhaled a starter of wood-roasted winter greens, roast garlic, and hazelnuts. Soft, hushaby-sweet veg (that is nice produce) balanced completely with the satisfying crunch of hazelnut. An acrid knuckle-crack of uncooked garlic within the dressing was notably perky, leaving a pleasing burning in my throat like a dram of wonderful whisky. I stored having to remind myself to decelerate.
The Leroy starter: Wood roasted winter greens, roast garlic, and hazelnut. Katrina described it as ‘mushy, hushaby-sweet veg’ that was ‘balanced completely with the satisfying crunch of hazelnut’
Katrina stated the garlicky winter salad ‘left a pleasing burning in my throat like a dram of wonderful whisky’
Not a looker: Choux farci of veal and rooster livers with mashed potatoes. What it lacked in look it made up for in style, Katrina declares
The Leroy dessert was ‘a sticky, plump doughnut, titivated with pearly pink rhubarb and carrying a custard payload’
The major: choux farci of veal and rooster livers with mashed potatoes. Yes, choux farci is French. Please let that go – it simply means stuffed cabbage, because the waiter obligingly defined.
It was not a looker. Indeed the hefty dumpling – full with clearly demarcated veins from the cabbage leaf – did look a bit like a bull’s testicle. But what it lacked in look, lord! Did it make up for in style. Buttery mashed spuds – the sort you wished your mom made – smoothed out the iron-rich diced veal and rooster, fortunately cuddled as much as the ferrous tang of oil-drenched spinach.
No ingredient overpowered another: it felt completely harmonious. Yes, veal is an ethically doubtful foodstuff; sure, rooster liver is horrifying seventies meals. But boldness in ordering and religion in Leroy’s cooks paid dividends. I wasn’t consuming meals as punishment; it wasn’t a showboating dish designed to ‘problem’. This was what I check with as a ‘bed room meal’ – a dish so good it elicits low groans and delicate sighs as if… effectively, you catch my drift.
Dessert: a sticky, plump doughnut, titivated with pearly pink rhubarb and carrying a custard payload. Here I needed to put down the spoon – ineffectual at piercing the syrup-drenched pores and skin – and rip aside my pudding by hand. Lips, fingers, cheeks ended up sugar-tacky. A giddy, child-like sugar rush to an in any other case elegant, relaxed time.
The invoice for Leroy: £35 for three-course set menu, £24.50 for 2 125ml glasses of wine and an £8 gratuity
I used to be completely replete however not bilious. What a meal.
Inventive but easy meals, educated workers, staggeringly good wine, nice vibe.
Wine was pricy (£11.50 for a 125ml white wine), solely two choices per course.
Star ranking: 4/5.
Cost: £35 for three-course set menu / £24.50 for 2 125ml glasses of wine / £8 gratuity.
Total price for meals: £43.50.
Prezzo, on Brighton’s Marina. Adore alternative? You’re effectively served – Prezzo affords 34 major programs
In Prezzo, Katrina observed that the leather-based seats had been ‘frayed and weathered’
Pumpkin and mozzarella arancini, ‘bobbling atop a moat of truffle mayonnaise’
Katrina loved a ‘small bucket of fiercely chilled Gavi’ in Prezzo that proved ‘reassuringly unobtrusive’
Prezzo on Brighton Marina is a cavernous house: seated at a sales space, I observed the leather-based seats had been frayed and weathered – this wasn’t a spot that cared an excessive amount of about its look. No matter. The meals is what I cared about.
This is clearly a multi-generational restaurant. There is nothing right here to alarm, and one thing to fulfill – if not exactly impress – any palate. Pastas, pizzas, even burgers, billowing massive desserts. The menu gadgets really feel reassuringly acquainted, even the Italian phrases.
Adore alternative? You’re effectively served. While at Leroy you had two choices for every course, at Prezzo I counted 34 major programs.
My waitress was a beautiful girl. I requested which was driest white wine. Wide smile. ‘I don’t know!’ No downside. I ordered what turned out to be a small bucket of fiercely chilled Gavi, which was reassuringly unobtrusive. By the meal’s finish, I used to be glad of the dimensions of the pour.
Don’t get me unsuitable. I actually appreciated my waitress. I’m not sneering at her. It was only a stark distinction – a scarcity of meals and beverage coaching in proof versus the Leroy workers, who may have written a dissertation on their menu, which adjustments each week. The menu at Prezzo is mounted. You can inform from the wipe-clean plastic.
To start, I went for pumpkin and mozzarella arancini. Four arrived, bobbling atop a moat of truffle mayonnaise. They roused a be aware of optimism – gosh, how mild these had been, when arancini can so typically supply a claggy wallop.
Spinach and mozzarella cannelloni: Katrina’s difficulty with it was that she ‘may have made it higher’
The flavours had been muddy, sure, however as deep-fried mush went it was very reassuring. I couldn’t style any truffle within the mayonnaise however it did smack gorgeously of lemon. So far, so good. Worth the £9.25 price ticket? Not if I thought of it, no, however I did have an excellent time snuffling them down and drawing on my wine.
For my major, I opted for the spinach and ricotta cannelloni. A warming pile of recent pasta, cheese and sauce sounded restorative. Oooh, it was piping sizzling. That’s the place the superlatives ended.
I’m not a snob, however my main difficulty right here is that I may have made the dish. In reality, I may have made it higher: the tomato sauce had the thick thwack of a grocery store jar of passata, homogenous to the purpose of anonymity.
It wasn’t dangerous, however we had been again within the realm of sizzling mush – a nursery dish. I ate most of it, felt stonkingly full, and questioned why a restaurant that operated at scale charged £17.95 for a meal a hair higher than one you pierced the movie on.
Sicilian Lemon Meringue Pie: ‘An abundance of albumen agitated right into a comically giant peak’
‘The barely moist, granulated meringue’ let Katrina down, however the curd was ‘nice’ and the pastry shell ‘would have the judges on Bake Off waxing rhapsodic’
I had excessive hopes for pudding: Sicilian Lemon Meringue Pie, my desert island dessert. The meringue wobbled promisingly; an abundance of albumen agitated right into a comically giant peak. Tooth-tinglingly candy, the marginally moist, granulated meringue let me down, however not for lack of grandeur. Props, although, to an excellent curd, and a pastry shell that may have the judges on Bake Off waxing rhapsodic.
I used to reside with 4 teenaged boys – I understand how essential portion measurement will be to many. I’m not sniffing on the notion of offering an abundance of meals, which is what one theoretically will get from Prezzo.
But if it’s worth for cash, it’s probably not providing that. The solely actually distinctive promoting level for Prezzo was that it was out of the home – there was nothing to the meals that you simply couldn’t eat at house having raided Marks and Spencer’s ‘Our Best Ever’ vary.
The invoice damaged down: Starter £9.25, major £17.95, dessert £8.50, £12.25 for 250ml wine and a £4.59 gratuity
Generous parts, loads of choices, real, pleasant waitstaff.
Hefty price ticket for common meals: it is an excellent thought, with the ability to fulfill an entire household, however not if it’s a must to remortgage the home to feed your brood spag bol.
Star ranking: 2.5/5.
Cost: Starter £9.25 / major £17.95 / dessert £8.50 / £12.25 for 250ml wine / £4.59 gratuity.
Total price for meals: £40.29.