Saturday, 15 November 2008

Meal & Movie At Victoria Square, Belfast

Victoria Street, in Belfast, is like another phoenix rising from the ashes. For decades, it was lined with rotting, decaying, neglected buildings; some were so dilapidated that they seemed ruinous! Times have, however, changed. Now, there are large, concrete office-blocks in the process of construction.

I parked, for the second time in a day, at Gloucester Street and walked a short distance to Belfast's greatest shopping Mecca, Victoria Square; the purpose of my visit being a meal and a movie!

I had intended to try a place called Frankie and Benny's Restaurant; however, it seemed busy and they told me that a table would not be available for half an hour. I didn't bother waiting. Instead, I strode over to another eating-place, TGI Friday's. It was quite busy too, but they took me to a table within five minutes.

This was the very first time that I've been to a branch of TGI Friday, so I was not in a position to make comparisons with other branches; nor the service, menu etc. The service was slow. I'm sure the meal must have taken nearly forty minutes to appear, or it felt like that; it's not a place to eat at if you are in a rush!

I thought the service and the food were OK. The cheeseburger was quite substantial and succulent, though the cheese was tasteless, bland if you prefer. The meal consisted, basically, of cheeseburger and chips. There was no side-salad, nor coleslaw, so it looked a bit bare. In fairness, there were salad vegetables piled on the burger. The chips - fries - were standard McDonald's issue, I felt. I drank an apple-juice with it all and the bill came to about £13 including stringy onion rings at about £2.20. Pricey for what it was, I thought! It's yet another of those brash, noisy hamburger places which are one step up from Burger King, but twice the price. My local restaurant, Gourmet Burger Bank, could run rings round the lot of 'em!

I couldn't help noticing several people at TGI Friday's making lengthy complaints. It was noisy, so I couldn't hear what they were saying to the duty manager; but I knew by their expressions that they weren't passing compliments! One lady, paying her bill at the till, asserted that this was the very first restaurant where she hadn't left her loose change. What was all that about, I wonder? At any rate, I'll not be back: there was nothing particularly special about it.

Having left them a tip, I strolled over to the new branch of Pizza Express. Incidentally, we think their shop-bought pizzas are the best, so the ones in their restaurants ought to be good too. Gourmet Burger Kitchen was quiet again: seven people dining at seven-thirty!

The main purpose of my visit had been to see the new James Bond film, Quantom of Solace. It was shorter, at 105 minutes, than Casino Royale; though the adverts made up for this shortfall. The commercial advertisements in Quantom were particularly conspicuous. It was a car show-room for Ford Motor Company ( the only non-Ford car I spotted was a 60s Beetle); Bond drank Gordon's gin ( minimal dilution required there, at 37.5% proof), courtesy of the drinks monster, Diageo; and he played with his Sony phone.

I was disappointed in Quantom of Solace. Casino was the better movie, by far. I found the characters in Quantom uninteresting; the story-line negligible; and the ending quite feeble. There was certainly plenty of action; no complaints there. Still, it was all uninspiring. The theme song at the beginning was ghastly to the extent that I have no idea who the singer was, let alone being able to hum the tune again!

I can only hope that the next bond movie does better...


John Self said...

Most of the eateries in Victoria Square seem to be ones that we've never had before in Northern Ireland, and which I know of mainly from their being the butt of jokes by English stand-up comedians and the like (indeed Harry Hill made a comment about Nando's on his excellent TV Burp on Saturday). TGI Friday fits into this category too; its main feature, if popular cultural references are to be believed, is the annoying insincere cheeriness of their waiting staff.

Always good to have another Pizza Express in Belfast though. I agree about their shop-bought pizzas, and would extend a recommendation - perhaps surprisingly - to Goodfellas La Bottega frozen pizzas, though I can only vouch for the pepperoni flavour, which is delicious. Tesco and Sainsbury's often have them on multiple-buy offer.

Timothy Belmont said...

Great tip! Strategy: watch Harry H whilst munching Goodfella! :-)

Anonymous said...

There is a new Pizza Express due to open in your neck of the Woods , Ballyhackamore , pity the Astoria cinema no longer exists otherwise Lord Belmont could try a meal and movie in this part of the East. Of course one is spoiled for choice for eateries in Ballyhackamore , Horiato Todds possibly being a bit crowded for an evening visit combined with cinema but nice for an afternoon aperitif one might suspect.