I love the odd meal out. The little splurge, the termly treat, the special occasion. This time, the occasion was my lovely friend Laura’s birthday. She decided that she wanted to go to Zizi, an Italian chain restaurant located on Lendal, near the River. With a generous 40% discount using an NUS (National Union of Students) card, Zizi beckons to the discerning student, on their continuous prowl for a bargain.
Already decked out festively for Christmas, Zizi’s interior is warm and inviting. I particularly appreciated the quirky water jugs, and the sight of the huge open oven behind the counter.
After the opening of birthday cards, and much studious examination of the menu, we ordered starters: I shared a dish of jewelled gnocchi with a pepperonata dipping sauce, and spent an enjoyable ten minutes musing over the possible flavours of each colour. Having never tried gnocchi, I was quite pleased to become acquainted with it; it reminded me strongly of the potato croquettes eaten on the occasional school-night dinner in my childhood. But, of course, these gnocchi were slightly more grown-up.
Also on the table were two starters of garlic bread, a starter of ‘Little soul’ bread (available with dips), and a generous pot of calamari with a garlic and aioli dip. The bread was served on rustic wooden platters.
Moving on to mains, I ordered lamb meatballs, with casareccia pasta (miniature penne), spinach, garlic, and plenty of mozzarella, all baked in the oven. The meatballs were soft and coated in a flavoursome tomato sauce. I thoroughly enjoyed the dish, finding the portion size exactly to my liking. To drink, I tried a seasonal strawberry and peach cooler; very sweet but still refreshing, with a sprig of rosemary adding a complimenting splash of green.
Between them, my friends ordered two lasagnes, which came to the table bubbling quite fiercely, as freshly-cooked as could be. Zizi’s menu consists of generic Italian dishes such as bolognese, and a wide range of classic and skinny pizzas, fish dishes, calzones, salads, and risottos. The waitress was friendly, and the waiting time between courses wasn’t long, but left enough time for us to decide on dessert. The drinks menu is very diverse, and I do wish I’d opted for a cocktail – the spiced apple mojito was a temptation I sadly resisted.
Dessert was a no-brainer, it being a birthday, and the discount rendered the extra expense nothing more than a trifle. The popular choice between us was the chocolate melt, a pudding oozing a warm chocolatey sauce, and served with a scoop of vanilla gelato. I bowed instead to my craving for ice cream, and savoured a scoop each of chocolate (by far my favourite), honey, sea salt and mascarpone, and white chocolate and caramel swirl. The seasonal scoop on the menu unfortunately didn’t exist; but I enjoyed the chocolate substitution all the same.
Overall, the meal formed part of a very enjoyable evening, and I would visit again – the food trumped the likes of Pizza Express, and with that NUS discount, it makes for an affordable night out. But with or without that bonus, I’d reccommend Zizi with good faith!