Zippers Port Solent – A Review

Zippers Port Solent is a fairly new restaurant just north of Portsmouth. We were invited to try out their menu, and as it happened we were in the area so were more than happy to!

Zippers Port Solent has a lovely clean eating space – tables with plenty of space and views out onto the harbour area. We arrived an hour late due to the big storm the night before, to be greeted by our server Aga who was helpful and recommended dishes to us. Service was quick and food came promptly which is always good. One of the main things I look out for when eating out is how child-friendly the venue is, and crayons and an activity sheet was perfect for H. Even better we could do wordsearches with her which is a new one! I’ve got a Picasa album with more pictures in it.

Zippers Port Solent Starters and Sides

We ordered starters of some olives and garlic bread – not too much and even H had an olive and enjoyed it (result!). Shaun ordered a diet coke and I ordered a cappuccino after a night of very little sleep thanks to the big storm. The cappuccino was just right, a good flavour and strong. The garlic bread was fresh and soft and had a garlic dip with it.

We ordered from the kids set menu for H, so got her blackcurrant juice, some nachos (very slightly salty), some spaghetti with meatballs (messy but filling), finishing off with a scoop of chocolate ice cream which had a good flavour.

Shaun ordered a steak which came with chips – personally I’d have liked to have seen more vegetables, but if you opt for a side salad instead of chips then you get a few – if you really need chips then they’re available as a side order too. He found the steak was just right.

Zippers Port Solent Starters and Sides

We ordered an onion loaf with our mains – a load of onion rings fried together. This was out of curiosity mainly, and it tasted good – though Shaun had most of it! It came with a spicy dip as well, which was good – a nice spiciness to it without being too overwhelming.

I ordered a hot vegetable wrap and a side salad – the hot vegetable wrap had mushrooms which I swapped for more pepper. It was warm and served with a generous helping of chips. I was so hungry I scoffed the lot – there is a salad bar with freshly stocked vegetable dishes to help yourself from. The vegetarian options weren’t clearly marked but two staff members helped me out, as well as recommending the cayenne pepper sauce (which was good, not too intense but peppery). I did for the one trip to the salad bar, and couldn’t work out if the sharing rule applied or not (I shared the cucumber with H and some pepper with Shaun) – if you share you’re charged per person.

Dessert was a Banana Split that we shared, and Shaun also ordered a cappuccino. I picked off all the fruit and ate that (as well as ice cream) which was fresh. I wasn’t as keen on the squirty cream – fresh would have been nicer, the ice cream it came with was fine and was enjoyable.

Zippers Port Solent Desserts

Zippers Port Solent Restaurant is situated within the Port Solent complex, away from the main shops. Park your car in the main car park and head towards the shopping area next to the marina – it’s upstairs there with views of all the boats. The dining area is bright and spacious, and all the staff were helpful and friendly. We had a really filling enjoyable meal which came in at around £65. i saw there were meal deals at lunchtime so there could be savings to be made there. Ultimately we were so full we didn’t have any tea that night – portion sizes are generous and we definitely over ordered on food.

We’d definitely go back!

We were offered complimentary meals for the purpose of this review. All opinions are our own.

Pizza Express has a New Menu

Of all the places we eat, Pizza Express is the one we seem to go back to. They do good deals on food so you can get a decent amount, feel full and not feel like you’ve eaten too much.

Today we made a trip to the Banstead branch having heard rumours of a new menu – and yep, it’s there.

Firstly, the Piccolo menu has been redesigned. You have more choice of food, plus you can now do a create your own. H is still set in her ways so stuck with her favourite cheese and tomato – BUT – we spotted you no longer get a drink thrown in with the meal, it’s now a separate charged item. Fortunately we had her water, but that’s a bit annoying, but I guess brings it into line with the rest of the deals and menu.

I’d noticed all the pizzas now have a calorific value on the app which is really helpful (click on the ‘cal’ icon on each menu item when you view it on the menu) and that there’s also now an Android version of the app (as in the past I’ve had to bring my iPod or iPad out with me to be able to pay the menu via PayPal at the end) which I hadn’t noticed, so I decided  to try their new 300 calorie Leggera Superfood Salad.

Pizza Express Low Calorie Salad


It costs £10.95 but is included on the deals which I was pleased about – and is a really generous plate of mozzarella, butternut squash, beetroot, spinach and more – while I don’t feel full it definitely was filling – a few more vegetables and it’d probably be perfect. The balsamic dressing was nice and sweet too. Here’s the blurb “Packed with some of our favourite superfoods, our fresh new salad is nutritious and lower in calories. Baby spinach and seasonal mixed leaves, roasted butternut squash, beetroot, light baby mozzarella, avocado, pine kernels, cucumber, lentils and fresh basil finished with balsamic syrup. At under 300 calories it is even suitable for anyone who is on the 5:2 diet.

We also ordered a diet coke, and because my salad was lower in calories I went for dough balls (quite high in calories though), but figured as I’ve spent the afternoon walking around I’ve got some leeway.

We had a choice of two deals – 25% off our mains or 3 for £12.95 – we opted for the latter but mainly as we fancied a dessert – although I was a bit disappointed their low-calorie option wasn’t included in the deal (as that would be a good sales point!).

In total the bill plus tip was £40 – so our overall spend has crept up a bit more. I think next time it’ll be tap water to help keep costs down, and I’m sad (but understand) with the kids drinks – I’d much rather do away with the bambinoccino at the end than a drink at the start. Still, overall we were happy and you can’t beat paying with PayPal on the app, even if I feel guilty every time I do it, like we’re leaving the restaurant without paying!

Dining Out at Zizzi

Sunday we were in central London and had every intention of going to Pizza Express – though we hadn’t taken into account that the Victoria Station one had been knocked down, so did a quick rethink as we didn’t want to walk too far, H was tired too.

Zizzi Chilli Oil

Fortunately we found Zizzi – I’ve never eaten there before so it was a new experience for us all. We were shown to our seats quickly and served straight away – H was presented with her menu and some colouring pencils so she got straight to work doing her colouring in. I checked the iPad and they offer free Wifi via The Cloud, so was able to find a 25% off our food deal at Zizzi Deals (valid until the 13th February) – I liked we were able to do this, as we rarely plan ahead so would never have known had it not been for the free internet – and I love a good deal.

Zizzi Menu

Their menu had a good choice, especially the vegetarian options. They also had a low-calorie section (a smaller wholemeal pizza with a generous salad which came in around 14 points) and I quite liked how there were large oils on the tables – chilli oil too – my favourite!

Shaun ordered a pizza with potato on it (which looked really yummy), and H ordered a cheese and tomato one from the Bambini menu (starter, pizza or pasta and a dessert). Shaun and I had diet coke to drink and H had a juice. We ordered some dough sticks for starters.

Zizzi Low Calorie Pizza

The food came quickly and we didn’t have to wait too long – considering the restaurant was quite full we were impressed with this.

We skipped on dessert, though helped H with her two scoops of strawberry ice cream which was delicious.

After the discount, our food came in at £30 which is comparable to Pizza Express – possibly cheaper which again impressed us as we often go to the former as we know roughly what it will cost us.

Even better, with my low-calorie option I felt full for the rest of the afternoon. We’ll definitely go back!

Smith & Western Restaurant Boxhill

We often pop to Box Hill for a drive – the views are great and as National Trust members we can park for free. After a walk around we’re hungry, more often than not, and often head to the Smith & Western Bar and Grill up the road – it’s literally one minute from where we park. Every time I’ve been they’ve been busy – they seat 150 people in total – it’s a popular place (although granted some of those times have been Mothers or Fathers Day).

Today we ventured out after Christmas, and got in straight away! We were led to our seats and straight away I was impressed at how our server picked out a magazine-type thing and some crayons for H – I often have to ask, even in places like Pizza Express. There were plenty of puzzles (she’s enjoying lots of Spot The Difference at the moment) and colouring in, as well as things for older kids too. We were given a small bucket of Nachos while we waited – I love it when restaurants do that (it’s the little things, okay?).

Smith & Western Box Hill

The magazine-type thing also doubles up as the children’s menu which had a decent choice of food, from meaty dishes to pizza options. When H’s food arrived it was a decent sized portion too – actually, all the food was – though vegetable options were a bit sparse (her choice though, she didn’t want celery and carrot or corn on the cob). Anyway, this wasn’t a huge problem as we eat a lot of fruit and veg at home.

As far as choosing for vegetarian food, there was only one option burger-wise and that was a mushroom. I hate mushrooms, and had already decided against salad so ordered a vegetable fajita dish – which came with five small wraps and plenty of veg – as well as some guacamole, salsa, cheese and cream on the side. There were a few other veggie options available (a bean burger option would be nice if anyone from Smith & Western ever reads this!)

Shaun went for a burger and chose chips as his side – and it was quite a generous portion size too. We were both pretty stuffed, although did notice H’s meal really was just a sausage in a bun – she’s not (yet) a fan of sauces on her food and prefers to dip it, so had a dry bread roll with no sausage (as she picked it out and ate it and dipped it on its own.. sigh, 3 year olds…).

Someone on the next table had ordered a ‘Filling Station’ – basically around 8 pints-worth of beer in a sort of blender shaped holder which keeps the beer just right – it looked good too! We looked on in envy… You just serve yourself from the table.

H chose ice cream with banana and strawberry for dessert but was too full to finish it, so we helped her.

Being sensible we opted for diet coke which was unlimited refills (we only needed the one), H’s fruit juice was also unlimited. The kids meal was a set price which was reasonable and included drink, main and dessert. I did notice you could only have one milkshake if you chose that option, however.

We spent a short while looking for deals on our phones thinking it would come in quite expensive, and failed – but were pleasantly surprised when we saw the bill – everything came in at around £35. We were also given a couple of discount vouchers for a trip back in the new year, which we may well use – I wouldn’t mind trying out their Caesar Salad (though it doesn’t look too WW friendly!) – then again a good walk afterwards will help.

Anyway, in a nutshell, how child-friendly was it? Very! There was enough space, the toilets were spacious too which is always good when you’re having to go with your little one. The overall cost was surprisingly good, and the food was tasty (a bit oily), and very filling. I didn’t see if there was buggy storage anywhere, there was decent parking so I’ll assume most people have got there by car anyway. There were loads of kids around, which is always a good sign anyway. The menu for kids had enough activities it kept H entertained, and the people serving our table were quick – food came quickly and we were out within an hour (I do hate waiting!).

We’ll definitely be back.

(note, if you do go, take the A217 route via Headley Wood as it’s much easier!)

Nando’s – Sutton

First off, we paid for our meal, no freebies of preferential treatment was had by us. It’s possible if there had been we may have had better service. Uh-ohhhh….

NandominosIt wasn’t bad – in fact there were some cool things – H got her first temporary tattoo which she quite liked, and a decent goody bag which meant I could teach her dominos (or rather, Nandominos) – although she got a bit bored. Fortunately for children under 3 (like H) there’s also some colouring in to keep them occupied – and plenty too. The back of each picture has another frame to draw things which kept her busy, anyway.

So, food options? Same old fare, although looking at it with toddler eyes, we went for the junior meal deal they do – around £5ish for a burger (choice of five, two veggie options) and one regular side (H chose mash). Not the most healthy of options, but a safe bet. I got a veggie pitta and chips, Shaun got a chicken and some chips. Tomorrow we’re eating lots of vegetables…

Nandos Child portionThey arrived, and while they were tasty, I was a bit surprised that the child portions were almost as big as mine – had we ordered H’s in a pitta our meals would have been identical – hers possibly with slightly more.

She’s not quite three yet, so takes her time eating – so while I’d finished first, Shaun ploughed through his animals and took quite a while, H slowly went through hers – with me taking half of her veggieburger in the end (I was hungry).

Our table was right under a speaker which didn’t help my tinnitus and lack of hearing very much, annoyingly – though we didn’t ask to be seated elsewhere which is our own fault.

Nando's Colouring inOnce H had finished, the final part of her meal deal included an ice lolly or some bottomless yoghurt. We opted for the lolly when paying for it (at the start), but when the time came they’d run out – so we went for the frozen yoghurt, only to be told that they’d also run out of that but were re-filling the machine. All good, but when you’ve a tired toddler getting slightly more cranky it’s not great. We were told they’d bring us the yoghurt (BIG mistake!) and when they did it was piled up high in the tub. Probably too high… we’d have only put a tiny bit in, as we know how slowly H eats – so a bonus point to them for finally delivering, even if it was too much.

Not to worry, we’ll go and get two more spoons and help her eat it – except they’d run out of spoons.

I did actually resort to sticking my fingers in the yoghurt at one point, if only to get home sooner (try taking some food from a toddler who is possessive about what she eats, it’s not easy, thank god for the distraction technique).

Anyway, we eventually left, the whole thing came in at a very reasonable £25, but I kind of wish there’d been better portion sizes for me vs H – and that we hadn’t had such a long wait. Also, I wish I’d asked to move tables, which was an issue when we first got in and it was quite full. Our table was clean (or rather, cleaned when they realised it was still mucky and we were being seated), and the food was good.

Don't mess with the toddlerWhat would we change if we go back? Rather than mash we’ll do a side salad. H didn’t want her beanburger in the end. If we do take the burger route it’ll be in a pitta bread as it’s easier to pick up when you’ve only got little hands. I’d probably order something I could share side-dish wise with H so she doesn’t spend too long on just one part – which would definitely be a salad as I felt we ordered quite stodgy things.

So yes, 6/10, could do better.

Vines Bar & Grill, Carshalton

This place has only just opened, although (and this is a guess) is probably owned by the people who had the Greek Taverna in Carshalton – which is now closed.

There’s good buggy access, and already some good deals – buy a coffee and get a free croissant, buy a meal and get your child’s one free. The menu is a good selection of regular and meditteranean foods, and a good selection of vegetarian meals.

The downside – at this point there’s no baby changing, although the man I spoke to said they’re converting an office, so that will happen soon.

There’s also an outdoor area at the back.

Although I’ve not dined here, it looks good, it’s reasonably priced, and definitely worth checking out. Open now (just!)