Restaurant Review: The Italian Orchard, Broughton (Preston)

The Italian Orchard- Consistently Consistent

I’m lucky to have visited The Italian Orchard Broughton at least thirty times; it’s seemingly been around since The Colosseum. The Italian Orchard Broughton conservatory is the best dining room in the Preston area: bathed in natural light and framed by cared for colourful flowers, it felt like Asti, not the A6.  Not explicitly reserving a table there constitutes a culinary schoolboy error.

The Italian Orchard Broughton menu was overwhelming: the specials menu alone was heftier than your average àl la carte. The industrious kitchen must be huge to accommodate the expansive ingredients and cooking processes. I’d like to have seen a sense of Italian regionality rather than mass appeal. Similarly, The Italian Orchard Broughton wine list was equally vast, yet almost exclusively Italian to its credit. Drinks bordered the expensive side of reasonable, but its mid-price point swelled with a plethora of quaffable options. A notable sauvignon blanc was selected which offered attractive notes of sage and green pepper, as opposed to the usual passionfruit or gooseberry.

The bread and olives were fine and dandy but unremarkable given they’re Italian staples. The garlic bread was punchy, salty and comforting as ever. The oriental tempura king prawns were satisfyingly crispy, without suggesting they could ever be greasy. The calamari was lightly cooked to avoid becoming elastic but consequently lacked colour.

For mains, the mare e monti was an elegant combination of crayfish and prawns in a sophisticated creamy sauce. I rarely plaice place mushrooms with seafood but see no reason not to now. The seafood risotto was generously portioned, providing both quantity and quality. Punctuated with a delicious variety of fresh fishy bits and pieces, including handsome wobbly scallops. The rice was formed with precision, with carefully seasoned stock and attractively served in a crab shell. This was the highlight of the evening and the Italian Orchard’s best value dish. The classic spaghetti bolognese had married together well, not disgracing its proud Italian roots, although I could have done without its cress haircut. The Sea Bass was a handsome white hunk, nicely seared, served next to some lovingly prepared baby potatoes and old-school chunky veg. Presentation is all plain white plates that do the job, but without finesse.

There was only room for a little gelato; those in the know opt for salted caramel and black cherry. Finally, the espresso was as robust as can be found anywhere.

Aside from the initially forgotten garlic bread, the Italian Orchard kitchen produced everything strikingly quickly and all on reassuringly hot plates. There was a never-ending flurry of young Italians zipping about in bright white shirts taking care of customers – none of whom laughed at anyone’s pathetic attempts at parlando Italiano. Likewise, I received a proper welcome and goodbye, and someone was always an (olive) stone’s throw away. I’d suggest, The Italian Orchard Broughton is a restaurant equally worth visiting for a simple pizza and glass of montepulciano to a more formal occasion, for those with appetites for hearty but not adventurous tastes.

The Italian Orchard
Review Summary

Atmosphere 10  Cost 7  Quality 8  Service 9

Italian Orchard Restaurant Review Preston
Bread & Olives
Italian Orchard Restaurant Review Preston
Oriental Tempura King Prawns
Italian Orchard Restaurant Review Preston
Garlic Bread
Italian Orchard Restaurant Review Preston
Calamari
Italian Orchard Restaurant Review Preston
Risotto di Frutti di Mare
Italian Orchard Restaurant Review Preston
Spaghetti Bolognese
Italian Orchard Restaurant Review Preston
Mari e Monti
Italian Orchard Restaurant Review Preston
Fillets of Sea Bass
Italian Orchard Restaurant Review Preston
Salted Caramel & Black Cherry Ice Cream

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Orchard Broughton

Restaurant Review: Yu and You, Blackburn

Yu and You Restaurant – Tso Tso Chinese

Blackburn’s curiously named Yu and You restaurant was intriguingly Gordon Ramsay’s best UK Chinese Restaurant in 2010. Perhaps I fell prey to overly high expectations, but this accolade now seems outlandish.

Despite a rural Blackburn location, a bouncer worryingly patrolled Yu and You’s door. Guests are invited to have a drink prepared by a ‘cocktail mixologist’, begging the question – what other kinds of mixologists exist? The Yu and You Cocktail Menu was apparently a product of six years of creativity; concerning, as the vast majority were long-established classics. The only ‘Oriental’ element of ‘Yu and You Oriental Old Fashioned’ was the barman.

Moving passed the stylish, polished black bar, the restaurant atmosphere became non-existent with a sterile, silent dining room. Harsh, stark lighting shined directly on our faces rather than the table. Chairs awkwardly cramped back against each other, while swathes of space to the side remained unused.

Yu & You started promisingly with the Hot & Sour Soup – the benchmark of any Chinese restaurant. It was certainly hot, but also comforting and complex. The sound of the sizzling dipped prawn cracker greatly lifted my spirits. The Char Siu pork element was eye-wateringly sweet, but certainly enjoyable.

Charlie Yu’s Chicken Curry followed, being indistinguishable from chip shop curry sauce. Considering this was the house speciality, it was genuinely shocking. My partner’s ‘Tai Po Crispy Chicken’ was the kind of fatty, salty dish my partner was trying to avoid.

Dessert at Yu and You produced the novel Strawberry Samosas. Presumably not particularly Chinese, but intriguing against an otherwise barren list. This delightful dish had a pleasing contrast of temperatures, with light, golden, crispy pastry – it provided a fun, novel talking point, while delivering on flavour.

Service by Yu & You’s manager Victoria was warm and welcoming. After my partner spilt a drink, she graciously cleaned it up, generously providing a replacement. The rest of the young team were polite but often distracted and unintuitive: although Victoria graciously commanded the dining room, it was otherwise difficult to attract attention.

Yu and You beat Mayfair’s Kai Restaurant, winning Gordon Ramsay’s approval, with ‘Wok seared 8oz Wagyu beef with sweet soya, lime, garlic and ginger’ at £65. Similarly, I can only assume Yu and You’s rave TripAdvisor reviews followed their premium duck, seafood and beef dishes – around £27 each (inc the required sides). They could well be stunning but seems expensive given the location and environment.

Yu and You
Review Summary

Atmosphere 3/10    Cost 3/10    Quality 5/10   Service 6/10

Yu and You Restaurant Blackburn Review
Excellent hot & sour soup

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Yu and You

Bar Review: Stratos, Preston

Stratos Bar – Preston’s Best Cocktails

Stratos is justifiably not a budget bar; nowhere in Preston is as attractively designed and fitted. Drinkers who behave themselves early doors, receive complimentary aperitivos – thanks to Stratos, visitors from Burnley can now recognise tapenade. Plus, nowhere else in Preston is open until 3 am with no entry free, with flesh and blood DJs, not iPods.

Stratos, Kuckoo and Forum are the only progressive bars in Preston shaking quality cocktails. The vast majority are £6.50, contain double premium spirits and often unusual ingredients – this price point is rare in Manchester and extinct in London. If you think Stratos is poor value, get out more. Something masquerades as similar in Yates or Revolution, but is predictably sweet, on a sticky table, in a cheap glass without a garnish, but with a 2005 playlist. Spend another £2 and drink something to enjoy, not something to later vomit.

Stratos’ bar staff unpretentiously graft, pushing Preston kicking and screaming to the next level of boozing. If you drink Cosmopolitans through a straw, think Daiquiris only exist with strawberries, and regard Mojitos as exceptionally exotic, converse with the passionate and knowledgeable Stratos’ bar staff. Likewise, if you’ve had more than your fair share of drams, Stratos staff are always happy to learn more.

The real value of Stratos is their willingness to develop customers tastes for those unaware of the great products available, and the ability to cater for the seasoned drinker. A Preston bar where customers can forfeit a menu entirely, forming a relationship with the staff is progress. Regardless of how manically busy Stratos gets, they will craft drinks to your individual tastes. This level of enthusiasm to learning and promoting cocktails is unmatched, making Stratos the best cocktail bar in Preston. (The food’s not bad either).

Stratos Bar Review Summary

Atmosphere 10  Cost 8  Quality 9 Service 10

Stratos Preston Bar Restaurant Review
Stratos – Still Preston’s Best
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Stratos – Still Preston’s Best
Stratos - Still Preston's Best
Stratos – Still Preston’s Best
Stratos - Still Preston's Best
Stratos – Still Preston’s Best

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