Exploring The Food Chain (2008)
This is an archived article from 2008.
View the up to date Sugarvine guide to all Restaurants in Blackpool
Ever since Mr McDonald first got himself into the burger business, restaurant chains have become a fixture of the dining scene. And it's easy to be critical of a dining phenomenon that's never going to be able to compete with the individuality and quirkiness of your favourite bistro or gastropub. Likewise, it's hard to argue with the view that an owner-chef or owner-manager is always going to care more about your experience at his or her restaurant than a salaried employee of a large organization. But what the chains do have going in their favour is consistency - professional management ensures that if you enjoyed your meal out at a Pizza Express in Manchester, you can expect a similarly enjoyable experience at Lytham's Pizza Express. And while many of the big chains haven't yet made it as far as the Fylde Coast - no Nando's, no TGI Fridays, no La Tasca to name but three - some local restaurateurs have been willing to expand a successful formula beyond just the one venue.
Chesters is a name that's popped up on the Fylde dining scene during 2007 in more than one location. But it's actually a new venture from the people behind AJs Bistro (view a 360 movie) in Blackpool. Chef-patron Andrew Reeds and wife Julie - who runs the front-of-house operation - have built up a reputation for serving good-value Modern British food at their Topping Street restaurant. But the new brand is something of a departure for them in the shape of a Blackpool tea room. Chesters Tea Rooms is on busy Church Street and is aimed squarely at shoppers and theatergoers (the Winter Gardens and Grand Theatre are a stone's throw away). It's a traditional tea room that's open all day serving cakes, soups, sandwiches, bagels, croissants and jackets as well as their own special blends of leaf tea and ground coffee. It's also fully licensed.
Italian food is perennially popular and pizza is especially suited to a chain operation. The Fylde's only Pizza Express is in Lytham and you'll find it in and an old Post Office building dating back to 1900. As well as an extensive and eclectic choice of pizzas, stylish locations are a Pizza Express hallmark and behind the Victorian brick façade is a wooden-floored dining area tastefully decorated with modern paintings that give a spacious feel to the relatively small restaurant. The wine list is exclusively Italian as is the house beer, Peroni. Frankie & Benny's is a chain with much more of an Italian-American feel and the theme is modelled on a 1950s American diner, complete with Frank and Dino crooning away in the background and Rat Pack photos adorning the walls. Kids get well catered for here with a special menu and crayons and colouring books on arrival. The restaurant is also right opposite Blackpool's Odeon so you can combine a family meal with a trip to the cinema.
Looking beyond the national operators, Mammas and Mammas Too have been turning out traditional Italian food for generations of local diners. Mammas on Topping Street in Blackpool first opened its doors in 1981 and the décor here is exactly what you would want and expect from a traditional Italian restaurant - checked tablecloths, straw-clad bottles of Chianti, liberal doses of red, white and green, a Venetian mural, and football memorabilia lining the walls. Mammas is spread out through a series of brick alcoves, making for a cosy and intimate dining experience. Mammas Too in St Annes is a great favourite for families and functions. There's a spacious bar area -- complete with Vespa scooter - and a dining room that comfortably seats 130. It's a great place for a celebration, with a dancefloor available downstairs and a private room with bar upstairs accommodating a further 100.
A much more recent addition is Salvatore's (view a 360 movie) at Newton-with-Scales, near Kirkham . It stands on the site of the old Highgate Hotel and plenty of money has been invested here on the spacious restaurant and bar. The centrepiece of the restaurant is the open kitchen and a genuine brick-built, wood-fired pizza oven which you won't find anywhere else in the Fylde. The menu promises 'il mangiare sano' (healthy eating) with plenty of pasta dishes, 12-inch pizzas and a good selection of mains all prepared from fresh ingredients. Salvatores seats 130 but there is alls a decked area for summer and function suite with its own bar and conference facilities. There is another Salvatore's at Penwortham, near Preston, which is under the same ownership but much more neoclassical in style. Another popular Italian that's expanded from a single operation is Portofino which in addition to the hugely successful restaurant on Lytham's Henry Street (with fine dining above and the bistro at ground level) now has a new outside catering arm and the popular Zest café bar just around the corner.
If you're a fan of fish & chips then you've got some good choices to go at. Seniors is a former Northwest Chippy of the Year and is owned by a Fleetwood fish merchant, ensuring you've got access to the freshest possible fish. There's a choice of 13 different varieties on offer including their trademark John Dory. The original Normoss location (view a 360 movie) has been joined by a purpose-built restaurant in Thornton (view a 360 movie) and the newest opening in Knott End. Whelans in Lytham can boast some heavyweight fans -- Rick Stein recommended it in his Seafood Lovers Guide and Gordon Ramsay actually celebrated his 40th birthday here when filming in the area. The Cottage in Blackpool is a sister restaurant. And that most famous of chip shop chains, Harry Ramsdens, has a Blackpool outpost where you can enjoy everything that makes Harry's such a popular brand - waiting staff in black and whites, very traditional décor with lots of brass, wood and chandeliers and a good range of traditional English puddings and desserts.
Not many Indian restaurants - outside of the capital, at least - can boast an AA rosette but Jali (view a 360 movie) at the Best Western Carlton Hotel on Blackpool's north promenade is part of a small chain of fine dining Indian restaurants. Jali in Hastings won the rosette and the Blackpool restaurant is cut from the same cloth with sumptuous décor, a menu that's a far cry from the standard curry house fare and excellent private dining facilities for up to 16. Back in Lytham, the Red Fort (view a 360 movie) is a stylish and contemporary Indian with a newly refurbished sister restaurant the Moghul (view a 360 movie) in St Annes.
Read More Features: Pub Food In The Fylde (2009) | The Hastings (2009) | Locanda Bragagnini (2008) | Exploring The Food Chain (2008) - Septembers (2007) | In The Know Where To Go (2007) | Twelve (2007) | The Bistro Experience (2007) | What's New For Fylde Diners (2006) | Chicory (2006) | Dining With The Stars (2006) | Gurkha Buffet (2006) | Where To Have A Party (2006) | Fylde Rugby Club (2005) | Three New Italians For The Fylde (2005) | Where To Eat By The Sea (2005) | Dining Choices Along The M55 (2005) | Whelans (April 2005) | Breaking The Mould (April 2005) | Michaels (Febuary 2005) | A Michelin Tour Of Lancashire (Febuary 2005) | The Gastrotourist (December 2004) | Bar Culture Comes To Town (December 2004) | Joya (October 2004) | Where To Eat In Warton And Freckleton (October 2004) | Fish & Chips, The Nation's Favourite (August 2004) | The Villa (August 2004) | Frankie & Benny's (June 2004) | The New Arrivals (June 2004) | The Italian Orchard (May 2004) | Where To Eat In Kirkham (May 2004) | The Gastrotourist (April 2004) | Indian Food In The Fylde (March 2004) | La Mezzaluna (March 2004) | Twelve (February 2004) | Fylde's Romantic Rendevous (February 2004) | The Atrium (January 2004) | Clifton Arms Hotel (December 2003) | Winter Warmers (December 2003) | Samurai Nights (November 2003) | Morena (November 2003) | Dangerous Liaisons (October 2003) | The Derby Arms (October 2003) | County Country Carvery (September 2003) | The Business Lunch (September 2003) | The Choice Is Yours (August 2003) | The Gastrotourist (August 2003) | Casa Verde (July 2003) | Where To Eat In Fleetwood (July 2003) | Bistro Gerry (June 2003) | Eating Al Fresco (June 2003) | Portofino (May 2003) | Thai Food On The Fylde (May 2003) | Eating Out Over Wyre (April 2003) | Rigby's Farmhouse (April 2003) | Terry's Balti House (March 2003) | In Search Of The X Factor (March 2003) | Great Fortune House (February 2003) | A Grand Night Out (February 2003) | Censored (January 2003) | Banthai (December 2002) | Simply The Best? (December 2002) | Dining With A Difference (November 2002) | Italian Food In The Fylde (October 2002) | Where To Eat Out In St. Annes (September 2002) | The Park Brasserie (August 2002) | A Room With A View (August 2002) | Chinese Food In The Fylde (July 2002) | Jack's Bistro (July 2002) | Where To Eat Out in Thornton-Cleveleys (June 2002) | The Red Fort (June 2002) | Set For Summer: 10 Fylde Country Pubs (May 2002) | Kwizeen (May 2002) | Where To Eat Out In Lytham (April 2002) | Tolley's Ryecroft Hall (April 2002) | The Best Hotel Dining In The Fylde (March 2002) | The Plough At Eaves (January 2002) | Greens Bistro (February 2002) | Where To Eat Out In Poulton (February 2002)