Recently, I was asked if I’d like to try the new menu at TGI Fridays Cabot Circus – Bristol has, along with Cardiff, been named as one of just two locations that’s now serving their new dishes. Available now since September 13th, the menu, they say, is “bigger, bolder and better than ever before”. There are plenty of new dishes, from bacon lollipops and pizza-flavoured hot dogs to new burger options and shakes, and there’s also a chance to build your own meal too: the Create your own plate option gives you the chance to choose your main, glaze and side, with no fewer than 2,300 combinations to choose from…
They also now highlight dishes that are 700 calories or under, and have added more vegan options too – it all sounded pretty impressive. Last time we visited TGI Fridays we were more than a little underwhelmed…so what did we think this time around?
The Cabot Circus restaurant is a fair size, with a feature bar in the middle, and an open plan kitchen that allows diners to see the chefs at work. We were seated up in a raised area to the right of the entrance, and our food and drinks orders were taken impressively quickly.
Sadly, that was just about all that was quick on the evening of our visit, despite there being relatively few tables filled compared with the size of the place. Fully expecting massive portions for the main course, we ordered a light starter of Southwest Edamame (£4.99) to start: we were intrigued by the serving of edamame pods with Cajun seasoning, pico de gallo, red chillies and lime juice. We were intrigued for a while as well, as it took over 40 minutes from ordering for the starter to be brought to the table.
It looked attractive when it arrived, but there was no bowl/side plate to put the empty pods on – we were met with very confused looks when we asked for one, which suggested the staff hadn’t been told exactly what the dish involves. It was pretty tasty, though: the pods had been tossed in a pan with the seasoning, which had a nice kick and a good dose of lime.
I chose my main from the Create your own plate menu: the Californian Chicken Club Sandwich (£9.49) which I could have had two regular sides with…but I chose the £2 upgrade to an “Ultimate Side” of Sam Adams Fries: fries topped with a Sam Adams cheese sauce and bacon bits.
I was a bit underwhelmed. While the toasted brioche roll tasted good and held together nicely, and the guacamole was lovely, fresh and chunky, the chicken breast pretty small, the flavour of the bacon was completely lost, and the whole thing needed way more seasoning. The avocado dipping sauce was creamy as promised, but with a bizarre vinegary tang.
The chips were great, though: the cheesy sauce generous and decadent, the chips themselves lovely and crispy. I didn’t think much of the slaw, though, which tasted as if it was from a huge catering sized tub…
Chris’ choice was the Tipsy Texan (£10.49): a combination of BBQ pulled pork and grilled hot link sausage with pickled slaw and house pickles in another brioche bun. He chose to enjoy his with Warrior Fries (+£2), which were topped with scorpion hot sauce and blue cheese dressing.
The pulled pork he enjoyed – it wasn’t overly sweet as some is, and there was no excess fat. The sausage was pretty much a frankfurter, which was a bit disappointing, but he enjoyed the tanginess of the pickles and slaw as a contrast to the piles of meat.
The scorpion sauce on his fries certainly lived up its name – it’s the hottest sauce that TGI Fridays do – and the blue cheese sauce was fantastic, with a really strong blue cheese flavour.
Somehow, I still had space left after the main…but rather than going for a full on dessert, I ended my meal with a milkshake. The new Choccylicious Ultimate Shake (£4.50) promised a great deal: a chocolate milkshake with chocolate sauce, Oreo cookies, chocolate curls and chocolate brownie pieces. And it didn’t disappoint. The shake itself was thick and creamy with small pieces of the aforementioned chocolate goodies being sucked up through the straw, while it was topped with a whole Oreo, a big piece of chocolate brownie, tons of chocolate sauce (which tasted pretty artificial – the only negative) and a mountain of squirty cream. This TGI version of a freakshake was a great way to end the meal.
Chris’ dessert – the Jack’s Sundae Best (£6.49) was also served in a similar glass: an ice cream sundae consisting of ice cream layered with shortbread pieces, chunks of giant cookie and JD Whiskey Cake, all smothered in Jack Daniel’s sauce and topped with whipped cream. He was impressed by the way it looked (and its size!), and by just how boozy the chunks of whiskey cake were. Layered well, he said there was a different flavour and texture in every mouthful, which he enjoyed – and he’d order it again.
We both agreed that the dessert was the high point of the meal – although the sides that came with the main course were fantastic, the mains themselves could have done with a few tweaks. We weren’t impressed at all with the amount of waiting that we had to do after ordering and between courses, but the new menu is a great idea and caters for all tastes and dietary requirements. A bit of a mixed bag.
Please note: our meal was received free of charge, but this in no way impacted on our opinion. We were not obliged to write a positive review, and the venue did not see this review before it was put up on the site.
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