I’d arranged to meet my grandchildren at the ‘Queen B’ in Chelmsford. When last we visited the service was appalling, so I had trepidations. True to form the barmaid advised ‘an hour and a quarter wait for food’ and ‘no burger buns or fish’. The ‘fish’ was accompanied by a descriptive wiggle of the hand as if depicting a trout in a stream. Well rather than try and entertain two hungry children we headed back to the Army & Navy roundabout and to “Frankie & Benny’s”.
The Army & Navy roundabout in Chelmsford is notorious for traffic congestion, and is named for the ‘Army & Navy’ pub which was a local landmark until it was demolished in 2007. The site is now home to a few shops, a Travelodge hotel and “Frankie & Benny’s”. There was a “Chiquito’s” Mexican restaurant until recently.
“Frankie & Benny’s” conceit is that it the chain was founded, not in Leicester in 1995, but in New York’s ‘Little Italy’ in the 1920’s.
The vibe and décor is a British interpretation of New York Italian and frankly unlike anything I’ve experienced in Little Italy.
That said, it’s reasonably family friendly, there are children’s menus, and the little ones are given play sheets and coloured pencils. I tried explaining to my grandchildren that the Statue of Liberty is actually pale green but they weren’t buying it.
The menu is comprehensive, ranging from pizza and pasta, through ribs, burgers, wraps and salads – all firmly ‘New York’ branded – do they pay a royalty for the ‘De Niro’ burger? – You talking to me?
My grandchildren had no problems choosing dishes (hot dog and margarita pizza – both accompanied by fries and a token side salad), as did the adults.
My daughter in law went for the ‘American Hot’ pizza, which she declared very spicy (and she’s partly of Caribbean descent), my son for the ‘Spicy Meat Pasta’ which he said was spicy enough to not need a shot of ‘Tom’s Hot Sauce’ which comes with the condiment tray. I went for the spaghetti with ‘F&B Meatballs’ which benefitted from a few shots of the aforementioned chilli sauce.
The meatballs (beef and pork) were tasty, tender and well cooked, the spaghetti a tad overcooked, but okay for mass catering.
For dessert the boys had vanilla ice cream with ‘milky bar’ buttons, while my daughter in law went for the sorbet. My son and I skipped dessert.
Add a few lemonades for the boys, a few ciders for the adults and black coffee for me (with free refills) – I was driving – and the final bill came to sixty six quid. Not cheap, but not stupidly expensive.
Overall, reasonable food, reasonably priced and an infinitely better experience that the Queen B.