Pick-and-Mix food has hit Swindon; as Richard Wintle discovered when he went to eat in The Crossing in the Brunel Centre, and found Broccoli Pizza & Pasta.
Swindon’s Broccoli franchise is one of only four franchise outlets in the UK, but the brand boasts a large number of outlets in the United Arab Emirates; which is where it is based. Swindon joins London, Cambridge and Manchester in getting this interesting Pick-and-Mix food outlet that serves made-to-order pasta and pizza. Many more units are planned in the UK in the next few years.
I say Pick-and-Mix, as that’s exactly what it is. Behind a glass fronted counter you are confronted with a row of shining stainless steel trays containing vegetables, sauces, meats, fish and a range of shapes of cooked pasta from which you make up your order. It’s free-cooked there and then. The different shapes of pasta include bows, curls, tubes, flat strips and rods, samples of which are displayed in jars, so that you can make your choice.
The single sheet menu guides you through the complex task of selection, detailing the vegetables, the selection of sauces available including: Bolognese, chilli, and mushroom; and then the choice of meats and fish, which are added to the meal.
I chose the onion, broccoli and pepper, with a tomato bolognese sauce, my personal favourite, prawns and tagliatelle pasta. My friend chose similar but with chicken. The chef cooked our meal to order in front of us, and served it in expanded polystyrene carryout trays. We were pleasantly surprised to be presented with a complimentary slice of hot garlic bread on a hot platter. A very nice accompaniment to the Italian meal.
The Crossing is an area within the Brunel Centre dedicated to eating, accommodating a range of food outlets. There is a large seating area where you can settle down and enjoy your meal.
The food was hot and very tasty with a not too spicy sauce, combining with the pasta and prawns resulting in a well-balanced taste experience, especially from a franchised food outlet.
My friend also found the meal an enjoyable experience, but for her, the quantity was a little too much and she finished up leaving some. We departed feeling satisfied with the taste, texture, and service although I did feel we almost needed a degree in food technology to fully appreciate the complexities of taste that this interesting franchise has to offer.
The multichoice system of ordering enables you to return time and time again and get a different taste combination every time, and the choice of pasta or pizza can be daunting. But hay any excuse to try out new culinary experiences. Broccoli definitely gives you that opportunity.
My only concern is that the meal was served in an expanded polystyrene tray with one off plastic knives and forks, which is not as environmentally friendly as I would have expected from an outlet dedicated to ‘sharing their passion for a healthy lifestyle’.
Will I be returning to try out the rest of the range of tastes and textures? Yes, I will be back to enjoy Broccoli’s exciting Pick-and-Mix food, but I will check out the menu online first to save that decision-making pause at the counter.
Words by Richard Wintle