Food and Drink June 18, 2012
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Frankie & Benny's - Bedford
Location: Goldington Road, Bedford, MK41 0DX [map]
Phone: 01234 333850
Open: Mon-Sat noon-11pm; Sun noon-10.30pm

The Frankie & Benny's family is a large one indeed, and one which I can only see growing and growing. The godfathers of the Frankie & Benny's dynasty got something very right when they founded their first restaurant back in twenties New York. With Sicilian roots to build upon, this immensely successful brand of restaurants has produced an extensive menu, with something for all tastes and budgets, which is as quintessentially New York Italian as Robert De Niro.

Enjoying a large pre-dinner glass of Frascati at the bar and taking in the sounds of Dean Martin and Nat King Cole is surely the ideal way to begin an evening. The instantly recognisable red neon sign, and warm inviting interior will ease you into the Frankie & Benny's experience before you can take your coat off. Baseball memorabilia and black and white photographs depicting images of life in fifties America are scattered all over the walls and the effect is the creation of a relaxed and interesting atmosphere.

Buzzing with the sound of lively chatter, this restaurant attracts everybody from couples and parties of friends out for good times and great food, to families treating themselves to a night out - children are extremely well catered for with their own menu, activities and games.

The choice is so massive that making a decision is a difficult task. There were at least four starters that I would have liked to try, but in the end, the recommended tiger prawn diavlo won me over. Five tail-on prawns pan-fried with fresh garlic and green chilli and then tossed in a Neapolitan sauce were served with ciabatta bread for dipping and soaking up all of the lovely juices (£5.95). The buffalo mozzarella and tomato salad was light, fresh and drizzled with a smooth pine nut and basil pesto oil (£3.95). After a necessary pause (the portions are extremely generous) I tucked into a tender lamb shank with rosemary and mint gravy served with vegetables and mashed potatoes (£10.95). Warming and particularly apt on the chilly December night of our visit, I managed every hearty mouthful. Other magnificent mains include pastas, pizzas, burgers, grills, calzone, house steaks, salads, sandwiches and house specialities with fish and vegetarian dishes aplenty - the Mediterranean vegetable risotto (£8.25) will satisfy even a devout carnivore.

Now, I am the first to admit that I have a sweet tooth, and despite the increasingly tight feeling around my middle, we indulged in what can only be described as the most fantastic dessert this side of the Atlantic. Mama's Chocolate Marble combines a digestive crumb base with thick creamy baked cheesecake, chocolate brownie and vanilla ice cream (£3.95) and I would like to thank 'Mama' personally for thinking up such a wickedly moreish pud.

In typical stateside fashion, service at Frankie and Benny's is second to none. Nothing is too much trouble for the obliging and friendly staff. So loosen your tie, relax, settle into your booth and relish the wonderful feeling of a very satisfied appetite.

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