We were recently invited to attend the soft opening of the new Giraffe in Chelmsford, and never having set foot inside a Giraffe restaurant before (I know…) was keen to try it out.
Now, before I begin, let me tell you a little about the town. Chelmsford has, unfortunately, lost it’s charm from the ‘old days’. Photos from the Victorian era show many independent shops, including butchers, grocers, etc., all in lovely terraced buildings. Now, some town planner, around the 1970s is my guess, decided it would look much better with large, grey concrete buildings instead and knocked it all down. Since then, I really feel that Chelmsford ‘could do better’. In the restaurant sphere, were have any Italian chain you could care to mention, hundreds of curry houses and several Chineses. All the big chains are here, leaving room for very few independent ventures to make a go of it. For example, there is only one place I know of to pop into for a tea and scone or homemade cake, pitted against several large coffee chains, (Cherry on Top if you’re interested, which not only serves afternoon tea, but deliciously huge salads and lunches too!)
Sorry, but I’d really love some independent shops to really go for it and persuade everyone else that this is what we need. Anyway, back to trying Giraffe. As you can tell, I’m not enamoured with commonplace restaurant chains, but end up often eating in them due to lack of alternative choices, and to be fair, you know what you’re paying and you know what you’re going to get for it, which I found to be the case with Giraffe.
My husband and I took our baby along and, as it was my first ‘go’ at one of these things, we were quite excited. I arrived to find my husband sitting in the window seat, already having made friends with the staff, who were super friendly, drinking a beer. The words ‘This is wicked’ may have even fallen out of his mouth at one stage!
As it was a trial night, the staff were incredibly attentive, a little too much so at some points, but all very willing to please; they really couldn’t have been more helpful. My husband already knew he was having the burger, I chose the quesadillas and we shared a nachos with crispy chorizo to begin.
The starter was good, although some tortillas were on the chewy side and the 5 thin slices of chorizo were not crispy, but still delicious. The burger and chips arrived and looked lovely. We were asked if we’d like it cooked medium or well done (no option of rare at all? There is, I know a bit of a debate already about this, certainly on twitter) and, to be honest, I saw no hint of pinkness in there despite asking for it medium. I was assured, however, that it tasted good!
My quesadillas were crispy round the edges, which was lovely and again, were very tasty. The smoked chicken flavour really came through and with the addition of the aioli and minty, chilli tomato relish, were scrummy. I do, however, think that they use the same sauce for the Quesadillas as they do for the Nachos, as there was a chicken option too for these. A shame, I thought, as it wouldn’t have taken much to vary the ingredients and flavours.
While my OH then tucked into a couple of cocktails, the baby began to scream. So much so, in fact, that I was forced to make a rather hasty retreat. We’d finished our meal, but the ambience, lighting and buzz of the place was so relaxed, I’d have liked to stay on to chill for a while longer.
In short, it’s definitely somewhere to which I’d return, if only to try the baby back ribs and the steak and lamb, which were, unfortunately, sold out by them time we ordered! It’s vibe is calm, certainly in the evenings, and the staff were friendly and keen to please. It’ll be filled every night, of that I have no doubt, and the food is of a good standard.
I still have have that niggling doubt, however, that I’d have preferred something less predictable and more authentic.