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When in Romas (Tony's, that is)
Tony Roma's: Ribs - Seafood - Steaks (USA)
Member Name: proxam
Tony Roma's: Ribs - Seafood - Steaks (USA)
Date: 28/08/11, updated on 04/11/13 (138 review reads)
Advantages: Walking distance from my home
Disadvantages: Not worth walking to
Phase 3 of Livingston's town centre opened just a couple of years ago and one of the features was an outdoor 'promenade' of sorts featuring a number of restaurant chains including Nandos, Wagamama, Chiipolatas (or some such Mexican-type thing) among others. Among the others is Tony Romas.
I can't say I was all that tempted by chicken piri-pri or guacamachillilitos, so Tony Romas it was to be.
Livingston is just the place for a corporate branded, characterless chain restaurant - we don't do quaint or cute here. So shiny, consumeirst uniformity fits right in. Am I being too cynical? Of course. My point is that Livvy hasn't had time to develop homely eateries in the way that most towns and cities have. Around these parts, they just whack up a new building as the mood suits. In fact, when they built the 3rd phase of the centre, they moved the existing mcdonalds 50m further west...or east. Nae bother.
But I digress.
Tony Romas occupies a prime site at one end of the row of restaurants - the row is actually a glass wall with the restaurants hidden behind...well, not actually hidden, it IS glass after all. All the restaurants have a ground level and up the stairs, an, um, upstairs level. Of course, this being Livvy, all have lifts so upstairs level might not be a strictly accurate architectural term. Also, all these restaurants have a terrace for al fresco dining. Nice to see a bit of individuality. But at least they all have different signs so you know which is which. Incidentally, the al fresco dining might not be the wisest choice as the road out front is the main bus terminus for the town - handy if you likes yer grub smoked al a dieselfume.
We went a few weeks ago when we had that really hot weather - yes it was just a few weeks ago, not ten years like it seems, so we walked there. Now, I may have been guilty of talking my hometown down a little, but from my house, I have to walk through a riverside park to get to TR's, not quite the concrete jungle many seem to think.
As I said, this was during that glorious spell of weather we were having so we were pretty hot and bothered by the time we entered. Remember the glass wall? (that'll be the west facing one that catches the setting sun) Imagine a greenhouse.
Luckily, they had air conditioning but the question that crossed my mind was why wasn't it on? Were they waiting for it to get a little warmer?
Oh well, a freezing cold pint of Tennents would soon chill me down but at £3.60 a pint, I was soon overheating again. Bottles of lager were similarly priced. At least it was cold, I suppose, but at that price they could have shipped it from Greenland.
Enough of the overpriced fizzy stuff. What about the food?
Well I could list the menu, or you could check out their website and see for yourself...pictures an a'thing. Suffice to say it consists of some fish dishes, pasta dishes, sandwiches, burgers, steaks and ribs. Sticking to its American roots, you can supersize your meals with steak AND ribs etc (some places have a light bite menu option but this is more of a fat, greedy barstad's menu)
Ribs are the big thing here. I remember being in the States a while back and TRs advertised themselves as 'Tony Romas - A great place for ribs' (catchy). So obviously, I chose the salmon. Mrs p had the ribs though.
We shared a starter because at around £6 they seemed kinda steep and also, looking at what was being dished up to other people, they looked kinda huge too. I don't think they've quite got the gist of what a starter is supposed to be.
We ordered the onion loaf (half) which was essentially a mush of battered onion rings pulped into a loaf shape. This came with a BBQ dipping sauce and cost £6.50.
Service was quick. Suspiciously quick.
Not a problem with the starters as generally, going out for a meal you tend to be on the peckish side, but this was ridiculously quick although the texture of the onion loaf would suggest that 1 minute in the microwave was all it needed anyway.
Crispy, crunchy and bursting with flavour. These are adjectives that could never be used to describe this onion loaf. It was a little mushy and a little soft and the flavour was, well, oniony. The BBQ sauce was quite nice though.
I was still chewing on a mouthful of the stuff when our plates were unceremoniously wheeched away to be replaced almost instantly with our mains.
Mrs p had the Original Baby Back Ribs which come with a choice of sauces and two side orders. She had the Carolina HoneyTM sauce, Tonys Jacket Potato Fries and side salad. The ribs were tough and rubbery. Now I'm no chef and tonight we were dining sans stopwatches, but there's no way on this earth that these ribs had been cooked to order. They had obviously been pre-cooked and chucked on a grill at the last minute then smeared in hot sauce. In fact, if they had taken a little longer, I would have thought they had nipped along to Asda and bought them at the deli. The Fries were fluffy and tasty, the salad was fresh and crunchy and the Carolina HoneyTM Sauce was really nice. But the ribs were atrocious.
I love fish and I cook it a lot at home so I really should know better. Anyway, the salmon comes in a choice of cooked styles and a choice of flavours. I went for a simple grilled and garlic butter. Again this dish comes complete with two side orders and costs £12.95. I had Tony's Loaded crushed Potatoes and Garlic Seared Green Beans (apparently NOT Tony's). The tatties were very good - light and fluffy with lots of flavour while the green beans were slightly al dente, dry (as opposed to drowning in boiled water), and full of flavour. The salmon? Oh dear. When they describe it as grilled, I can only assume they mean that they shine a bright light on it, threaten it with a rubber hose and ask it lots of questions. This was boil-in-the-bag stuff. What's more, it had been boiled-in-the-bag for far too long. They must have a pot of them simmering away as there's no way they could have ruined this in the short time between me ordering it and them serving it. To be fair, it was tasty enough, but it was severely overcooked and had no grilled flavour whatsover.
What beats me is that the side orders were really good yet the main courses (the ones we had at least) were well below par. We didn't bother with desserts or coffee.
After the express service we were expecting to ask for the bill and have the money practically snatched from our pockets. This would have been handy as we were beginning to melt in the soaring temperature. Not surprisingly, this was when the staff decided to give us a bit of time. Fair enough, the restaurant was filling up and the staff were getting busy but I've watched enough Gordon Ramsay to know that once they've finished, you want to get the punters separated from their cash and out the door asap so you can fill the table again. Chance would be a fine thing. I had to ask three separate members of staff for the bill over the course of nearly twenty minutes before someone deigned to go to the bother of getting me it.
The bill, for one starter, two mains, two pints of lager and a magners came to £39.75 so I left £40 and didn't even bother waiting for my change. I thought a 25p was slightly over-generous under the circumstances but I just couldn't sit there any longer.
In conclusion, this was a very disappointing dining experience. The service wasn't brilliant, the ambiance was non-existent, and the food was not very good. I know they're not the most expensive restaurants in the country, but they charge a high enough price that I don't expect ping cooking. The fact that it was excruciatingly hot can't really be blamed on them and it certainly didn't help towards enjoying the meal, but that would have been easily remedied - just switch on the AC.
So would I recommend Tony Romas?
Why yes, yes I would...as a sauna. As somewhere to go and get a reasonably priced, reasonably well cooked meal in reasonably pleasant surroundings with reasonably efficient service? That would have to be a no.