Shopping is a chore I don’t relish, but the promise of food at the end can brighten sloping round the malls.
The MetroCentre in Gateshead offers a plethora of scoffing choices, as well as free parking and the promise of no rain.
I was there for a birthday retail experience with my younger sister, who fancied a bite to eat at all-American diner Frankie & Benny’s.
Visiting on a busy Sunday afternoon, we ended up with the last seat in the house – right by the open-fronted kitchen.
It was hot and noisy, but at least we could keep an eye out for our food arriving.
We ploughed through the menu’s pages of pizzas, salads and grills that had been given a homely Italian spin, then decided to try the specials, where you can enjoy two courses for £11.95.
Otherwise the food is quite expensive, for mass-produced theme grub.
For starters, I chose chilli meatballs and my sister went for a garlic bread.
Two chunky meatballs were served in a puddle of glowing red sauce, sprinkled with a few green chillies.
Her garlic bread had been similarly spiced up with chilli flakes and a layer of grated cheese.
My main course of chicken and bacon salad was filling, but unspectacular, with a gloopy helping of honey and mustard sauce vying with strips of salty bacon.
Her Cajun chicken melt was a little dry, with more of the same bacon and dollops of Monterery Jack cheese, pepped up with generous side portions of chips and corn on the cob.
Dessert was an only an extra £2.50, but even the offer of peanut butter sundae and raspberry sorbet could not tempt us.
With two soft drinks, our bill was £21.32.
Service was efficient and smiling, but if you really want food like Mama used to make, there’s better closer to home.