AS THE January blues sink in and the bank balance plummets towards zero, Zizzi’s offer of three courses for £9.95 sounds like a winner.

Even better, it’s described as a healthy menu, giving the perfect excuse to enjoy a meal out without feeling guilty after Christmas indulgence.

I arrived at the restaurant with my dining partner, Jeremy, last Saturday at about 7.30pm. We hadn’t booked and were told by a friendly Italian waitress to expect about a 15-minute wait.

A full restaurant is a good sign, so we were happy to wait. The dining area is spread over two floors, with a bustling, open-plan kitchen at the back of the ground floor.

It is always reassuring when you can see the chefs at work, as you know they don’t feel they have anything to hide.

While the décor of Zizzi is typical of a chain restaurant, it is still pleasant, with wooden furniture and flooring, and large abstract earthy-coloured paintings.

We were shown to a table after about ten minutes and handed the healthy menu and the standard menu. We also studied the wine menu, which featured more than 20 different white, red and rosé wines.

Described as crisp and refreshing while slightly aromatic, the Sauvignon Blanc Grigolli appealed to us, so we ordered a bottle for £15.95.

The healthy menu offered three starters and three main dishes, but I was disappointed to find there wasn’t a trace of meat to be found – not even fish.

For my starter, I went for Bruschetta al pomodoro, described as warm toasted altamura bread, with santos tomatoes and fresh basil.

Jeremy decided the healthy menu wasn’t for him, and opted for a starter from Zizzi’s standard menu – Tricolore con bufala (£4.95). This was a mixture of baby plum tomatoes, buffalo milk mozzarella, avocado, basil and extra virgin olive oil. The dishes arrived quickly, but we were both disappointed. Unlike on a previous visit to Zizzi, when the mozzarella was soft and oozing with flavour, this mozzarella resembled a piece of tasteless rubber.

The tomatoes in both our dishes were also bland and my bread was verging on being stale.

The one redeeming ingredient was the avocado in Jeremy’s starter, which was ripe, delicious and rescued the dish.

My main course – spaghetti pomodoro – was described on the menu as spaghetti with santos tomatoes and fresh basil. I was convinced that when it arrived, it would be more exciting than it sounded, but unfortunately not. It was literally a plate of spaghetti with what looked and tasted like little more than a tin of tomatoes.

Admittedly, I was only paying £9.95 for all three courses, but even with this budget, I had expected something slightly more creative and flavoursome.

Jeremy had more success with his main course. Insalata Nicoise was described as yellowfin tuna, anchovies, egg, olives, capers, potatoes and santos tomatoes – all tossed with mixed leaves (£8.25).

When Jeremy asked for the salad without any capers, the waitress was happy to oblige, and the dishes arrived within 15 minutes.

He said the tuna looked suspiciously like it was from a tin and he would have liked a few more anchovies, but otherwise it was a tasty salad.

Up until now, the wine was probably the best thing we had tried from the menu, but there was still pudding to come.

On the healthy menu, I had a choice of mango or blackcurrant sorbet – and I went for the tropical option. It was extremely good, but one scoop left me wanting more.

Jeremy chose Panettone al forno (£4.75) – an Italian-style bread and butter pudding served with cinnamon ice-cream.

Still hungry after my less-than-satisfying healthy menu, I also dug my spoon in – and it was delicious. The pudding was moist, creamy and flavoursome, while the cinnamon ice-cream was the perfect accompaniment.

We had definitely finished on a high.

The bill came to £43.50 – not bad for two three-course meals and a bottle of wine – but I won’t be going for the healthy menu again.

•Zizzi, 2 Lendal, York. Telephone 01904 644000. The healthy menu is available until February 28.

•Nicola visited on January 17.