Pizza Express is a firm favourite of our's to visit on the weekend. When our family comprised of three we would often be found chowing down of a Saturday afternoon in their Lisburn Road branch restaurant.
Since November 2014 it's just been myself & Smix, and we find ourselves more often in Yo Sushi! these days, but Pizza Express Bedford Street invited us both along to investigate their swanky refurb, and try out their seasonal menu, and we weren't about to turn down an offer like that!
The city centre located branch now seats 185 and can be used for groups and parties. I tend to think of this restaurant as less full-on family packed than the Lisburn Road one, but you'll still find the full kids' menu, high chairs available and of course fun colouring in menu and stickers for every mini guest. Smix was particularly impressed that they supply Crayola twisty crayons- apparently they are big news in school right now, and very much vital to my report to you guys!
Smix always gets the same thing each visit. Dough Balls to start, with butter dip and veg. Pepperoni pizza as a main course, with tonnes of parmesan cheese on top. Chocolate brownie for dessert with bambinoccino (looks like an espresso, really is frothed milk, a very cool novelty to sip just like mum or dad).
The three courses are £6.45 altogether, but note this doesn't include a drink, but like most places tap water is free anyway. There are also pasta dishes if your children aren't in the mood for pizza.
Its also worth bookmarking Pizza Express's offers page and checking once in a while to see if there is an offer that suits your party size.
Another handy hint is to have a nosy at the Pizza Express online menu. If you haven't eaten at one of their restaurants before, then unlike the physical menu you get there, the online version has photos of each dish, so you've a better idea of what you are ordering. Great if you're really fussy about meals, and even better for family's with food allergy considerations, as every item is explained.
Pizza Express make traditional, Italian style pizzas. They are fresh, light & topped to perfection. I love this style of pizza, and I now can't remember the last time I even ate D*m*nos Pizza. Their heavy, doughy, thick based pizzas are hard on my stomach. Not to mention a waste as I can only eat two slices max.
But back to the pizzas in question, or more specifically my starter.
I had my eye on the Mac & Cheese, but then I noticed the calamari starter is back, so I had to get that. I had it years ago, but it went off the menu for a while. I'm glad it's back. The calamari is great quality, no chewy, elastic squid here. The batter is light and crunchy with no heavy greasiness. The Pizza Express House Sauce compliments this starter beautifully. If you haven't experienced Pizza Express's house sauce, then ask for a little pot even for dipping your pizza crusts. It's so tasty, and you can buy bottles of it from Tesco etc to give salads at home a bit of a kick.
If you want the full Pizza Express Experience however, then make sure at least one person in your party gets a starter of their famous dough balls. Again you can buy these in supermarkets to bake at home, but nothing beats the real thing.
On to the main course. As well as their delicious thin based pizzas, there are calzone, salad and pasta options.
My usual main course choice was the Nicoise salad. Egg, anchovies, tuna, lots of fresh salad greens and tomatoes.
However with us being invited along to try something new, I thought it would be more apt to order a pizza.
I chose the pollo leggera pizza. Leggera pizzas are a little bit of genius. It's a regular sized pizza, but they remove the centre and instead load it with lots of fresh salad. This means nutritionally each Leggera pizza comes in at under 525 calories. This makes Pizza Express even more family friendly- not only do you have kids' options, but you have just-as-delicious main course options for those dieting. It means even if you are on a diet, Pizza Express is somewhere you can chose to eat out at, without sabotaging your calorie counting.
Personally I'm not dieting as such at the moment, but Leggera pizzas fulfil a different angle for me.
You see I just can't eat three courses of food in one go. I want a starter because otherwise I would be sitting wanting to steal Smix's dough balls, and I want a dessert, but if I've eaten an entire pizza then I won't have room.
With the Leggera option I can have a starter, the Leggera, and a dessert without feeling so full that I want to crawl under the table and nap afterwards.
It also means I have a built in salad with my main, so I don't have to order a green salad as a side.
In the spirit of trying something new, I did however order their house coleslaw, a crunchy creamy delight with red cabbage and horseradish, which makes a perfect partner for the thin based pizza.
Smix was happy with his pepperoni main course pizza too. Gooey, yummy, stringy mozzarella with his own addition of Parmesan sprinkled on top.
On to dessert! I liked the look of the bombolini, but in the end I went for the seasonal treacle tart.
When I do get a dessert at Pizza Express I always pick the mascarpone with it rather than fresh cream or icecream. It's a little Italian twist, and would be delicious with the classic British treacle tart. Sadly the restaurant didn't have any for my dessert last night, but it was lovely with fresh cream all the same.
Smix chose the chocolate brownie, which comes with a steamed milk drink to match mum and dad's coffee.
Another stroke of genius from Pizza Express is their selection of mini desserts with companion coffee. If you don't have room for a large dessert but you still want something sweet, you can pick one of them. And why not give your coffee a little Irish kick with a splash of Baileys or whisky?
So thank you for having us, Pizza Express. A great Mother's Day lunch plan for this weekend, and a menu with something for everyone.