The #PizzaExpressFamily Dining Experience – Norwich – Review!

It’s not really a secret that we love Pizza Express in our house and we find lots of excuses to visit. Sometimes we go for a big celebratory meal where we order everything (well, not EVERYTHING but pretty close to it) and spend hours dining with wine and other times I will just take the children for a special early tea after school where I will be restrained and not eat but they get a piccolo menu. It’s £6.95 for them to have three courses and on those occasions they will just have a jug of water to share making it cost no more than that. Because they rarely eat a whole pizza each we also then have some to take home for supper later on. As far as they’re concerned it’s the absolute height of treats yet it doesn’t cost the earth and at 3.30 straight after school the restaurants are usually quite empty and they don’t mind much that you’re just popping in.

The main reason we love to visit is because the children do love it so much. From the stickers, crayons and chefs hats to decorate and reading all the clues and fun things on their menus to ordering, eating and finally getting their piece de resisance in a bambinoccino with their desert. It makes them feel special and grown up and this experience of restaurant eating is an important one. I want my children to feel comfortable when dining out, I want them to enjoy good food, be able to chat over dinner and soak up the experience. We have many memories from fabulous meals here and the reason we go back time and time again is because it’s consistent in all that’s good about it. They care about their little diners as much as their big ones, welcome tiny faces at their tables and unlike some establishments who make the feeling of awkward apparent when a child enters the venue or others which haven’t a clue and think substandard deep fried beige food is the ticket, they know. They just DO!

Happy, entertained children from the off leads to a great family meal out!
Happy, entertained children from the off leads to a great family meal out!

I worked with another restaurant chain not so long back and over dinner with their director he said to me ‘If only we could just do what Pizza Express do, we want to steal it, bottle it and have it for our own but it doesn’t matter what we do, it’s never quite as good as what they do’. And it’s not, it’s kind of like that je ne sais quoi I suppose… Somethings, like the details I’ve stated about the food, care and activities are apparent but there’s more to it than that and I simply can’t put my finger on exactly the point but they just have a certain golden touch and I’m not complaining!

It’s not that we ONLY go with the children, oh far from it! Jonny and I regularly pop in for a bite before the cinema or book a table for an anniversary or similar. We never feel like we’re copping out by going or like it’s a place just for us to go with the family. No! It’s a place we love to eat regardless and it’s purely a bonus that the children are SO welcomed there. And this is what I’m really talking about because Pizza Express is not a compromise made because we have a family, it’s a great big ‘phew’ that now we have a family we can still go to one of our favourite places!

And now, proving ever more just how family friendly they are at Pizza Express they have joined forces with me, Katy from Modern Mummy and eleven other bloggers so that we can delve into a great big on line discussion about what makes dining out with the kiddos so great at Pizza Express. On Thursday (31st March) from 2-3.30pm you too are invited to come an join in the chat by following and using the hashtag #PizzaExpressFamily at our Twitter party where we will be sharing tips and tricks for making family restaurant experiences go smoothly as well as offering some fabby Pizza Express prizes. And, in the run up to the Twitter Par-Tay, which will also see the launch of a big competition to win a Pizza Express family meal for yourself, our little #PizzaExpressFamily team have been reviewing the seasonal new menu (see links to the other blogger’s reviews at the bottom of this post) from the restaurant.

I visited the St Benedicts Pizza Express in Norwich which is a contemporary building with lots of lovely features. I love how each building is decorated differently and this one is light, bright and full of glass and natural light. We ALWAYS have great service, are usually served by the same very happy and smiling members of staff and this is our usual venue for birthdays as we are often staying with my Mum for celebrations. Now that we’ve finally moved home to Norfolk I envisage us popping in here far more frequently which is wonderful although we will definitely miss our old local in South Woodford! Mind you, I have so many Pizza Express restaurants that I adore on aesthetics alone I am now feeling guilty for not mentioning more of them… Quickly I just have to say a shout out to… Hampton Court Palace for it’s beautiful intimate vista, Easebourne for the AMAZINGLY friendly staff, Greenwich because they always let the children add their own desert toppings, The Strand for making central London feel intimate and cosy and the older restaurant in Stratford East London for remembering us always even when it’s been yonks! Right, feel better now and I can get on with the review of the wonderful food in Norwich we had on Good Friday!

Cheers!
Cheers!

My Mum came with us as we spent much of the Easter weekend with her and somehow I managed to wangle the passenger seat in the car – Guess who had a glass (3, if I’m totally honest- hic) of the best wine I’ve ever had in a restaurant period?! Yep, that was ME! The Gavi is utterly delicious and although no longer served by the glass our waiter said if there was an open bottle he would be able to pour me one. Lucky old me as there was and he did! Jonny (Mr pull the short straw driver) had a Sicilian lemonade and my Mum had the new Watermelon Chill which she said was super refreshing! The children, conditioned by our last few visits where it’s been a quick treat after school (with their mean Mummy who won’t allow fizzy drinks for those occasions), insisted on tap water (hey, they like to pour it so it’s not all bad) and then a while later, realising I was all mellow from the wine had a lemonade each too!

I love it when they add something new and fruity to the drinks menu! This Watermelon Chill is perfect for summer!
I love it when they add something new and fruity to the drinks menu! This Watermelon Chill is perfect for summer!

With our drinks we usually have a bowl of olives. I don’t know why we don’t always order two because the children always steal most of them and I’m always hankering after more! Juicy, almost sweet and with the best marinade. I could just sit in Pizza Express for hours drinking the Gavi and eating olives and nothing else. I may have done this with friends in the past but don’t tell anyone as it does sound a bit lush-ish doesn’t it!

Olives Marinate: Marinated green pitted olives with garlic cloves and pink peppercorns
Marinated green pitted olives with garlic cloves and pink peppercorns. I’m sorry I didn’t get a picture of a full bowl. They’d barely hit the table when the little ones stuck their first spears in and removed a few to their mouths!

And then it was onto the food, which I will detail in comments on the pictures but I do just have to say, before anything else, that the new Hawaiian pizza with its pineapple chutney and a hint of chilli was almost, ALMOST, the best pizza I’ve ever tried at PE! I say almost because nothing could ever knock the old Monte Bianco from top space on my list and I’ve never fully been able to forgive PE for taking it off the menu. One day I hope they bring it back, I hope, I hope, I hope! This new Hawaiian, just like the old Monte Bianco, has a bechamel sauce base and is something so super special it HAS to be tried. I had it AND Jonny didn’t want to be outdone (we play a game of who wins dinner when we dine out and neither of us like to lose) so he ordered on too. It got full marks form us both! This is the first time ever that PE have had a Hawaiian pizza on their menu and wow have they done it proud. Now, nothing tells it quite as well as the pictures so… I’m going to get your tummies a grumbling now and show you what we ate!

To start!

From the new menu
From the new menu Prosciutto E Melone which is the simple but fantastically paired prosciutto crudo, fresh honeydew melon, and extra virgin olive oil. DELICIOUS!
Pizza express review 17
My starter of choice the Bruschetta Con Funghi which is closed cup mushrooms, béchamel sauce (I don’t know how they make it so creamy) and red onion served on dough and finished with chopped parsley and balsamic syrup. And the gorgeously fresh crispy calamari rings served with a Çaesar dressing, lemon and fresh parsley!
And the Piccolo menu for my two is ALWAYS garlic butter dough balls. They've never even tried the balsamic option as I think it's more a case of a bit of doubhballs with their garlic butter when it comes to our family... They take after their Mother! I'm not sure if it's the faces made out of the salad but my two always eat it when we're at Pizza express, I should start doing the faces at home and see if it makes any difference!
And the Piccolo menu for my two is ALWAYS garlic butter dough balls. They’ve never even tried the balsamic option as I think it’s more a case of a bit of doubhballs with their garlic butter when it comes to our family… They take after their Mother! I’m not sure if it’s the faces made out of the salad but my two always eat it when we’re at Pizza express, I should start doing the faces at home and see if it makes any difference!

The main event!

Pizza Express Review 8
THAT Hawaiian Pizza is a take on the famouse Hawaiian, with an Italian twist. Sweet chilli pineapple chutney matches perfectly with salty prosciutto crudo, red onion, garlic oil, Gran Milano cheese and mozzarella. All on a white béchamel base with fresh basil, fresh parsley and chilli oil. Yes, it IS as good as it looks!
Pizza Express Review 16
Mum’s favourite is the Lasagna. Bolognese sauce, mushroom, tomato and bechamel sauce, finished with Gran Milano cheese. I do try and get her to try other things but she says when it’s this good why would she not have it every time?!
And the children are similar creatures in their Piccolo choices of American Pizza for J and the Burro for F. They don't even have this pasta dish on the menu anymore but they will always make it for her wherever we go!
And the children are similar creatures to my Mum in their Piccolo regular choices of American Pizza for J and the Burro for F. They don’t even have this pasta dish on the menu anymore but will always make it for her wherever we go and this is another great thing about Pizza Express for families in the consistency. Children like what they like and even though she eats much of everyone else’s she’d feel cheated if she didn’t have this simple dish because to her, it’s what a meal at Pizza Express is!

On the side!

Pizza Express Review 21
We had to try the new Superboost Salad which is a superfood mix of green lentils, black rice, edamame beans, red quinoa, chickpeas, cranberries, pumpkin seeds and kale with rocket, roasted red & yellow peppers, parsley and a light house dressing and also new from the menu is the Coleslaw – Pizza express. A crunchy coleslaw of white cabbage, carrot and onion with a chipotle spice in a rich and creamy dressing and both were gorgeous. I only wish they would stop adding side orders to the menu because we keep falling in love with them and our bill gets bigger and bigger as do our tummies! Mind you, if I was being good I could have the salad as a main (they offer this) and it would totally fill me up while being totally yummy!
And these are our two staple sides, the two we never have a meal without even though, truth be told, it's being totally indulgent and piggy. Polenta Chips: Italian polenta chips with rosemary, oven-baked and finished with Gran Milano cheese, served with a honey & mustard dressing dip Potato Nocciola: Golden fluffy potato balls, baked in our ovens, finished with Gran Milano cheese and fresh parsley. We love these with a splash of truffle oil, if you do too, please
And these are our two staple sides, the two we never have a meal without even though, truth be told, it’s being totally indulgent and piggy. Italian polenta chips with rosemary, oven-baked and finished with Gran Milano cheese, served with a honey & mustard dressing dip are amazing. I’ve tried to re-create them at home but it’s a case of that golden touch again I’m afraid as I simply cannot do it like Pizza Express! And the potato Nocciola which are golden fluffy potato balls, baked in the oven and finished with Gran Milano cheese and fresh parsley. YUM!

To finish!

 

I had the new Passionate Mess: A tropical twist on the Eton mess, bright zingy passion fruit cream on a crumbly biscuit base with a top of broken meringue pieces; served with a choice of cream, mascarpone or gelato (I went with the gelato because, well, in for a penny and it was a drop in the calorie ocean by now)!
I had the new Passionate Mess: A tropical twist on the Eton mess, bright zingy passion fruit cream on a crumbly biscuit base with a top of broken meringue pieces; served with a choice of cream, mascarpone or gelato (I went with the gelato because, well, in for a penny and it was a drop in the calorie ocean by now)!
Tiramisu: Made by La Donatella, using traditional methods and ingredients; layers of ladyfingers, mascarpone cream, marsala wine, coffee and cocoa
Jonny had the gluten free Chocolate Brownie Dolcetti so that he could have something sweet but only a bite and instead of a brandy coffee, which he would choose if I had drawn the driving short straw, he had a cup of tea. Love the way this mini desert is served, so cute! And my Mum went, as usual, for the Tiramisu which is made using traditional methods and ingredients; layers of ladyfingers, mascarpone cream, marsala wine, coffee and cocoa!
And the children went for a sundae and a gluten free brownie with the all important bambinoccino!
And the children went for a sundae and a gluten free brownie with the all important bambinoccino!
I think these faces say it all really!
I think these faces say it all really!

We had an absolutely fantastic meal (as ever) for an Easter treat and the new menu is just delicious! It’s J’s birthday in a few week’s time and guess where he wants to go for his birthday meal?! We will back then and definitely re-trying some of the new menu again, you know, just to be sure! We’re selfless like that! 😉

Before that we have our Twitter party on 31st March at 2pm until 3.30. Do join us and let us know your best tips for dining out with the family. We’ve got some great ones to share with you but if you have some really great ones then you might even win some Pizza Express vouchers for sharing so make sure you pop along and tell us all about them!

PizzaExpressImage

Until then, Happy Easter everyone from 5 members of the very well fed #PizzaExpressFamily!

Pizza Express Review 23 Pizza Express Review 7

This review is part of the reviews from the bloggers joining in with the #PizzaExpressFamily project. To catch what the other members thought of their meals please click on their links below.

Modern Mummy – http://www.modernmummy.co.uk/2016/03/celebrating-end-of-term-with-pizza.html 

WhatTheRedHeadSaid – http://whattheredheadsaid.com/2016/03/24/family-meal-pizza-express-pizzaexpressfamily/

DeepInMummyMatters – http://deepinmummymatters.com/2016/03/treat-night-beans-means-pizzaexpressfamily/

MummyEndeavours – http://mummyendeavours.co.uk/pizzaexpressfamily-yummy-monday-treat/

InnocentCharmsChats – http://innocentcharmschats.co.uk/2016/03/taste-test-pizzaexpressfamily/

MyMonkeysWontSitStill – http://www.sitstillmonkeys.co.uk/2016/03/good-friday-evening-family-meal-out-pizza-express.html

MakeDoandPush – http://makedoandpush.co.uk/2016/03/review-pizza-express-in-beverley-east-yorkshire-pizzaexpressfamily.html/

MyLifeUnexpected – http://www.mylifeunexpected.co.uk/2016/03/pizza-express-review-worcester.html

ChelseaMamma – http://chelseamamma.co.uk/2016/03/pizza-express-bournemouth/#comment-223538

MeandMyShadow – http://missielizzie-meandmyshadow.blogspot.co.uk/2016/03/pizza-express-gluten-free-family-meal.html

BlogByBaby – http://www.blogbybaby.com/2016/03/pizza-express-witney-review.html

Jacintaz3 – http://jacintaz3.co.uk/our-easter-monday-celebration-meal-at-pizza-express/

8 thoughts on “The #PizzaExpressFamily Dining Experience – Norwich – Review!

  1. Need to head over to Pizza Express today 🙂 LOVE Prosciutto E Melone whenever we’re in Italy- I didn’t know they had it on their menu!

  2. It’s my monkeys don’t sit still 😜 Great post Ruth. I could so eat all that food again looking at your photos right now! See you at the party and thanks so much for asking us to be part of the #pizzaexpressfamily!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*