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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
The main event!
On the side!
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!
Until then, Happy Easter everyone from 5 members of the very well fed #PizzaExpressFamily!
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.
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