I don’t usually head out for pizza, pasta or salad, unless I’m going to a new, super cool, restaurant which I’m dying to try after drooling over everyone else’s Instagram posts and stories – FYI, I do this WAY too much! I just think I can cook most of it at home, which I know, isn’t always necessarily the case, but I like to try and go to new places if I eat out. It’s how I justify the spending.
Pizza Express however, is one of those places I tend to fall back on for catch-ups with the girls or my sister when in Birmingham, because it’s so chilled and there’s always plenty of options for all. It’s always a great shout, but I realised that I’d never posted about it!
Last Thursday, with date night in the diary, Alex and I headed to the Pizza Express in the O2 Centre on Finchley Road for a relaxed dinner and drinks. I was dying to try the new spring menu options (I LOVE the fact it’s spring now!).
The branch in the O2 Centre, Finchley Road, is consistent with all other Pizza Express locations in look and feel – a sophisticated and contemporary monochrome interior, with marble table tops, olive green booths and the odd flash of dark blue (mainly water glasses), it’s also home to an open kitchen.
The booth I selected made a comfortable spot for the evening, and with spot lighting it felt atmospheric and almost a little romantic – an added little touch for date night. The menu as always is pretty extensive, with plenty of pizza, pasta and salad options, as well as a great choice of starters and sides. They also have a number of gluten free and vegetarian options, and also cater for other allergies too (check out their full allergen menu if interested). Although there were only a handful of spring specials, it did add something new to the menu. I’d actually spent a little time that afternoon examining the options and deciding what to go for as I knew I’d be ravenous by the time we got to dinner.
The drinks menu is just as extensive with plenty of wine, beer and spirits, as well as soft options and hot drinks.
The Gin Spritz, one of the spring/summer specials – Bombay Sapphire with cucumber & mint pressé, over ice – was light and refreshing, and perfect for a sunny spring evening. The Hugo St. Germain, a mix of Prosecco over ice, with St. Germain elderflower liqueur, lemon and mint, was Alex’s choice, and although at first he thought it looked like a girly drink (being served in a wine glass), he was soon debating ordering another as he enjoyed it that much.
The Cod Crochette, creamy smoked cod with mozzarella and red jalapeños, baked in breadcrumbs until crisp, made for a delicious spring starter. Served in a portion of three, with rocket, parsley and an anchovy mayonnaise, the crochettes were soft in the centre, with a subtle fish taste, and a nice spicy kick.
The Calamari, served in rings (like onion rings) were lightly crumbed and crispy, and arrived with a wedge of lemon (a squeeze is always needed!), fresh parsley and a Çaesar dressing for dipping. Tasty, although a little overdone, they didn’t last long.
Now, I wouldn’t usually choose a pasta dish for my main, but drawn in by the spring specials, I was really pleased I did!
The Seafood Rigatoni, is another of the spring specials. Served in a creamy white wine and garlic sauce with a squeeze of lemon, the rigatoni pasta with tender salmon, pollock and juicy king prawns, was rich and flavoursome.
Alex’s choice of main, the Calabrese, a rectangular pizza with hot, soft ‘nduja sausage, calabrese sausage D.O.P, red chilli, roquito pepper, mozzarella and tomato, finished with buffalo mozzarella, rocket, pesto and Gran Milano cheese looked amazing.
Ordered without the roasted peppers (yes, he’s the fussy one!), it had a fab mix of flavours, with the ‘nduja sausage and chilli adding heat, and the roquito peppers adding a touch of sweetness. To leave enough space for dessert, as he already had his eyes on one, some of the pizza was left but not wasted as they box it up to take home – it made a fab hangover breakfast for Alex on the Saturday!
Three courses is always a push, but when the person you’re with is ordering one, you have to order one too just to avoid the food envy – and I knew I would suffer! The dessert menu has several options for those with a sweet tooth, with a variety of chocolatey, fruity and creamy options from sorbet to brownie and cheesecake.
The Chocolate Fondant, a rich and intense warm chocolate cake with a soft melting centre, served with vanilla gelato, was a great choice by Alex. The vanilla gelato balancing out the rich chocolate, and adding an extra indulgent creamy touch.
My choice, the Coconut Delight – creamy, dairy-free, coconut sorbet, made with coconut milk and coconut pieces – tasted like a bounty in a bowl. It was light and fresh, and felt almost a little tropical – it made the perfect end to my spring meal.
Although service might not have been as efficient as other places, with the number of vouchers & offers you can find for Pizza Express, it’s great value for money – it’s on Tastecard too! The O2 Centre location is also super chilled, making it perfect for a relaxed date night or catch-up during the week – make sure you try the spring specials!
Have you got a restaurant you always fall back on?
*I was invited along by the O2 Centre on Finchley Road to try the new spring menu at Pizza Express. All views my own.