Me and Jamie met up with some friends for dinner a couple of weeks back so I booked a table at the Golden Cross branch of Pizza Express for four people at 7.30, in the hopes that they’d have something that would cater to everyone. Shortly before we arrived, I received a text from my friend to say they were running a bit late, so as Jamie and I were fairly hungry we went in to get our table and order some drinks and something to nibble on. That was the plan, anyway, but after waiting a few minutes at the entrance to be taken to our table, we were told by a flustered manager that there was a delay in the kitchen. Once seated, we waited over fifteen minutes before anyone came to ask us if we wanted drinks, at which point we noticed there was only one poor lady providing service for the entire restaurant. I felt so sorry for her!
Along with our drinks we ordered the polenta chips (no honey-mustard dip for me) and doughballs, but none of it arrived until well after our friends did at around 8pm. It was my first time trying polenta chips and I’d definitely order them again, the portion size was generous as they are quite filling, easily enough for us to share. I’d asked for the garlic butter that usually comes with the doughballs to be swapped out for balsamic vinegar but they brought us out a dish of plain oil instead, which I don’t really love, so I just had a couple of dough balls on their own. I didn’t really mind though, because who doesn’t like bread? All the carbs in our starters kept me at a reasonable level of hunger until our food came.
For my main course, I ordered the new Vegan Giardiniera pizza, swapping out the olives for mushrooms. What is it with restaurants being just desperate to put olives in the vegan options, aren’t they quite a love-hate food? Despite the slow service at the start, the kitchen seemed to have got back on track and our main courses came out really quickly. I was happy to see that compared to other vegan pizzas I’ve had at restaurants, this one came with an abundance of vegan cheese AND toppings (it usually ends up being one or the other). Pizza Express use Mozzarisella, favoured by many restaurants offering a vegan pizza, and definitely favoured by me! Having now tested a fair few, I think Pizza Express are the winners of the chain restaurant vegan pizza so far.
For dessert, I ordered the dairy-free Coconut Delight, a sorbet made with coconut milk, which is the only vegan option on offer. Because of the ingredients, it was closer to an ice cream texture and less grainy than sorbet usually is, which meant I was able to enjoy it a lot more. I’ve certainly had way better desserts out at restaurants than this, but the likelihood is you’re visiting Pizza Express because you have family or friends who don’t share your lifestyle, so it’s nice to have an option, and a perfectly edible one at that.
Overall we had a relatively good dining experience and enjoyed the food; I would hope that the short staffing wasn’t a regular occurrence, but I might suggest checking out the Castle Quarter branch, also in town centre, as I’ve been there previously and experienced better service. Pizza Express are one of a handful of chain restaurants that offer a massive 40% off on Mondays and Tuesdays for students, making it a really fantastic deal (I think my three courses and a drink came to just over a tenner). If you don’t have a student card, they usually have set menu offers on their website for only a couple of pounds more, that are valid every day of the week. I would encourage you not to pay full price for a meal here, as the food probably doesn’t quite warrant it, but also, you just don’t need to!