Pizza Express is a very familiar chain in the UK, having opened its first branch in Soho about fifty years ago. It was always the upmarket rival chain to Pizza Hut and the now defunct Pizzaland, without much competition in that market space. Now there are several similar chains, such as Ask, Zizzi and Prezzo. I don’t think I had been to a Pizza Express for at least six years, so when I was invited there I thought it would be interesting to see if it had changed much.
The answer is…not really, more tweaked. Most of the pizzas I remembered were still there, and the famous dough balls too, though there was a new twist on them which I will come to later. There are a few more healthy options, like a pizza with the middle cut out and the gap filled with salad, and there is also a set menu for kids. Inside, though, it was broadly as I recalled – polished wood and marble tables, plus the coloured glass which would strike fear into my mate’s dad. The staff were professional and attentive, though not exactly welcoming.
We shared by sharing some dough balls doppio, a double portion of the balls with a tricolore of dips: classic garlic butter, pesto and a harissa and tomato paste. Not much spice in the latter, but all were OK. My nine month old niece really liked the dough, though!
I went for a new pizza to me, the Soho 65 which was an olive and rocket pizza with extra olive oil, served on a Romana base (same amount of dough, just rolled thinner, which is the style of pizza I like). It was fine, if heavily oil flavoured, though I would have preferred a bit more sauce. I actually had to take some home.
My sister chose a fiorentina, which was a good spinach pizza without the normal egg. Exactly as you’d expect.
Her husband had a diavolo which has spiced meats and chillies. It was spicy enough and he was happy with it.
A new addition to the menu was the sticks of polenta with a vinegary mustard dip. Quite nice, but not spectacular.
So Pizza Express was as I remembered it: good pizza, comfortable surroundings and competent staff. Nicer than the US chains, and worth a look if you like Italian style pizza. The Norwich branch is open from 11.30-23.00 every day.
Address: 15 St Benedict’s Street, Norwich, Norfolk, NR2 4PE