Dinner at Pizza Express, South Normanton
As you know dear reader, my little flock are rather fond of Pizza, and have been to several places around our glorious county to sample them. However, we haven’t reviewed a chain yet so when Pizza Express opened a restaurant at the Designer Outlet and invited us to go along and try it we flew over pretty smartish.
The premises themselves are a bit like Dr Who’s Tardis, deceptively spacious inside compared to the exterior view. The decor is very neutral with wood and brick and metal bars suspending the lighting, yet it manages to be inviting despite its open plan layout. We were greeted with a cheery smile and taken to our booth table and introduced to our server for the evening, Mollie. Menus were placed before us and our drinks order taken, and we settled back to take in the atmosphere.
It was very busy for a midweek evening, even considering it being located in a shopping area. However, the background music was at a pleasing level so that the hum of conversation could be detected without it intruding on your own conversation. Another thing I liked was the fact that you couldn’t distinguish neighbouring table’s conversations and you didn’t need to raise your own voice to be heard yourself.
For starters my Chick had the Pizza Express Dough Balls, whilst the Man and I shared the Classic Italian Antipasto. Typically, the dough balls didn’t even touch the side of Chickadees Beak (her excuse was that shopping is hungry work!), so she ended up pilfering a few bits off our plate too!
The Antipasti was a glorious platter of Cured meats and Sausage, Olives, Roast tomatoes, Marinated Aubergine, Mozzarella, Peppadew peppers and dough baked with Gran Milano cheese and Black Pepper. There was also Pea and Mint Pesto and Pestorissa to dip into. Our taste buds had gone into overdrive with such variety; it really was what I would consider to be a proper Antipasti selection with its many constituents. We had it for the two of us, but in truth it would easily feed 3 or 4 people as an intro and considering it was priced at under £13 is excellent value.
I decided to have the La Regina Pizza for my main. The combination of Smoked Ham Hock, Chestnut Mushroom, Mozzarella, Garlic Oil and Black Pepper on a Bechamel base then garnished with Fresh Parsley and Truffle oil just appealed to me. The Ham Hock was out of this world, really tasty meat that was just bliss on the thin base with the sauce and I was extremely happy with my choice. My Chick had the Carbonara Pizza with its classic Pancetta, Mozzarella, Garlic Oil and Gran Milano cheese combo on a Bechamel sauce base and a free range egg in its centre and garnished with fresh Parsley. She said it was a really nicely made Pizza, and soon made light work of it ,not leaving a single crumb behind.
Now as you know, the Boy likes a bit of spice in his life so he opted for the American Hottest pizza. This little beauty had Pepperoni, Hot Green and Roquito Peppers, Fresh red Chilli, Spicy ‘Nduja sausage, Tomato and Mozzarella on it with fresh Parsley and Chilli Oil to finish it. It had been billed as a bit of a fiery monster, and so it proved to be. It lulled the Boy into a false sense of security though, as it takes a little while for the true spiciness to be appreciated by the taste buds; but when the action starts....... suffice to say that he had to have a little rest before the final slice was eaten.
All the pizzas had a generous amount of toppings on them and they weren’t drowned by ridiculous amount s of sauce either, so they didn’t have any sogginess to them. The bases were lovely and thin and crispy just as they should be.
After a brief interlude we had a look at the dessert menu and it will come as no surprise that we did indulge in a sweet treat , purely for completeness of the review you understand (not through our gluttony at all J). Our Chick had her favourite, Chocolate Fudge Cake, and had it with pouring cream, I had the Vanilla Cheesecake and had Mascarpone with it, and His Nibs had Eton Mess Cheesecake with Ice Cream.
Again, all three desserts were superb and a really pleasing portion size too. To round things off we ordered 2 Lattes and a Hot Chocolate, which looked the most chocolatey Hot Chocolate I’ve ever seen. Chickadee said it was amazing, really rich and yummy.
Throughout the evening Mollie did a check-back on each course to make sure we were enjoying our meal, and was really polite and super-attentive. In fact, I have to say that every single member of staff was exemplary in their attentiveness to each of their allocated tables and this was reflected in the smiles and laughter coming from all quarters of the restaurant.
The three gents making the pizzas never stopped all evening but were such a well run team that they just seemed to dance around each other in their confined work space as if they knew what each member needed without being asked. It was a joy to behold such seamless teamwork between all staff; you don’t often see such a high level being maintained on such a busy service period. All the tables were kept spotlessly clean throughout the evening as well, and any debris on the floor cleared away promptly.
If you haven’t been here before, or indeed if you haven’t eaten a Pizza Express Pizza before, then I highly recommend you pay these guys a visit. The added bonus is that until the end of June 2015 you can go to The Sticky Beak website and print off a voucher that gives you 30% discount there J
All that remains to be said is our familiar victory cry of “Hot Wings” ahoy to team Pizza Express - with a special mention for our server Mollie who was a complete superstar, and also to one of the pizzaiolos Shane who I had the pleasure of working with a few years ago (I didn’t know he worked at Pizza Express until I saw him, so it was a lovely surprise to see him again).