An Impromptu Visit To Pizza Express At The Designer Outlet, South Normanton
Ok, I am officially beaten by the heat. I don’t mind heat if there’s a nice breeze alongside it, but the weather here in Blighty clearly didn’t get the memo outlining my requirements! I’m not renowned for being a domestic goddess, so His Nibs wasn’t particularly shocked when I turned to him and declared that it was just too hot to cook; he couldn’t exactly moan though because he had forgotten to get something out of the freezer to defrost too!
When it gets stupidly hot my appetite disappears; hard to imagine, but true. What this meant was that, as The Man Bird reeled off venue after venue, I just wasn’t being tempted at all by the array of meals he read out. In the end, we went for convenience; Pizza Express at the East Midlands Designer Outlet is only a couple of miles from the nest - and their air-con is amazing!!
The Man Bird and I are choosing to still scan in for track-and-trace purposes and also to wear masks when we’re not seated, so we also took advantage of the hand sanitiser at the entrance to the restaurant. Some folks also donned masks, but some didn’t; same with the staff. Each to their own I say, but let’s all stay respectful of individuals’ choices and be mindful that everyone’s circumstances and experiences in lockdowns have been different. We were asked if we’d rather sit outside or inside, as the venue does have a lovely seating area at the front of its restaurant, but there was no way I was passing up the blissfully cooling air conditioning inside!
Our lovely server came and took our drinks order (NZ Marlborough Sauv Blanc for me, large bottle of Peroni for Him Indoors) and asked if we’d like some iced, chilled water for the table too – yes, please. Whilst he’d gone off to sort that, I noticed a promotional triangle with some rather tempting Pesto Dough Balls pictured on - a quick nudge to The Man Bird got him on-side, and so it was decided that they were going to be our starter to share.
Most folks who visit a Pizza Express have, at one time or another, had the original dough balls (which are delicious in their own right, right?) and these are a razzed up version. A zingy Basil and Pine kernel Pesto is drizzled over them, then finely grated Gran Padano cheese is added for more bite, and a side bowl of herby Italian Tomato dip completes the set up; result? Blooming tasty.
As I mentioned earlier, the heat was playing fast-and-loose with my appetite, so I opted for one of the Leggera pizzas; basically a pizza with a hole in its middle that houses a crisp, mixed salad. For those watching their calorie intake, this range typically come in under 600cals without compromising flavour or enjoyment: win-win. His Nibs fancied the BBQ Burnt Ends pizza, a new offering from the Pizza Express team, which had I not been so mithered by the heat, I may well have gone for too.
One of the things I love about this particular Pizza Express is the view of the kitchen you get; it means you can watch the Pizzaiolos as they twirl the dough bases about to stretch them. Who doesn’t love a bit of theatre?
Before many minutes had passed our morsels were being placed in front of us with a smile, and after the photos had been taken, we tucked in. Thanks to the base being uber-thin my pizza was fabulously crunchy to the bite, which contrasted with the soft Goats Cheese gorgeously. I really loved the intense tang of the Caramelised Onion ‘jam’; this had a super stickiness to it and a marvellous sweet edge to it that popped against the Red Onion, Tomato, Spinach and Garlic Oil. Even though there was a hole in the middle, I really didn’t feel as if I’d ‘missed out’ because there was so much taste and texture to savour - and that was without factoring in the cool, crisp salad of mixed leaves and Tomatoes, drizzled with a tart dressing that made my taste buds tingle in happiness.
His Nibs was more than a bit thrilled with the new kid on the (pizza) block, chomping away on the crunchy chunks of beef. The brisket beef had been slow-cooked in a sweet, smoky chipotle sauce that had reduced and concentrated during cooking to intensify all the flavour, and boy was it delicious! Creamy, melted Mozzarella married beautifully with the BBQ notes, bringing a gentler element to the pizza. Those that like a bit of action in their mouths can breathe easy though, thanks to the tangy Red Onion slices and rich flavour of roasted Tomato slices that were in abundance on top of the pizza base.
The cooling effect of the air-con had revived me somewhat, and by the time I’d finished my main course I was in the market for just a little bit more of something. Neither of us felt like we could manage a full dessert each, so we had a choice: either share a dessert between us (which meant we’d have to play nicely!) or we could choose one of the Dolcetti (coffee or tea with a mini dessert) options. Would you believe that we were in the mood for sharing, but couldn’t agree on which pud to pick?! After a lot of to-ing and fro-ing we made the decision that, because we fancied a coffee anyhow, the combination of this and a bite-size pud was the way forward.
I chose the Caffé Reale which was Figs in a white wine and Cinnamon spiced syrup with a dollop of Mascarpone, and Him Indoors went for the Lotus Biscoff Cheesecake. As usual, we both had black coffee and it was a nice blend, to be fair, that was rich enough to satisfy without being too heavy or bitter. If you love Figs and Cinnamon then you won’t find a more appealing dessert than this little star; both flavours were clear on my palate, and the Mascarpone added a real splash of indulgence – perfect.
Lovers of Biscoff biscuits will be in raptures over this Pizza Express dessert; not only is there a Biscoff adorning the top proudly, there’s one that provides the base to the dessert as well – get in!! I should just point out that the cheesecake itself was gorgeously smooth and creamy in its own right. Both desserts were certainly larger than we thought they were going to be, way more than bite size; I would probably describe them as a half-size portion, which suited both of us just fine!
Throughout the evening the team had checked that we were enjoying our food and asked if we needed more drinks etc., and it was all done with a smile. It’s been quite a while since we last visited this particular venue, but we certainly won’t leave it so long to go again! Hot Wings happily awarded here.