It was a week of dining Italian and next up was Pizza Express. Their Queensferry Street branch has just recently undergone a refurbishment and asked me along to view their new place and try out the menu.
I know that Pizza Express is a favourite dining spot for families especially those with small children and I can understand why. They are very accommodating on space and kiddies portions plus other diners don’t seem to mind a wee yins head popping up over the seat to spy on your table throughout your meal. On this night, it was pretty busy with couples tucking into pizzas and pastas too.
The place isn’t the largest Pizza Express I’ve seen but it’s open and the large windows at the back flood the space with light. I love the tartan fabric and the cobalt blue glasses. There seems to be a fair amount of seating and they seem to be happy to accommodate 1-10 people at a table. The food prep area is open so you can see your food being prepared and plated which I like.
Now let me just get this out there whilst you scroll past the photograph of our Peroni beer! Pizza Express is what it says on the tin. They serve predominantly pizza along with other Italian dishes such as pasta. They are not five star dining, nor have they ever claimed to be. You know what you are getting when you dine at Pizza Express so I reviewed Pizza Express based on this. I am not comparing it to other independent Italian restaurants or fine dining. It’s pizza and pasta made fresh and prepared in front of you.
For starters we ordered the Dough Balls Doppio (£8.45). This is a sharing portion of what is essentially warm dough rolled into balls and baked then served with a trio of dips: pesto, garlic butter and pestorissa, a harissa spiced tomato dip. The garlic butter was by far my favourite, it melted in and around the dough ball giving you the intense garlic hit when popped in your mouth. The harrisa and pesto added nice diverse flavours. There are plenty dough balls here and could easily be shared between three. They also have gluten free dough balls on their menu too!
The next starter was the Nduja Arancini (£6.30). Three baked, creamy risotto balls filled with hot, Nduja sausage and mozzarella cheese served with pesto. The arancini was crispy on the outside but you didn’t really get the Nduja fiery hit. You needed the pesto dip to add another flavour dimension to this dish.
We moved onto mains with a mix of pizza and pasta. The Cannelloni (£11.45). This promised soft pasta filled with spinach & ricotta, baked with passata, béchamel, mozzarella, garlic oil and Gran Milano cheese. It’s a large dish and the cannelloni was cooked well however it was a little bland and definitely required some basic seasoning of salt and pepper to marry the tastes a wee bit more. There was alot of béchamel sauce in relation to the pasta, however the cheese goo factor was 10/10.
For pizza we tried out the Campana Pizza on a Romano (thin) base (£14.15) – Crumbled pork & fennel sausage, friarielli, tomato, garlic oil and mozzarella, finished with Gran Milano cheese and parsley. This tasted good although we thought it could have done with an extra 2-3 minutes in the oven as the centre was a little doughy still. The broccoli rabe (friarielli) is almost like spinach and the crumbled pork was generous with large chunks spread evenly over the pizza.
The other pizza ordered was the Soho 65 (£13.95) on a Romano base with the addition of parma ham. Mozzarella and tomato with black olives, buffalo mozzarella and garlic oil, finished with rocket, shaved Gran Milano cheese and extra virgin olive oil. This pizza had a slightly crispier base and I loved the handful of fresh rocket and cold ham sprinkled over the top.
Believe it or not but we had room for dessert and coffee because when you are on a carb overload you might as well go carb overboard or go home!
A Latte Coffee and Salted Caramel Profiteroles (£5.35). Three fairly large profiteroles with a sweet caramel coating, filled with a delicately salted caramel cream. The caramel coating is quite hard but easy enough to crack through to the light fluffiness of the pastry filled with cream.
Coconut and Raspberry Leggera Sorbet (£3.95). It’s almost calorie free (under 210 calories), it’s dairy-free yet still intensely creamy, light and refreshing.
And lastly the Chocolate Fudge Cake (£5.55). A large slice of moist, rich chocolate cake with chocolate fudge icing. This cake was absolutely delicious. It was thick and super chocolatey were each mouthful taken, the fudge icing stuck to the roof of your mouth and then slowly melted.
I also sampled the Baileys Latte. The Baileys alcohol is very evident but it certainly adds to the creaminess of the latte.
Pizza Express also caters well for vegetarians and gluten freebies where most of their classic sized pizzas are gluten free and they are made separately in their own gluten free bakery!
Pizza Express serves satisfying comfort food where you know exactly what you are getting. The portions are generous, the food is fresh and comes out the kitchen at a super fast pace; and the staff are super friendly, helpful and always seem to be there when you need them.
Pizza Express, 32 Queensferry Street, Edinburgh. Tel : 0131 225 8863 www.pizzaexpress.com/edinburgh-queensferry-street
My Spoon Award : Bronze 7/10