Food review: Pizza Express, Stafford
It’s nice to have a favourite place to eat out close to home and pizza is perfect food to help you feel good. Lisa Harrison has a slice of the action. . .
It has to be an egg with a runny yolk on a Fiorentina pizza. The egg can make or break a dining experience at Pizza Express. It all comes down to that egg and its yolk.
Which is why we’ll get the only fault out of the way now.
The pizza arrived. My heart sank. It wasn’t runny. The problem was that this very same incident happened the last time we had dined at the very same restaurant not two weeks ago. Then I didn’t say anything until after I’d eaten it. This time however, it was all too much and I came over a bit diva-ish and requested a runny-yolked egg. There was even a moment of doubt on my part where I wasn’t sure if the yolk should be runny. But the picture on the website’s menu showed a gloriously golden slick of yolk oozing from the centre of the pizza.
Back it went.
Let’s rewind to the beginning now as that’s the only bad bit dealt with from the get-go.
It was a Friday, no plans, no work the next day and just us.
We went to our favourite, Pizza Express, armed with deals from the app and ready to eat up a storm. Salad for lunch meant my tummy was ready for a feast.
It was busy – as it should be for a Friday – but we weren’t used to that and our usual cosy table in the window was taken. Boo. We managed to sneak onto another tucked away out of the main area and away from the epicentre of the noise.
The building is old and was once the Nat West Bank. High, airy ceilings and crisp white walls mean the main dining area is full of light. The wall has a huge picture of shoes on it which celebrates the town’s connections to its shoe-making heritage. It’s certainly different and eye-catching too.
We perused the menu but, truth be told, we already knew what we were having, creatures of habit. Our waiter, Andy awaited our decisions. For me it was the dough balls with garlic butter and the Fiorentina pizza with no olives and mixed peppers and rocket instead.
He went for the garlic bread with Mozzarella and – what’s that? Not Pollo Pesto? – That’s crazy! Yep, the predictable-when-ordering other half decided to throw caution to the wind and order. . . Pollo Milanese. Plus polenta chips. Wowser, adventurous.
A cool and crisp bottle of Soave set us on our way.
Despite it being fairly busy, service was swift and friendly (I’m sure the waiter recognised us – we are regulars after all) and there wasn’t too much noise drifting in our direction even with such an open space where the acoustics could potentially be quite loud. We chattered away and the starters arrived in perfect time. The dough balls were perfect. Hot with the ever-so-slightly crisp outside and super fluffy dough inside. Dipped in the garlicky butter, which melted from their heat, they were delicious.
He was equally as impressed with his starter. There’s always a generous portion of doughy, garlic bread with mozzarella stretching from mouth to plate.
It has enough flavour, without falling into the trap of being greasy, added to with firm and sticky cheese. Again, the perfect starter.
Yum. Next please.
We were sat near to the kitchen and could see how organised and efficient it was with the fresh food being served as quickly as it was cooked.
And so to the mains. The Pollo Milanese and Fiorentina pizza.
The Pollo Milanese sat temptingly atop a cos lettuce Caesar salad with shaved Gran Milano and a useful wedge of lemon for some extra zest. The salad was crisp and fresh with a generous topping of cheese. Alongside such a tasty setting, the full chicken breast was beautifully presented, and the lemon was a welcome accompaniment to give it a zesty flavour. Perhaps a little more seasoning and a more flavoursome approach to the breadcrumb coating would make it a top-notch treat.
The polenta chips were a happy distraction, however, seasoned and coated with an authentic Italian flavour – helping the whole meal move up a gear in the taste test. Light and fluffy inside with a crisp coating dusted with a light coating of Gran Milano cheese, they certainly aren’t like ‘normal’ chips.
The pizza looked gorgeous, sprinkled with the peppery green rocket, I couldn’t wait to get stuck in. But when I moved some of the green stuff to reveal the egg. That was when it took a turn. With a heavy sigh, well, let’s go back to the start, we all know what happened.
But the Husband ate slowly and a new pizza arrived very quickly with the most wonderfully gooey golden egg yolk ever. I ate around the egg to save it to last and it was so worth it.
The sweet peppers and tomato base mixed with the saltly mozzarella and spinach along with the peppery rocket was an amazing mix of flavours. And let’s not forget the thick and rich yolk to be mopped up with the pizza base. It was all devoured with nothing left over. And thanks to the waiter and chef who got me that perfect egg.
I was too full to even contemplate dessert but Husband wanted the raspberry and honeycomb cheesecake that we had indulged in the last time we had visited the restaurant.
And exactly as last time it was ‘wow!’ It’s an absolute winner; raspberry ripple cheesecake on a biscuit base, topped with sweet honeycomb and chocolate pieces with a sweet and ever-so-slightly tart twang.
One portion, hmmmmm, two spoons (I can never resist desserts, I’m so weak) and more than enough of a summer night’s treat to send off the meal in style.
After some discussion back in the office it seems lots of people are divided when it comes to Pizza Express. Some say it is over-priced, others felt it was over-rated. But we love it and always have a favourable experience.
On our visit we paid around £55 for two starters, two mains, one side, a dessert, a bottle of wine and a bottle of beer. Not bad, although we did have a cheeky offer of two courses for £10.95.
The thing with Pizza Express is you know what you’re going to get and you can trust it to deliver (even a runny yolk). The menu has lots to offer and they are happy to customise the food to your heart’s desire.
Despite Egg Gate, it’s still one of my fave places to eat out at and we’ve since been back. Did I get the perfect egg this time? Oh yes, it was pizza perfection.