Man I loveeeeeeeeee food! If food was a person I would marry it and never get divorced.
This week Pizza Express in Manchester let me hop on down and have a little try of their summer menu. Being from Stoke on Trent, we don’t have such fancy eateries, and the only places to grab anything ‘Italian’ is Pizza Hut really, apart from about 3 independent Italian restaurants somewhere over yonder which I’ve never been to. So yes, one was hardly going to pass up the opportunity to give Pizza Express a whirl! Our closest one is in Macclesfield, which is about 45 minutes drive away, but I do visit Manchester a lot, so after I got my hair did at Umberto Giannini in Harvey Nichols (blog post coming soon, but you can see the colour/cut above!) I scooted up to Picadilly Gardens for a bite to eat.
The starter was a definite ‘eyes to big for our bellies’ scenario, as we ordered the Classic Italian Antipasto, which included dough sticks, mozzarella, pepperdew peppers, some cured meats and some very beefy olives. I must say, I wasn’t really looking forward to the dough sticks very much, as I just think ‘meh, they’re just dough’, but the seasoning made these absolutely delicious! And they also soaked up some of the oils and juice from the surrounding goodness, so eat bite tasted a little different. I did find the mozzarella to be very bland though, but it’s not exactly the most tastetastic of cheeses in the first place, so y’know. The pepperdew peppers were another highlight though, as they had a lovely little tang to them without being overpowering. Washed down with some San Pellegrino Aranciata Rossa, which is a delicious blood orange sparkling drink, this was the perfffect introduction in to the Pizza Express menu.
For my main I decided to go for the new Leggera Summer Salad, a deliciously refreshing mix of strawberries, blueberries, mint leaves, chicken, goats cheese and mixed leaves; finished with the house dressing and basil. As much as I loved the idea of this though, it didn’t quite tick all the boxes for me personally. I think that when you have strawberries in a salad, it is only right to have a balsamic vinegar based dressing as it always makes for the ultimate taste sensation, especially when goats cheese is involved. I also wasn’t that keen on the mix of goats cheese and chicken. There’s something which doesn’t sit right with me with regards to mixing chicken and cheeses and I never think it works quite as well as it should. I think if it was goats cheese or chicken that would make this salad work a little better but saying that, I still managed to polish it off without any complaints apart from my own picky observations! The addition of the mint leaves made it really refreshing and each mouthful tasted slightly different. If you want to try something a little different then this is definitely one for you, I wish I’d chosen to have some pancetta on it too, as I imagine that would have bought together the salad even more. I also went for a side of polenta chips, which I think personally I’m not a complete fan of either. At Jamies Italian they were quite nice until you got one which was a bit too mushy in the middle, and all of the ones at Pizza Express were quite mushy. However, I’m not exactly a connoisuer of polenta chips, having only had them twice(!), so maybe that’s just how they are meant to be. I did like them, but I didn’t love them is what I’m trying to say. But regardless of this critique it was all served with impeccable presentation with minimal waiting time inbetween courses!
My lunch date chose the Toscana pizza, which was a simple combination of crumbled sausage, mozzarella and tomato, finished with basil and olive oil. The best thing about this pizza is that it restored my faith in ‘sausage’ on pizzas. I mean, have you ever had those repugnant lumps of ‘meat’ Dominos put on their pizzas? Ew. The Pizza Express crumbled sausage had a lovely flavour which combined a slight kick of chilli alongside tasty fennel. It was fresh and tasty without being too heavy or overpowering with any artificial flavours. I can’t really go in to too much detail on it though, because I only got a little taste, with it not actually being my meal and all that.
And finally we have the desserts. I’m generally not a dessert person at all, but as they say ‘When in Rome!’ and all that. These two sundaes were new to the summer menu alongside my salad. First up we have the strawberries and cream sundae, which is a layer of strawberry gelato with clotted cream, vanilla gelato with fresh strawberries on top. This was probably a bit too much after two course really but it was just so delicious I couldn’t stop eating it. Creamy and fresh with a sprig of mint for good measure, it was simply lovely without being overly sickly. The second sundae was a combination of lemon curd sorbet, blueberry coulis and fresh blueberries, and this was definitely the more favourable of the two! The sorbet was so tangy and refreshing; the perfect end of a meal without being too heavy. Oooh I could eat it again right now. Altogether to bill came to around £52 including two drinks and 3 courses, which averages out at not too bad a deal for two people to share. But if I went again I’d probably just be tempted to skip the main and head straight for starters and desserts!
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Thank you Pizza Express, Picadilly Gardens for filling my belly this weekend.