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Pizza Express review

Michael Taylor and his gang of five kids descend on South King Street

Published on January 20th 2010.


Pizza Express review

I had a theory that if you asked our five children to recall their ideal dining experience they’d pick Pizza Express. I based this on the fact that we’d been to various branches and had never been let down. When I made the error of attempting to discuss this with them, with a view to talking them into visiting the smart-looking one on South King Street for my next review, I got all sorts of ridiculous alternative suggestions – some neighbourhood curry house in Poynton, Pizza Hut, Burger King and a return to the Red Lion in High Lane. It is a lesson I never seem to learn – don’t give children too many choices.

One of the nine-year-old twins sulked all the way into Manchester and on the walk along Deansgate, then spent most of the meal with his head face down on the table denying he was hungry.

So lesson learned, I told them where we were going. One of the nine-year-old twins sulked all the way into Manchester and on the walk along Deansgate, then spent most of the meal with his head face down on the table denying he was hungry. We’ll put him to one side for the moment.

So, we bowl into the restaurant looking like a mixed bag of emotions. The two youngest were giddy beyond words, the other two older ones, like their sulky brother, were in a state of grumpy anxiety.

And here lies the skill of Pizza Express – simplicity and service. Our waiter Peter spotted all of this and immediately tantalised them with an offer of dough balls. These are a kiddie delight; everyone likes them and Pizza Express had the bright idea of serving them with cucumber, pepper and tomato. Some of our lot even ticked off one of their five-a-day. The dough balls also served to remind our grumpy nine-year-old that, actually, this isn’t such a bad gig after all.

All the kids ordered off the limited kids menu – a good thing, by the way – kids and choice, remember? Four had pizzas with a mixture of toppings, one had pasta carbonara. They all liked their food, all cleared their plates, and some even wanted more – the greedy buggers. The pizzas were crisp and fresh. The toppings chunky and substantial – often something that gets skimped on. But the carbonara was light on chunks of bacon, which was a shame.

Me? I had a special, flattened Sloppy Guiseppe; spicy enough, richly coated in beef and peppers, and massive. But it was slightly overdone (some of the ground beef was burnt) so it wasn’t that sloppy after all. It didn’t spoil the experience but rather rendered it average.

Rachel had lasagne which was unspectacular; nothing wrong with it, but unlike my pizza, a little sloppy.

We were well looked after in a busy and noisy restaurant. Our kids make a lot of noise, but the music – a bit of jazz, a bit of Duffy – helpfully drowned them out for the benefit of the other diners.

Our grumpy nine-year-old had another turn for the worse when he realised he couldn’t have a strawberry fudge – whatever that is. The others were happy enough with toffee fudge sundae, as was he eventually, but not before our observant waiter brought them a plate of strawberries and chocolate sauce. A nice touch that was well appreciated. He also obliged with a jug of water and fresh glasses once they’d glugged their juice.

That’s the pluses. On the negative side, a large collection of bottles and glasses didn’t get cleared away, which were a bit of a hazard. And the toilets were a little grubby.

So, my theory stands that this is a good, simple, no frills place to treat your kids, and good value at £57. My bunch went to bed happy that they’d been somewhere nice for Sunday lunch, yet we adults felt a tad disappointed. For all the pleasant human touches we received, this is a restaurant chain trading on its reputation. Where some of the food is concerned, it's in need of a kick up the arse.


Rating: 12.5/20
Breakdown: 5/10 food
4/5 service3.5/5 atmosphere
Address: Pizza Express
6-8 South King Street
Manchester
M2 6DQ
0161 834 0145

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Michele HartJanuary 21st 2010.

Took our two boys aged 10 and 8 to the one in Cheadle Village last week - used to go a lot when they were babies/toddlers but the pizzas kept shrinking to the point that we gave it up as a bad idea/utter rip off. However were tempted by a 50% off all food voucher so revisited and were pleasantly surprised. The pizzas have grown again and we liked the fact that you could get them with really thin bases. Kids say they still prefer Pizza Hut (ice cream factory!)mind! As for VFM - personally think it's too much for an ordinary pizza supper with the kids. How I long for a Franco's pizza from Brixton Market - my old London haunt and still the finest pizzas I've ever eaten.

Emily ThomasJanuary 25th 2010.

I think 5 out of 10 for the food is a bit unfair if judged against "the best examples of their kind". Pizza Express is no italian culinary masterpiece, granted. But compared with similar restaurants in a similar price bracket, it is surely a good, reliable choice?

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