Monday, 16 May 2011
After bringing him back to consciousness with copious amounts of smelling salts, and reassuring him that there was absolutely no catch (no polenta and blueberry crusts, no pumpkin volute) we gaily slapped on our glad rags, and trotted off into Nottingham’s city centre.
Situated in the ‘it’s so trendy cos it’s retro,’ localities of Hockley, Pizza Express on Goosegate literally sticks out like a shimmering neon thumb.
Sandwiched between vintage clothing boutiques, vinyl record stores, and a ridiculously large Sex Shop (whoops!) the restaurant itself forms part of an old town-house style building. From the outside, the room is as spacious and well lit as any other of its chain gang contemporaries, but from within, the sparse furnishings and uniquely high ceilings counter any warmth commonly associated with traditional pizzerias.
Once seated in the restaurant by a rather polite young waiter (whom Mr Cow was convinced sported a ‘fake’ Italian accent) we were liberated of our jackets, and presented with the menu.
After skimming the huge A3 sized card, (which I skilfully used to frustrate my partner’s extremely vocal objection to eating ‘healthy’ pizza) we placed our order with another sickeningly young and attractive, yet apathetic waitress, for both starters and mains from the Leggera range.
Since in my eyes, no meal is complete without wine, I pushed the boat out even further and ordered me and my sulking partner a bottle of the low cal red wine.
As our server moved off in sloth like fashion, we were presented with our drinks by the ‘pseudo Italian’, who had admirably taken the initiative to prepare our liquid refreshment whilst his colleague contemplated the meaning of life.
As I took a sip of wine, I remembered why I had avoided 'healthier' vino for such a long time; it’s repulsive.
Mr Cow assured me through gritted teeth, that we wouldn’t make this oversight for the third time.
After only a couple more minutes, the waitress reappeared with our starter.
‘Bread?’ she worryingly questioned as she dropped down the Crostini Al Pomadoro.
Hmmm, Ciabatta, santos tomatoes, garlic, rocket, grana padano and balsamic syrup. What an articulate and descriptive young lady, I thought, Pizza Express should hang on to this hard hitting saleswoman for sure.
Since we were sharing (much to my partner’s dismay) our starter had evaporated in seconds, yet despite this, it was adequate to keep the hunger pangs at bay for the next few minutes at least.
A short time passed, during which we occupied ourselves with providing a running commentary on the perplexed expressions our server continued to sport as she undoubtedly wished her night away (I was a student once, I know the look.)
As we had already established through the accurate menu description (and of course I had already ascertained through Google) the Leggera Pizza is somewhat heartless. By this I do not make any aspersions as to the actual pizza itself, but am in fact referring to the fact that each is served sans centre. The Leggera is the pizza with a hole.
As I inspected my main course, the unavoidable sense of disappointment one feels upon ordering a coreless pizza was drastically alleviated.
A pleasantly sized green salad, surrounded by a heavily topped golden crust, took the place of the missing dough.
The pizza itself was sophistically presented, resting on a wooden board complete with miniature cutter.
After gleaming smugly at Mr Cow in the ‘I told you so manner’ I have refined so expertly, I immediately plunged my fork into the green salad and took a nibble. The fresh cherry tomatoes and light vinaigrette hustled between the mixed leafs set the Leggera off to a fantastic start. The flavours were distinguishable but not intrusive; not indicative of a desire to overcompensate for the lack of pizza, nor compete as the central component of the dish.
Cutting into the surrounding rim of heavily topped dough using my avant-garde and tres chic pizza cutter, I was again impressed with the offering.
The thin crust dough was flavoursome, springy and well… doughy; the spinach and peppers complemented each other nicely, and the chicken was soft, succulent and juicy.
The Tabasco gave the Contadina a powerful kick, without drowning out the accompanying ingredients, and as a spice junkie, worked to win over an exceedingly hard to please cow.
Meanwhile my previously reluctant partner inhaled his ‘Gustosa’ (Prosciutto cotto, portobello mushrooms, yellow peppers and thyme) with glee. His only complaint after finishing in well under 5 minutes flat, was of course, that there wasn’t enough. (Erh, men!)
With still room for more, we nodded eagerly for the dessert menu, and in keeping with the theme of the evening both ordered a ‘Sotto Zero,’ a low-fat frozen yoghurt with blackcurrants and a chocolate straw.
Upon arrival we once again tucked in, but in contrast to the previous two courses, felt relatively unmoved.
Yes, the portion was ample, but the yoghurt was far too brittle and lacked the prerequisite sweetness for a dessert. The ‘straw’ on the other hand was a big hit, and as per usual for a night out with the cows, caused contention due to my poor table etiquette and Monsieur Cow’s penchant for chocolate.
After a quick coffee, (and an awful mishap involving a misappropriated bottle of Tabasco) we journeyed back to our pasture for a night cap, feeling full, oddly virtuous, and undeniably holy (Get it? Snarf, Snarf!)
All in all, the Pizza Express Leggera range, gets the hoof’s up.
Perhaps a few tweaks are warranted in order to bring the drink and sweet selection up to the standard exhibited by the entrée’s, but hey, kudos for even attempting to revamp each course selection.
I’m still not a chain restaurant convert; the ambience was hardly that of a secluded and intimate evening (Yes, Yes, I know it’s just Pizza, but for gods sake, It’s Italian! ) and the service was far from enthusiastic.
Nonetheless, I will most definitely be returning to Pizza Express in the near future, if only to steal their miniature tabascos (That’s not a confession… honest.) and poke fun at the sleep walking waitress.
(For a full run down of the Legerra range, and accompanying nutritional value, visit the Pizza Express link by clicking here.)
Posted by The Disgruntled Cow at 04:15