Category Archives: Pudding Club

Pizza Express Doughball Adventure Competition

Pizza Express has always been a great place to go as a family. Maybe it’s because the kids will eat everything on the menu without protest. Maybe it’s because the nice white plates and crockery mean that Mummy and Daddy feel like grown ups. Or maybe it’s because every Pizza Express restaurant still has a sprinkling of that Kettner’s decadence (where you might have spotted the likes of Oscar Wilde and Bing Crosby sipping champagne in the piano bar). And that, in itself, is enough to warrant wearing high heels.

Pizza Express are currently running a ‘Doughball Adventure competition’ to win family holidays, books, games and camping gear. They kindly invited us – and our three little doughballs – for dinner at their Stratford Theatre Square restaurant.

On arrival, the smiling waitress didn’t baulk at the sight of my eldest two rushing around the restaurant or their Dad steering a Bugaboo. Or indeed comment on the fact that we were 15 minutes late. Instead, with a knowing look, she suggested I have a large glass of wine.

Kids’ meals at Pizza Express are straightforward and simple; pizza, pasta, dessert – plus ample crayons and puzzles. Apple juice came with straws; we were offered plastic cups but the kids promised not to spill anything. I gave them stern looks. (It was Daddy who actually did accidentally break a water glass – oops!)

Doughballs are – obviously – an integral (and delicious) part of the Pizza Express dining experience. But they are also – as we newly discovered – great for a teething baby to chomp on. The competition Pizza Express are currently running involves making up a story with  a doughball as the star, Mummy’s story: Mummy had a nice glass of wine and the baby was quiet for ten minutes. 

I’m a creature of habit. Every time I eat at Pizza Express I have exactly the same thing: salad nicoise. Why? Because we never have it at home (“Ewww, Mum, what are all those funny green things?”)

My other half eyed up the plates of every other diner in the restaurant and opted for Seafood Rigatoni. Like the children, he would have happily eaten anything on the menu.

As we were eating, the manager came over and whispered to the big ones that if they finished their pizzas they could make their own ice creams. He maybe hadn’t envisaged quite how keen they were for this; speed scoffing and then ‘forming an orderly queue’ ensued.

As promised though, they were given the ice cream to scoop, strawberries to garnish and a lovely retro glass ice cream dish to eat from. Five-year-old troughed through his chocolate one, three-year-old was so tired from all the excitement he practically fell asleep in his.

And the story-writing? Eldest son’s story went like this: once upon a time a doughball went camping, He took his bow and arrow and caught a pheasant.

Middle child’s: once upon a time a doughball had the best day ever. The End, 

With thanks to Pizza Express and the brilliantly tolerant staff at Stratford Theatre Square. Enter the competition and get up to date prize info here.

The Pudding Club: Miller & Carter review

With a few of our writers pregnant at the mo, we decided to introduce a new (sort of self-explanatory) foodie section. This week we review Miller & Carter Steak House in Epping.

SM reviewer writes: I recall (when pregnant with child number 1) reading Pamela Druckerman’s ‘Why French Children Don’t Throw Food’ which poignantly stated that French mothers-to-be only gained around 10kg and slinked into frothy underwear nightly (possibly with a sip or two of Pol Roger from a ‘proper’ glass in a manicured hand). During ‘la grossesse’ of enfant deux I spent a few months in France, thinking I would nibble on a Sables biscuit and drink Perrier – but nothing of the sort happened. Enfant Deux was hungry, I was cold (and mon mari tucking into the vin rouge in front of me didn’t help my moodswings). It was a cheese and baguette frenzy. So now, at the dawn of Enfant Trois (or, The Last One) I’ve vowed to roll with the punches, eat what my body is asking for – and scribble a few reviews here and there when the service is good, the food hits the spot and by and large the restaurant can cope with my unruly brood tagging along.

Miller & Carter in Epping Forest is a stand alone steakhouse. The sort of place that despite being amidst rambling country-walk territory, one most definitely drives to. It’s the kind of steak vibe that was big in the 90s (ie retro decadent) rather than the latest meat-wave vogue for chowing down on a side of cow on a slab of marble.

Personally, I am gagging for iron, protein and for someone to discover a foodstuff that my two year old (who has been off nursery for best part of a week now with a vomiting bug, been ‘clear’ as it were for two days but the school policy insists he stay home, yadda yadda…) might actually like to eat.

They actually offer a two course lunch deal (which, to my sleep addled nappy brain needs some explaining) – the gist is that you can add in another course for £3. Collectively we ordered two burgers, chicken wings, cheesy garlic mushrooms, bread and oil – plus a side plate for my two year old.

The bread arrived along with the mushrooms and chicken – we can’t quite recall which dish actually came with the side order of melted blue cheese, but everything got dipped into it – including enthusiastic  toddler fingers. Doubtless no food groups were represented but it was amazing. (And if anyone’s going ‘blue cheese!’ and doing that shakey head finger wave thing right now, rest assured, the blue cheese in the sauce – along with the mayo I slathered on my chips – had definitely come direct from a chain retailer and not from some rural farm devoid of pasteurization) 

Main course burgers were fairly substantial (again, not those sort of burgers you win food challenges for eating that have become popular) and the chips were double fried, salty… definitely not soggy french fries.

Image: Miller & Carter

Obviously another crucial part of pregnancy is needing to pee all the time and the loos here were pretty sparkly clean, with nice Baylis & Harding handwash.

If I wasn’t pregnant I would probably come back and order the Steak Hache with a large glass of Pinot Noir (and maybe a cocktail to start). And if they delivered to my house at 3 in the morning I’d probably be ordering the rose sugar glazed lemon tart…

Book a table online here.