Editor writes: “As I’ve reviewed Pizza Express a couple of times now, these days the powers that be are making me sing for my supper. And by ‘sing’ I mean actually make my own pizza.
This time I was invited to the newly renovated Leadenhall Market restaurant; in the grand London space which dates back to the 14th century and was formerly a butchery and cheese market. The Pizza Express was formerly a poultry trader’s site and still boasts the original meat hooks within the external facade.
From street level, it looks like a tiny, intimate cafe. The kind of place you’d go on a second date. You can chat, but the huge glass windows mean that you could gesticulate to the outside world if said date suddenly started talking about his rodent collection.
Downstairs, however, is a different proposition. A capacious lair, with exposed brickwork and leather banquettes. The sort of place where what goes on remains unspoken (indeed, the chap sporting antlers at his office Xmas do on the adjacent table probably hopes as much!)
I’ll begin by mentioning Pizza Express’ Xmas menu. If you’ve waited for their annual Nutella doughball treat in the same manner as pressing your nose against the window of Starbucks until the Red Cups return – well – there ain’t no Nutella this year. Instead, there are Snowball Doughballs (see what they’ve done there?). Icing sugar, vanilla goo… Let’s not think about the calories (we’ll be wearing an oversized festive knit til January, right?)
There are also some notable festive pizzas; Maple Glazed Gammon, Beef and Horseradish, the ‘so wrong it’s right’ Potato and Fontal cheese one with bechamel sauce and roasted spuds.
But as I mentioned before, I had to make my own. And because I had experienced a Pizza Express Make-Your-Own-Pizza party before, I really thought I had this one locked down. So – when they mentioned there would be awards at the end (as well as the reward of scoffing down your creation) I decided to step up my game.
Ball of dough: I will be your master. I will knead you and stretch you and then spin you around like the smart-ass chef demonstrating the technique. Oh yes, I will.
So when the chef came ’round with the baking trays to place the dough into, he completely burst my bubble of smug by handing me another ball of dough and suggested I start again.
Quite literally, DOH!
Attempt #2 was apparently a bit more presentable. It was at least spherical. Seemingly I’d left the edges too sticky to bake – the chef just gave me a wry look, whisked the pan off to the kitchen and returned with a vastly improved version which I obviously passed off as my own work.
Next up comes the passata and the toppings. The same supplier has made the tomato paste for Pizza Express since its Wardour St beginnings; maybe they are very loyal, maybe it is the most epic passata in the world.
You are allowed to freestyle your toppings at a Pizza Making party – with the exception of an egg, which needs to added last, under supervision and with a fair bit of hand washing. They will tell you that ‘less is more’ because you want the crust to bake evenly. Pah, what do they know? All those years of pizza excellence are nothing compared to me: who has done it TWICE!
Peppers and pickles, chilli oil, jalapenos… Cheese, more cheese. Some olives for luck.
Kindly, at these events, they lay on some starters to share. So even if you fail with your main course, you’ll have had some doughballs, olives, sun-dried tomatoes and garlic bread. Oh, and prosecco.
I won’t lie; my pizza was very hot. I never learn. I see chillis, I think they are a good idea. The crust was impeccable though 😉
After dinner, a glass of wine and complimentary Limoncello; the prizes. I didn’t come last, I didn’t come first. They gave me the sympathy prize merit certificate for the best try with the dough.
And you betcha I’ve spent all morning online shopping for a frame.”
Book a Pizza Making party for grown-ups or kids at any Pizza Express restaurant here. (BTW, if you’ve forgotten to send a gift to someone, you can ping a Pizza Express voucher direct to their phone – click here to find out more)
SM would like to thank the staff at Pizza Express Leadenhall Market for their hospitality.