In line with Britain getting in the mood for the festive season, I was invited along to my local branch of Pizza Express (Stafford) to give their Pizza Express Christmas Menu a whirl as part a Saturday date evening. I took the OH along to get in the crimbo spirit and of course, fill our faces with dough based nosh to the sound of Christmas songs.
Being the festive foodies that they are, Pizza Express are currently offering a set price menu in the run up to Christmas with a £14.95 2 course lunch menu and £19.95 three course dinner menu – with a glass of Prosecco!
The set menu is pretty relaxed as you can order a variety of traditional Pizza Express dishes as well as their crimbo ones (just in case you’re not really feeling all mistletoe and wine just yet) – but I can confirm that the new dishes are just as delicious as the old.
For starts we opted for the festive balls (oo-er). Pork and Pancetta and Croquettes and Arancini Provola (baked risotto balls with a gooey provola cheese centre) – both of which are served on a bed of fresh rocket alongside a spicy arabbiata sauce ready for dipping. You get 3 portions of each per dish which may seem a little in on the stingy beside but they’re more than enough to wet the appetite. We ended up sharing the two dishes between us – I was more a fan of the Arancini Provola – they were full of flavour, a little bit spicy with the contrasting creamy and gooey cheese string centre when you bite into the crisp outer layer. The Pork and Pancetta Croquettes were of a softer texture and were a little tricky as they tended to fall apart a little between my fingers – kind of a fishcake consistency on the inside with a breaded and baked outer casing. Both really tasty and worked well against the cool and spicy tomato flavour of the arrabiata sauce.
Under that mass of rocket is the two new festive Romana releases: the Anatra Romana and the Festiva Romana. The Romana pizzas from Pizza Express are bigger, thinner and crispier and ever and are inspired by pizzas from the Italian capital of Rome (hence the name). The Anatra Romana is a pulled duck, shredded courgette, red onion and mozarella toppings on a sweet plum hoison sauce base finished with rocket and spring onion which creates a veritable party for your taste buds. If you love hoison duck tortilla wraps and their counterparts from the local chinese then you will love this pizza, the sauce is sweet and stick and the spring onion and handfuls of peppery rocket make it a taste sensation. The Festiva Romana is the (north) polar opposite of the Anatra. While the Anatra was certainly on the sweet side, the Festiva is a savoury explosion of flavour. Topping the crispy romana base off with brie, leek, pine kernels, mozarella, garlic oil, a sprinkling of rosemary and sage atop a bechemal sauce base finished with rocket and shavings of Gran Moravia cheese and a serving of cranberry sauce. Now, from what I could see the pizza didn’t actually have a serving of cranberry anywhere, unless it was a very small serving. Nonetheless this pizza (which was ordered by the OH and I naturally stole a slice…or two of it) is mouth wateringly tasty – we both agreed it wasn’t necasserily a pizza we would normally order if we had read it on the menu but as it was one of the festive two we gave it a whirl – and boy am I glad we/he did – I think this is a perfect example of not judging a pizza by its topping description.
Despite both protesting that we were “too full for desserts” (him more than me, I just vaguely played along) we forced ourselves to indulge due to the fact that we had already picked our desserts P.P (Pre Pizza). I followed my chocolate lust and ordered the Chocolate Tartufo – a dark chocolate covered yue log shaped dessert filled with a crispy praline waffle and praline mousse centre. Ridiculously chocolately but served with three juicy blackberries to offer the perfect bitter and juicy accomaniement to the nutty-choco log. Think an oversized chocolate praline from your nans chocolate box with a sponge base. In the name of review I had to have a spoonful or two of the Mince Pie Cheesecake which, as a fan of cheesecake of all kinds, intrigued me immensly. Made with clotted cream “cheese” and rum soaked fruit, this shortbread based cheesecake is a Christmas Cheesecake miracle. Extremely moreish and heavenly little mouthfuls which left me insisting “if you’re too full to eat anymore then just leave it”. May have been said with a smidge of alterior motive.
Are you a fan of Pizza Express – have you tried the Christmas menu?
(I’m currently Googling for “Mince Pie Cheesecake” recipes)