It’s not Christmas presents that invoke a feeling of excitement in me for the oncoming festive season nor is the vast amount of time off work (although I shan’t turn my nose up at them) instead its something much simpler and something that speaks to my heart much more than brightly wrapped gifts.
I’m the kind of person who revels in the delights of a Christmas food shop and even more so in the non judgement of being full up on trifle and turkey baps before 10am on Boxing Day. My main Christmas food guilty pleasure? Sprouts. Don’t turn your nose up, these wind inducing little nuggets of greenery are an acquired taste yet I can’t seem to get enough of them. A mound of sprouts aside a pile of pigs in blankets and smothered in a blanket of gravy is a sight for my sore eyes. With this in mind, when I heard that Pizza Express were combining sprouts and the doughey goodness that is sprouts for their famous Christmas Menu, I just had to get in on the action.
And it just so happened that Pizza Express had recently opened a new restaurant in my home town of Stoke on Trent. I’ve always enjoyed dining at Pizza Express, the freshness of their dishes and ambience of their restaurants has always received a big thumbs up from me but I’ve had to visit their Stafford restaurant or one further afield, so with the intuPotteries Hive extension well underway and Pizza Express opening its doors to diners of Hanley on the 1st December it seemed only right that I headed on over with Dan for a mid week date night.
The restaurant had just opened on the evening we visited and although it wasn’t packed to the rafters like the nearby Chiquito’s, there was definitely an air of excitable puppy to the staff and it was lovely to talk to them to see how their first day had gone (busy if you’re interested, but not TOO busy).
When it came to ordering, I already knew I was going to head straight for the Christmas Menu, mainly for those sprouts and mainly because if I was going to be festive, why not go the whole hog?
At £14.95 for two courses (any of of the starters and any Romana Pizza, including the Christmas Specials and Romana 65s) or £17.95 for two courses including a glass of Prosecco, the Christmas menu definitely comes in at good value for money, and if you’re not harbouring a food baby at the end of your meal you can add any dessert for only £3. I opted for the two courses with a glass of fizz and ever the fan of a traditional Italian drink, I figured when in Rome (or Pizza Express) why not upgrade my glass of Prosecco for an additional few pounds to an Aperol Spritz (Prosecco, Aperol, Soda Water + Ice).
For starters I opted for the Creamy Salmon Rillette, which is similiar to a pate but a lot rougher in texture, you’re more likely to notice the texture of the flakes of fish than a smooth paste and is served with warm flat bread. With a complimentary squeeze of lemon juice and a side salad the Rillette is a tasty little snack for starters and I had to defend my plate against the greedy mits of Dan who had chosen the Dough Balls Formaggi, (the famous dough balls rolled and baked with Gran Milano cheese, served with garlic butter). Not the most inpspiring starter from the menu but tasty none the less.
For the main event I had my eye on either the Brussels & Truffle Romana (With chestnut mushrooms, sprouts, red onions, pine kernels, mozzarella, a free-range egg and truffle oil) or the Sprout & Pancetta Romana (Nut Free With chestnut mushrooms, red onions, pine kernels, mozzarella, fresh parsley and a free-range egg). Both boasting a topping of sprouts (HOORAY) and weirdly, a free range egg I eventually decided on the Sprout and Pancetta Romana and BOY did I make a good decision. Not for the faint sprout hearted (it gives the pizza a very distinct taste!) this pizza has a perfectly crisp base and smattering of the godly green nuggets, salty Pancetta, mozzarella and of course, the bright orange yolked egg. The tradition of cooking an egg sunny side up is traditional Italian dish and well known as Pizza alla Bismark. The pizza is partly cooked and then an egg cracked in the centre and baked sunny side up to give an explosion of colour and taste. Think of it as a posh version of your Sunday morning bacon and egg sandwich, with a load of added extras.
Dan skipped the Christmas menu and headed straight for the iconic rectangular pizza, the Calabrese, inspired by the food of Calabria in southwest Italy. With fiery, soft ‘nduja sausage and spicy Calabrese sausage with fresh red chillies, roquito peppers, roasted red & yellow peppers, mozzarella and tomato, finished with light mozzarella, rocket, pesto and Gran Milano cheese this pizza is a taste sensation, if not a little bit spicy for my sensitive tongue! (I was lucky to have my Spritz to sooth my burning tongue!)
As mentioned, for an additional you can add any dessert to your meal for an additional £3 and even though I fully intended to go all out and give the whole Christmas menu a whirl, my aim to demolish a serving of the Chocolate Orange Torte fell short because I was just too full.
Coming in at just over £38 for two courses each, two bottles of Peroni for Dan and an Aperol Spritz for me (and probably enough leftover pizza to justify a doggy bag) we had our foods worth and a good scope around the latest NEW THING to hit intuPotteries. The Pizza Express Christmas Menu is available in restaurants until after Christmas, so be sure to pop in to relieve your arms mid shopping afternoon.
On my inevitable second visit I may hit up a Leggara pizza just to leave a little bit of room for that torte.