Eating out: Pizza Express, Perth

I haven’t eaten at Pizza Express in a while, and never at the restaurant in Perth. I’m not going to say I was disappointed, but I did used to consider Pizza Express one of the nicer chain restaurants on the High Street. However, I wonder if the recession has had an impact, and perhaps it has lost some of its shine.

The food was fine. For the most part, it tasted good. However, several of us (who had been to Pizza Express before) noticed that the menu had changed somewhat. I have no idea if that’s just the Perth branch, but I was very sorry to see the starters so limited; they’re much more mainstream, with really only a few options. The last time I ate at Pizza Express i had a really fabulous starters with tasty avocado, and was very disappointed it wasn’t on the menu. I had a portion of dough balls (fine as always) and some olives (nice mixed olives) to start, though the creamy mushroom bruschetta looked very good too.

Anyway, the range of pizzas was still as impressive as ever! I was interested in the range of food they’ve developed with Valentine Warner and decided to try one of the two pizzas he’s endorsed. Fennel and salami sounded pretty yummy and I decided to give it a shot. It was pretty good! But, the first bite was a bit surprising… I wasn’t expecting the fennel to be uncooked: thinly sliced, but uncooked. I might try it at home, and see if the fennel can’t be cooked a little before serving, or softened before adding as a topping. As I ate on it certainly grew on me, and I was able to appreciate how well the fennel and salami went with each other.

My dessert was the banoffee sundae. It was pretty tasty, but I was unsure about where the flavours were coming from! I’d like to think there was some actual banana in it, but I was a bit concerned that it might have been banana flavoured cream; that’s what it tasted like! And not really necessary. Anyway, whatever was going on with the sundae, my thoughts about the flavours (which were very nice!) distracted me from enjoying it quite as much as I might have done.

So a few niggles…

  • If you’re going to have an open plan kitchen, do not have the bin in full few of your customers. And if it is, for goodness’ sake don’t let your staff chuck rubbish NEXT TO the bin (on the floor) because the bin is too full. So. So. So nasty.
  • The service was fine, but our first server either couldn’t hear me or couldn’t understand what I was ordering: Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. Now, I’m not all that softly spoken (!!), and it’s a pretty uniquely named wine; almost impossible to mistake for ANYTHING else. So, seriously, learn the menu. Particularly as it’s the recommended wine.
  • The service wasn’t fast, but it was OK. I think 35 minutes from sitting down to getting the first course is OK. And we had three courses plus coffee in a couple of hours. It was nice not to be rushed, I guess.
  • Uniforms! Oh dear. Very sorry to see the staff in t-shirts, rather than something a bit smarter. I’m sure the staff used to be in black shirts, and was sorry to see that is no longer the case. Again, the uniforms made it all seem a bit more generic, mainstream pizza place.
  • Get some double espresso size cups. It’s a common enough order, and I don’t want my wee coffee in a massive, oversized cup.

Overall, it was a good evening with friends and colleagues. But I think the proof was in the pudding: on a Saturday night the place was half full of families, and by the time we left at 9pm it should have been getting busy and wasn’t. I can’t help wondering if the changes made to the menu and things like uniforms might have resulted in Pizza Express becoming just nother High Street pizza place, rather than somewhere a bit nice, and a bit different.

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