It’s rare for me to go out for lunch during the week but recently I made an exception as I was invited to try Pizza Express’s new Express Lunch menu. Despite the fact I’m not normally very keen on chain restaurants, I’m actually a big fan of Pizza Express for a quick, good quality meal and I think they do what they do very well – not to mention that with Cardiff branches in the High Street, St David’s and Mermaid Quay, there’s almost always one nearby, so I was looking forward to trying the new menu. I took a friend from work with me who also likes Pizza Express a lot – she has two young children and finds it’s a great place to take them (I experienced this myself firsthand recently as Mr W and I took my five-year-old godson and were really impressed by the children’s menu) and we headed to Cardiff’s High Street branch of the chain.
The lunch menu offers smaller sized version of a number of Pizza Express’s most popular pizzas, plus soups, salads and ‘Piadinas’ – a sort of flatbread made from pizza dough mixed with cheese and then filled with a selection of different options – plus a range of side orders.
Much as I love the pizzas, I already knew what these would be like so decided to try something different and went for a Piadina. I chose the Italian Meat filling – which comprised three different cured Italian meats, light mozzarella, roasted tomatoes and pesto. The filling was extremely tasty with lots of different flavours and textures going on (the roasted tomatoes were a particularly nice contrast with the meats and cheese). I also really liked the bread. Sometimes sandwiches, paninis and the like in restaurants can be incredibly disappointing if the bread is dry or boring – not to mention very heavy and filling. The piadina, however, was very light and the cheese gave it an interesting hint of extra flavour.
My friend chose the tomato and basil soup, which was served with two small bread rolls, which were a bit like bigger versions of Pizza Express’s dough balls, slightly crusty on the outside and soft in the middle, and a generous helping of garlic butter. The soup was really tasty, although the portion size was a little bit on the stingy side, even for a light lunch.
We shared a couple of side orders of polenta chips, which were excellent, and a Caesar salad, which came with lashings of parmesan but could have done with a bit more dressing.
To finish, we both had a Dolcetti – a coffee served with a small dessert on the side. I’ve been a huge fan of this option ever since Pizza Express introduced it as it’s the perfect solution to one of life’s most important dilemmas: sometimes, you don’t want a big dessert but you do want to end with something sweet! Occasionally, Mr W and I will share a dolcetti as he always likes to finish with a coffee and I have a sweeter tooth than him, so it’s ideal for us too. They even come with a little spoon so that they last longer!
I had a cappuccino with a double chocolate espresso torta. The pudding was absolutely delicious – rich and chocolatey with a hint of espresso, a thick, dense ganache and a lovely crisp biscuit base. My friend was similarly enamoured with her chocolate fudge cake, which she had with a filter coffee.
I think the Express lunch menu is a great idea. Apparently it’s already popular with older diners who don’t want large portions of food at lunch time, and I can see it becoming popular with working people who may not currently consider Pizza Express for a quick lunch. I wouldn’t have previously thought to go there as I’d probably need an afternoon nap if I had a normal sized pizza at lunchtime, but after my piadina I felt pleasantly full but not uncomfortably so. Prices are very reasonable, with the piadinas at £4.95, salads around the £5.25 mark, and the most expensive pizza £5.95. The full Pizza Express menu is still available at lunch time for those who feel particularly hungry or have the luxury of afternoon nap facilities at their disposal!
I was invited to visit Pizza Express to try the lunch menu as a guest and as such, our meal and drinks were complimentary.
Pizza Express, 29-32 High Street, Cardiff CF10 1PU