Monday, 4 August 2014

Pizza Express - Family restaurant review.

I don't know about you, but I really struggle with finding restaurants that cater really well for Families. Don't get me wrong, lots of restaurants claim to be Family friendly, but when it comes down to it, they really don't make the grade.

Its the Summer Holidays now, and as Craig has very little time off of work, and never two days in a row, we like to spend his days off as a family. Yesterday we went to Pizza Express in Bluewater, to find out just how family friendly they are. 

Our day started early as we actually went to the Cinema first to see Planes 2, Fire and Rescue. The children love a trip to the cinema and of course as you know we all love everything Disney so it was a big thumbs up all round! 

We got to Pizza Express just on time for our 1pm reservation. We were greeted with a smile and asked if we would like to sit outside or in. As it was a lovely sunny day we chose to sit outside. It was a lovely spot, overlooking the pond. The children were given a menu which had an activity sheet on it, a postcard to colour in and some stickers. Their eyes lit up! But sadly we quickly discovered that it was too windy to do these activities outside and we asked to be moved inside. This was no problem at all for our waiter, Artur, he sorted the problem swiftly and with a smile! I have to say though, if I was visiting without the children I would definitly recommend sitting outside! 

Pizza Express do a childrens menu, its called Piccolo and costs £6.50 for 3 courses plus a Bambinoccino (frothy milk to you and me). For three courses I think this is amazing value. There are no drinks listed on the Piccolo menu, they are expected to choose from the adults drink menu. As my two do not like fizzy drinks (more to the point, I do not like them having them) or strong fresh fruit juices I asked if they had squash, which they did and that only cost 50p per serving. Its not on the menu though, so just goes to show its always worth asking! 

Whilst we were waiting for our starters, Chester and Millie were engrossed in their activity sheets, postcards and stickers. Chester was able to do the older section of the activity sheet, the dot to dot and the wordsearch, whilst Millie was more than happy with sticking stickers.

To start, Chester and Millie had baked dough balls with garlic butter and salad. Chester is a real salad lover so he cleared his plate in record time, and then helped Millie finish her tomatoes! They both felt very grown up having a starter, and it meant that were able to enjoy one too! I had the Bruschetta Con Funghi, which is Pizza Express Dough topped with Chestnut & closed cup mushrooms, béchamel sauce and red onions finished with chopped parsley and balsamic syrup. Something I would not normally choose, but oh my gosh, I will be choosing it again! It was delicious, creamy and much lighter than I thought it would be! Perfect starter size. Craig had Dough Balls, I think he would of been stealing the childrens if he didn't have some all to himself! 

The childrens choice of mains were Pizza or Pasta, with varying toppings. Both of mine have to be in the right mood for pasta, and today was not the day! So they both decided on pizza. There are four pizza's to choose from, but the menu also encouraged the children to add some chargrilled vegetables or other ingredients if they wished. Chester chose to have a Margherita and asked for it to be topped with ham. Because Millie is in copycat stage at the moment, she also chose the Margherita with ham! Which is a shame as I think she would of loved the Pollo (Chicken) pizza! Artur was only to happy to add the special request of ham to the order. The childrens Pizza's were just the right size for them, Chester barely left a crust on the plate and Millie ate a lot more than we can get her to eat at home! 

For my main I really struggled to choose! So much on the menu that I liked the sound of, I was very tempted to have a salad, as I had seen one on another table and it looked so summery and inviting! But instead I opted for the Caprina Rossa Pizza which is served on a Romana (thin and crispy) base. Toppings on the Caprina Rossa were Beetroot, goat’s cheese, red onion, garlic, tomato and mozzarella. Finished with Gran Moravia cheese, rocket and pesto, served with a wedge of fresh lemon. I am not a vegetarian, but I chose that Pizza because it had two of my favourite ingredients on it, beetroot and goats cheese. I have had goats cheese on pizza many a time and I love it, but never have I had beetroot on a pizza, so I was intrigued. The Pizza was divine! The beetroot worked really well with the goats cheese and the red onion. It gave another texture dimension to the pizza. My only complaint with this pizza was that, for me, their was too much rocket, and if I am being picky maybe even a bit too much pesto. 

Craig chose the Etna pizza, again on a Romana base. Toppings were Hot soft n'duja sausage, roquito peppers, speck ham, Gran Moravia cheese. This is the kind of pizza toppings Craig would normally go for, however, he has never had this particular one. He really enjoyed the pizza, I think the heat surprised him a bit, as it was a little on the spicy side. But he said that the topping combination was perfect, both taste and texture worked really well together. He would order it again, but next time he would ask them to hold the roquito peppers! 

The only down side to our mains, was that we ordered Polenta chips, but they did not arrive and we had to ask for them half way through our mains. There was a mix up with the kitchen, but it all got sorted in the end. It was the first time we had tried Polenta chips. Craig was unsure, I really liked them. They are very filling though, you wouldn't want a whole portion to yourself! 

Puddings! Ah, always my favorite part of a meal! The children had a choice of chocolate fudge cake, ice cream sundae or chocolate brownie. I thought Millie would go for one of the chocolate options, but she decide to have the same as her brother, the ice cream sundae with chocolate sauce. It mentions on the menu that you can add strawberries if you like, so they did! I had a tough time choosing a pudding, because I have such a sweet tooth, I normally go for something very sweet, but today I was so full from starters and main I didn't want something too sickly. So although my heart said banoffee pie or chocolate fudge cake, my head said go with Artur's suggestion of the summer special. Which was Strawberry & Cream Glory, Gelato (ice cream) with fresh strawberries, double cream, fresh mint and a sugar curl. I went with Artur's suggestion, and I ended up being very grateful! It was a lovely end to the meal, sweet, but not too sweet. Very refreshing for a summers day! Craig went for the Toffee Fudge Glory, Vanilla gelato, toffee sauce, fudge chunks, wafer. He loves an ice cream sundae, and this one went down a treat! 

Artur took a family photo for us, look how happy we all look with our desserts! 

So the food was amazing, and Craig and I agreed it was fantastic value for a 3 course family meal. But more importantly for us, what about the family friendly aspect. Did it meet our expectations? 

YES! Yes it did! Firstly, the children were given the activity sheets/postcards/stickers to keep them entertained whilst waiting for our food. Then the menu (aside from the drinks) was really child friendly, lots to choose from and the option to add extras. I have never known both children to eat as much as they did in Pizza Express, in any other restaurant we have visited! My only negative would be that the adults mains and puddings came out before the childrens. But the icing on the cake for us, was the service. We were in Pizza Express for just over 2 hours. For a family with young children, I think you will agree that is a long time. But it was not through slow service or anything negative to do with the restaurant, it was because we were having such a relaxed time (even with our two monkeys) that we just took our time. Artur, our waiter was fine with that. He went at our pace. He came over to the children on more than one occasion and got down to their level. He made them (all of us actually) feel very welcome. Chatting to them, asking them if their meals were ok, what their favourite food is. There were times when the children started to get a bit loud or fidgety, but Arter was ok with that, he chatted to them some more. Craig and I felt very relaxed and happy, which is very unusual for us if we go out for a family meal! I would say that the restaurant was half, maybe even 3 quarters full at times, yet Arter still made time for us, as well as his other tables (which, he was giving just as much time to). 

As we walked out of the restaurant, Chester exclaimed "that was the best pizza and ice cream I have ever eaten, I LOVE IT here!" I think that just about sums up just how perfect our family meal at Pizza Express was!

We were provided with a complimentary meal, in return for an honest review. 

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