PizzaExpress has a long tradition of being involved in music – the Dean Street branch has been home to a jazz club since 1976 – so it’s not surprising that you’ll find an outpost in the live entertainment mecca that is the 02.
A ubiquitous presence on UK high streets since the 1990s, PizzaExpress has experienced some high-profile financial woes in recent years. But if you’ve been tempted away from the chain by its many imitators, a visit can remind you why we all fell in love with Pizza Express in the first place.
This 02 branch has all the familiar PizzaExpress design touches. There are marble-topped tables, colour-pop chairs, floor-to-ceiling windows with a view on to the bustle of the 02, and an open kitchen where you can see chefs spinning dough and sprinkling on toppings before sliding pizza into the oven.
You probably know the menu inside out without having to look: garlic bread with mozzarella or calamari with Caesar dressing to start, followed by a Sloppy Giuseppe, American Hot, Diavolo, Fiorentina, Margherita or La Reine.
The new additions to the menu, however, are surprisingly successful – the béchamel sauce-based Carbonara, topped with a fried egg, is an Italian spin on the classic ham-and-cheese tarte flambée from Alsace in France – while PizzaExpress has moved with the times: not only are the iconic dough balls now available in vegan and gluten-free versions, there are dedicated vegan and gluten-free menus, too.
None of the portions could be called overly generous, but if you are watching what you eat, the Leggera menu of lighter dishes has a dozen pizzas that clock in at under 600 calories. The Piccolo kids’ menu, meanwhile, offers three courses for £7.25 – though if you haven’t been to Pizza Express for a few years, you may be surprised by how expensive it has become compared to some of its rivals.