In a week where I’d already had pizza twice, what harm would a third helping do? In the hierarchy of pizza restaurants, I’ve always had a big ol’ soft spot for Pizza Express. Particularly their Leggera pizza (the ones where they cut the middle out and pop a surprisingly tasty salad in), because it basically makes me feel like a health queen while still eating my favourite dish.
Last week, I found myself with an invite to Pizza Express High Holborn, for two particularly cool things. Firstly, the chance to make our own pizzas, from dough to mouth. Which is an awesome experience in itself. But we also got to be some of the first people to check out their brand new Live venue downstairs. Pizza Express have a few Live venues across the city, and the Holborn restaurant is the latest new branch, opening in September.
Holborn’s Pizza Express definitely captures the West End vibe in its classy decor – low lighting and banquette seating creates an intimate and cosy feel. I also really liked the fact that they have an open kitchen space where the ovens are, so you can watch the pizza masters at work.
Speaking of pizza masters, want to know how they do it? Read on for a peek behind the scenes at Pizza Express – and find out whether I’ve got what it takes to be London’s Next Top Pizza Maker…
To start our evening, we nibbled on olives and dough balls – with plenty to go around! Normally I just have mine with garlic butter, but now I’ve tried the pesto, I’ll be eating those too. They also provided gluten free dough balls for one of the group, which is something I hadn’t personally considered as it’s not something that affects me, but if you’re looking for a gluten free pizza restaurant, Pizza Express has some good options.
After the group got to know each other a bit, we had a crack at making our own pizza! Here’s how the pros told us to do it…whether I actually did it right? Probably open to debate…
The first step in creating a pizza is, quite obviously, a big ol’ ball of dough. Thankfully, we weren’t starting completely from scratch, and these were provided for us.
Before grabbing my dough, I covered my workspace (and dress, and shoes) in plenty of flour to stop it sticking. Because dough’s for my mouth, not the table, y’know. After patting it out into a circle shape with our fingers, rolling pins were grabbed and we stretched out the dough. Somehow mine still managed to keep a pretty good circle shape, which I was totally proud of.
So, you know when the professionals do that flipping the pizza dough about on their hands business? Turns out, it’s not just to make them look cool, it helps stretch out the dough without making holes in it (It does look pretty cool though). Once our bases were ready, they went into pizza pans ready for the next stage.
The technique involves a carefully measured dollop of sauce in the centre, which is then spread to the edges in a circular motion with the bottom of the ladle.
I most certainly did not draw a face in my base. Nope. Nooope.
We had a selection of toppings to lovingly cover our pizza in, and I went for chicken as my meat, with some yellow and red peppers, red onion, roquito peppers and a sprinkling of oregano.
And, of course. Cheeeeese. Lovely cheese. We had little squares of it to sprinkle all over our bases, and I probably would have gone way overboard with this. But apparently using too much cheese (I hadn’t realised there was such a thing) makes the pizza too wet, so I went relatively sparingly with my mozzarella.
Also, cheese goes on last at Pizza Express, not first as I’d imagined, so it oozes all over the ingredients and just goes all lovely and tasty. The small cubes means the cheese spreads out more evenly on the pizza, too.
After all the toppings were added, it was over to the expert chefs in the kitchen to pop our creations in the big pizza ovens…
The finished product! Apart from the burnt crusts, it looks pretty good right?
It definitely tasted it. Apart from the burnt crusts, but I don’t usually eat pizza crust anyway, so it didn’t bother me.
Once we’d scoffed our pizzas, washed down with some more prosecco, we had the chance to check out the brand new Live venue downstairs. And it’s pretty cool.
Low lighting, lots of wood and a well-planned blue colour scheme, the intimate, cosy vibes hit as soon as I walked through the door. Even without any music on, I could totally imagine someone playing on the small stage area. Definitely some old-school jazz club vibes there.
It’s not just music stars who’ll be on the stage either, with comedy nights featuring the likes of Shappi Korsandi, Harry Hill and Johnny Vegas. Plus, the casts of top West End shows Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera will be popping in for a night of musical theatre and pizza. Which sounds pretty awesome.
PizzaExpress Live in Holborn opens in September – acts playing in the opening weeks include Morcheeba, Tom Chaplin, The Kondoors and Dodgy Acoustic.
And if you fancy your own pizza party, they aren’t just for kids – find out how you could make your own pizza too!
*Post written in collaboration with Pizza express (complimentary meal + fee for post)
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