Pizza Express, resounding though it is, means nothing to the typical shopper found today in multicultural Wembley. An area made up of immigrants who have preference to local restaurants serving cuisines from their culture. Indeed, popular restaurant chains, usually enjoyed in more central and affluent parts of London have long been the reason behind the habit and need to travel out of this part of London to enjoy services that you’d expect from a chain.
Acknowledgement to Quintain, Brent council, London Development Agency and the whole raft of other con£ultants involved in changing the habit and need of local people to go further afield. The ongoing transformation to change Wembley Park into a destination has introduced such popular restaurants as Cabana, Prezzo, Ping Pong, Wagamama and the return of Pizza Express to Wembley.
Some might remember Pizza Express was once situated on 456 High Road, Wembley but vacated the place along with Marks & Spencer and Clarks when things got ugly, so to speak. The void caused by the departure of these house-hold names was eventually filled with casinos, betting, chicken and pound shops.
In true capitalistic fashion, turning its back on Wembley during a low point for the area and now returning back; how can they make it up to us? Well, inviting me to review their newest restaurant at the London Designer Outlet was a start. They were kind enough to offer a complimentary invitation to my guests and I.
On our arrival we were greeted and looked after by the charming Manager Ayse. Reserved for us was a rectangular booth which had subtle design references to the iconic Wembley Stadium goal nets. Sitting down and looking up, the space was modern, vast with brilliant lighting and a steep staircase leading to more seating upstairs, the restaurant has 182 seats to be exact! Noticeably, purpose-built for events days, this double-decker restaurant felt quite vacuous on a quiet evening in Wembley Park.
Drinks and Intros
While we sprawled over the menu of Italian pizza connoisseurship, a fast decision was made on drinks and intros. The very young and friendly staff, served us the recommended Pinot Grigio alongside the Roasted Tomatoes and delicious Marcona Almonds. Small but pleasing, difficult to go wrong with.
Starters had two new additions, an excuse for us to try them; the ladies ordered the Risotto Pollo Funghi the gents ordered the Bruschetta con Funghi.
Risotto Pollo Funghi
A generous sized portion, deliciously creamy. Only downfall was that it could have been served warmer.
Bruschetta con Funghi
My guest and I had a difference of opinion on this one; he felt the starter was too sweet for his taste and needed more salt and he has had it at other branches. Whereas I found the soft dough and mushrooms finished with sweet balsamic syrup, satisfying.
A new addition to the menu, the fact that I’m a fan of beetroot and I’ve never knowingly tried it on a pizza, made me ever more curious. The presentation had the right balance, juicy beetroot over a crispy base with rocket and pesto intermingling. I hope this beetroot recipe stays on the menu.
Also new on the menu, the base was perfectly crisp, the crumbled sausage and spicy combination of the sauce were complimentary of each other.
Gluten-Free pizza base
One of my guests went for a gluten-free base, “alright but a bit dusty or dry” she said. The other gluten-free base she had at the Baker Street branch was nicer, plus here the pizza size was smaller.
My guest felt it was too dry – maybe not enough tomato sauce, definitely not enough leaks or other veg to balance the crisp pancetta, could hardly notice the extra goats cheese requested. He found himself adding more goats cheese from the salad because there wasn’t enough! He suggested that the veg had been left uncovered for too long.
In addition to our mains we shared especially tasty Warm Vegetable and Goats Cheese Salad, perfect for sharing, complimented the meaty pizza’s.
Tea, coffee and desserts
Toffee Fudge Glory
Feedback about the name of this dessert was that it’s misleading; the description should state it was a sundae, as this was not what he was expecting. He wanted more cake than ice cream and more hot than cold.
Mulled winter fruit crumble
It was a must that I try something off the Christmas menu! Served in a black scorchingly hot clay pot, it was perfectly spicy, fruity and crumbly.
Was ok, my guest opines but not so much for the real Italian taste. I tried it and I had to agree, the best Italian restaurant chain for Tiramisu is still Strada.
We finished up by ordering a couple of Baileys Latté’s which is pretty hard to go wrong with, an espresso and camomile tea.
Waitress asked my guest 3 times what she wanted; my guest replied camomile each time. Waitress came back with a coffee for her. After correcting her twice more, she finally understood ‘camomile’. Finally, the camomile tea which should have been the simplest of all of the hot drinks that we’d ordered; it was simply a tea bag with hot water.
My immediate points, however, are that it’s great to have the popular pizza chain return to Wembley; staff are generally polite, helpful and willing to make recommendations wherever possible. The expansive modern fit-out is catered well towards event days and perfect for large groups (weddings, parties etc.) not necessarily the best setting for a cosy dinner for two.
Disclosure: Blog on the Block visited Pizza Express upon invitation by the restaurant.HOW DO I GET THERE?