10 October 2016

Pizza Express, Balham, has had a snazzy makeover


Is there anyone who doesn't enjoy Pizza Express? It's a British institution, loved for its reasonably priced, varied and - obviously - delicious food. The Balham branch has recently had a makeover, just in time for the launch of the Autumn Winter menu. 

The branch is situated in a prime spot on the corner of the road along Balham's foodie hotspot, Bedford Hill. It now features an alfresco dining area, complete with pretty fairylights, which will be perfect in the warmer months.


As we entered we immediately let out an appreciative "ooooh!" at the interior refresh. At the front of the restaurant is a newly fitted-out bar, the seating a mixture of luxurious leather booths and the most exquisite velvet seats.


No surface is left to chance - I adored the monochrome tiles.


The teal and gold colour palette, in addition to rich wooden accents, makes this branch of Pizza Express feel especially upmarket.

We requested a booth and got comfortable.

Drinks first, of course. A glass of Malbec for her, and a glass of Sauvignon for me. Large.


Cheers!

I managed to get lipstick all over my glass. Classy.


My friend is a huge fan of Pizza Express, so she already knew the menu pretty well. She suggested the Calamari to start, and I chose the Bruschetta 'PizzaExpress'. We agreed to share to avoid food envy.


When it turned up it looked soooo good. The calamari was battered in rings (neither of us can stand it when it resembles tentacles, no thanks) with a sprinkle of parsley. The Bruschetta was on a soft bread base and the toppings, as you can tell, were brilliantly generous.

The bruschetta. Lashings of juicy tomato, crunchy red onion, drizzled with olive oil and topped with pesto. Delicious.

And the calamari. Up close. Prepare yourselves.

Yuuuuuum.

After a fair bit of deliberation, we both decided on classic romana pizzas: the NEW Rustichella Romana - pancetta, mozzarella and tomato, finished with rocket, shaved Gran Milano cheese, roast tomatoes and Caesar dressing; and the classic American. 


We took way too long trying to take photos, mainly because the light above the table was bright on my friend's side and darker on my side. In hindsight, I should have just swapped the pizzas around... 

So here's my friend's attempt (she took about 20 pictures of it, true story).


But y'all know how good Pizza Express pizzas look, so I'm hoping you can forgive me on this one.

Oh, and we totally halved them and swapped...


Maybe it was because we took a fair amount of time photographing our food, but when we got to the pizza it was lukewarm, which made it less enjoyable. The cheese had hardened, and I wasn't as blown away as I wanted to be. 

We couldn't finish the whole thing because we were fairly full after our substantial starters, and we knew we had to keep room for dessert.


I was absolutely stuffed, but I'm a sucker for a citrus dessert. I compromised and opted for the Lemon Posset Crunch with a hot drink (I wanted a soy cappuccino, but they didn't have soya milk. So I chose English Breakfast as an alternative... which they didn't have. I was offered Earl Grey instead). My friend had already fallen in love with the idea of the NEW Chocolate Fondant 'PizzaExpress' with the soft melting middle. 


On Thursday nights, the Balham branch puts on live music, which is a nice touch. It's hosted in the back of the restaurant, which has more of a "traditional" Pizza Express feel to it.


As with other branches, it has an open kitchen, so you can watch the chefs at work if you wish. Plenty of pizza-making mastery going on in there.


And here was the act in action, strumming the evening to a close...


We had a fantastic time. We mixed up new additions and old favourites, and enjoyed them both. Meanwhile, the 1920s-style banquette seating area is the perfect place to wile away the hours, savouring each course and ordering maybe just *one* more drink. Also a big shout out to our waiter, Will, who was extremely enthusiastic and attentive. It made our experience even better.  

The new Pizza Express Autumn Winter menu is available now. Their revamped Balham branch is at 47 Bedford Hill, so do pop on down and give them some love!

**I visited Pizza Express, Bedford Hill, in exchange for review. However, all opinions expressed are my own.
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