An evening of prosecco and pizza… the email began. I didn’t need to read any further. ‘Count me in,’ I typed back furiously.
The occasion? The redesign of PizzaExpress in High Holborn, to become a snazzy new PizzaExpress Live. But what is it? I hear you cry. Well, I’m glad you asked.
I probably don’t need to tell you about the famous restaurant chain, which provides delicious, authentic Italian-style pizzas and the most irresistible dough balls (seriously, I don’t know what kind of culinary fairy dust they sprinkle over their garlic butter, but they are divine).
They also have a brilliant kids’ menu (the girls have loved going to PizzaExpress for years, and both had their birthdays there last year), lighter options and a great selection of gluten-free dishes.
But did you realise there are also some location that double as live music venues? Nope, me neither.
So last night I joined a lovely group of bloggers (a gaggle of bloggers? A brood of bloggers?) at the recently reopened restaurant, handily located just across the road from High Holborn tube station.
Inside, it’s a familiar set up – modern European brasserie style, with a big open kitchen and pizza ovens at the back.
After a welcome glass of prosecco and some of their famous PizzaExpress dough balls, we donned our fetching paper hats and plastic aprons, and set about making our very own pizzas from scratch – dough pummelling and all.
Although I stopped short of tossing it up in the air (a tradition which is not just for show – it actually helps expand the dough without tearing holes in it), because I didn’t want the nearby diners to end up wearing a pizza dough beret.
Next – topping time. After spreading the stretched dough with rich tomato sauce we were given a selection of classic PizzaExpress toppings; I chose my usual favourites – ham, cheese, black olives, onions, jalapenos and roquito peppers.
Can you tell I like hot food?
But our night wasn’t over yet. Next, restaurant manager Lucas invited us to take a peek at the brand-new basement lounge, where a range of fab live music and comedy acts will be appearing, starting from this September.
And I was not expecting this…
It was like we’d stumbled across a super-cool underground club, with clusters of dining tables arranged around a half-shell stage. The lighting was warm and low, creating a cosy, intimate atmosphere (even though it actually seats 150), and the art deco-style accents gave it a modern ‘New York speakeasy’ feel.
Lucas turned on the sound system, to give us an idea of the acoustics, and it was amazing; I’m talking goosebumps good. I could already picture myself here with a hot pizza, a chilled bottle of sauvignon blanc and a group of great friends.
As well as holding regular comedy nights, they hope to attract a wide range of artists to the venue, covering all musical genres (except jazz, which they’re keeping as a specialty of their famous PizzaExpress Jazz Club, on Dean Street, Soho).
Doesn’t that sound like the perfect night out?
Bookings are being taken now, so check out their dedicated PIZZAEXPRESS LIVE page.