Readers know by now that I really love a bit of Pizza Express, and I love trying out their different seasonal menus. Getting to try this year’s Christmas specials was no less exciting than usual. But this time, I went to a Pizza Express in York for the first time. First of all, the building on Museum Street is incredible! I’m not sure what it used to be, but they kept all its period features after the conversion; huge imposing dining rooms with enormous mirrors over marble fireplaces; the floor-to-ceiling windows that look out on to the Ouse; and the bathrooms with their exquisite aqua marine tiles with fish motifs (and period toilets behind glass in the gents – or so Sam told me.)
I did, however, make the rookie mistake of not thinking about when I was going. I booked in for a weekday evening thinking nothing of it. I didn’t think that because the Panto is on next door the restaurant would be packed to the gills before it started. But even so, the wait was short and the staff made sure that no one felt forgotten whilst waiting for their table.
The Christmas menu at Pizza Express didn’t disappoint. I started with the special Christmas cocktail; a Chambord Prosecco Royale which was prosecco with a splash of Chambord and a fresh raspberry. I’ve had them before and loved them: Pizza Express’ version did not disappoint. For starters Sam tried the special Terrina Festa (£5.85), a soft terrine of salmon, crab and prawn, served with rocket, house dressing, a wedge of lemon, fresh parsley and flatbread. I don’t eat seafood so I only had a nibble on his flatbread (which was delicious) but he told me that his starter was fresh and delicious. I tried the special Manzo Crocchette (£5.65) which was a pulled beef and chianti crocchette served with rocket and a horseradish and crème fraiche dipping sauce. It was very succulent and beefy – go figure. I especially loved the horseradish and crème fraiche dipping sauce, I might try to do a copycat version at home for smothering other food with.
For mains I had the special Cauliflower Cheese pizza (£12.50) with roasted cauliflower florets, Pecorino cheese and garlic oil on a creamy cheese and mustard sauce base with pink Tropea onions and pine kernels, finished with fresh parsley and shaved Gran Milano cheese. I love skipping out on a tomato sauce and having a white sauce or bechemel as a base on my pizza and this one did not disappoint. It was super cheesy and did really taste like cauliflower cheese. Because of all that cheese goodness it was super rich so there was no way that I could finish that pizza by myself. (And I can usually tackle a pizza single-handedly like it’s going out of fashion.) Sam had the special Porchetta Natale (£13.20) with pulled, seasoned hog roast with a soft herb stuffing, pancetta, mozzarella, fresh rosemary, tomato, garlic oil and pine kernels, finished with fresh parsley. It was tasty and mind-boggling at the same time. I kid you not when I say it tastes exactly like a Christmas dinner. It mimics all the flavour perfectly. Sam was one happy camper and I’ve rarely seen him eat a pizza so quickly.
For dessert, Sam had the Panettone Cheesecake (£5.55) which had chocolate chip and orange marmalade panettone pieces in a creamy vanilla cheesecake on a thick crumbly biscuit base, served with gelato. It was insanely good, but rich in the way that only super thick cheesecake can be. I really enjoyed the crunch inside the cheesecake mixture instead of just silky smoothness, and I’ll be adding some chocolate chips to future cheesecakes that I make too, I think. I opted for the Snow Ball Doughballs (£3.85), which are Pizza Express’ famous Dough Balls with cinnamon and icing sugar, served with a vanilla cream dip and a chocolate straw. The cinnamon was a bit heavy-handed on mine so I had to knock a bit off. But once I did that – my oh my – heaven. It was my favourite part of the meal. I devoured them all and didn’t share a bite with Sam. Then I basically lapped up that vanilla cream dip and wished that I could eat them every day. They were back by popular demand and I totally see why. Bring them back every Christmas, please and thank you.
It’s located at: Pizza Express, River House, Museum Street, York.
My recommendation: even if you aren’t in the mood for pizza, pop in at least for the Snowball Doughballs before the winter menu goes.
***My meal was complimentary in exchange for a review, but my opinions are, as always, solely my own.***