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Pizza Express Gluten Free Review

3 May

Well this blog got somewhat known for it’s pizza reviews during the great gluten free pizza rush of 2012.  It’s been a while but Pizza Express have this week given me an excuse to write about (and of course eat!) gluten free pizza once more.  Last week I looked on enviously as some of my blogger friends attended the Pizza Express gluten free launch event.  There seemed to be universal great feedback, so I couldn’t wait to go out and give this a try myself when the new gluten free menu options were rolled out nationwide on April 30th.

GFBeerPizza Express have been working closely with Coeliac UK for a number of years to get this right, and have managed to get NGCI accreditation for their efforts.  Feedback from the launch event was that they were taking cross contamination extremely seriously, to the extent that Pizza Express have switched from wheat flour to gluten free flour to stretch out the dough for the regular pizzas.  This obviously drastically reduces any cross contamination risk and is an extremely impressive measure that they have taken.

The menu was clearly labelled with an NGCI symbol next to the gluten free choices.  I thought the menu was less clear though when it came to the pizza section.  It clearly stated a GF base was available and that most toppings were gluten free, though I had to query which ones I couldn’t have.  With regards cross contamination, Coeliac UK had this to say about Pizza Express in this month’s eXG email “They have been stringent in their approach to safety, introducing a rigorous training programme for team members, new equipment and even gluten-free flour in their restaurants, which will be used to stretch their regular bases.”

I’d phoned in advance to ensure that the gluten free bases were available, and the staff member I spoke to was fully aware of the new menu options and keen to tell me that they also offered gluten free brownie now.  When we arrived at the restaurant I was also pleased to see they had made a note that I needed to eat gluten free next to the booking.  Upon being seated the first thing I noticed was the gluten free brownie being advertised loud and clear, it gave a clear impression Pizza Express were proud of the changes and were not hiding it away in small print as I have seen others do.

First order of business was of course to get my hands on a gluten free beer!  Hats off to Pizza Express for providing this option, and it is good to see this attention to detail.  The beer itself was a pilsner from Greens, which was light and refreshing.  It is the first time I have seen the option of a gluten free beer with a meal in Plymouth so a big thumbs up.  I have to admit though I think I am a fully converted cider drinker now!  It was great to have the option though, and a nice novelty to have a beer.


On to the main event, and the pizza.  Nearly all the toppings are gluten free, the exceptions being meatballs, spicy beef and Gruyere and parmesan sauce.  I went for the American Hot with jalapeño peppers.  I was not disappointed.  The base itself was thin and crispy, and I know many of you who have tried the Domino’s base have commented on a preference for a thinner crust.  The taste and texture of the base were good and I was very pleased with my topping choices, full of flavour and a nice spicy kick from the peppers.  Overall very impressed.

GFBrownieI couldn’t really leave without sampling the gluten free brownie for you all now could I?  First thing to note is that the dessert is part of the Dolcetti range, meaning it is a “mini dessert” that comes with a coffee or tea.  Don’t expect a big portion here!  My wife did laugh at the size of the brownie, but I have to admit it was actually a nice size after demolishing a whole pizza.  The brownie itself was delicious, extremely rich and chocolatey and I was very impressed.

Whilst ordering I was made to feel very normal, like gluten free was no problem at all, and this is always a good experience.  The staff seemed genuinely interested in my thoughts and enquired a couple of times on my opinion of the food.  I was happy to report that I was thoroughly impressed with the whole meal and I would definitely go back for another go.

After my previous pizza reviews I tried to rank them, and I had Domino’s coming out on top.  I’ve been giving some thought as to where I would put Pizza Express in this list.  It’s a tough comparison, and a feel like it is kind of comparing apples and oranges.  Domino’s feels like a naughty takeaway, whereas Pizza Express has very much more of a restaurant feel to their pizza.  The flavour of the pizza at Pizza Express I would say was more sophisticated and the herbs used really added depth to the flavour in the toppings.  Truth be told, I will probably eat Domino’s more simply because of the takeaway and delivery options.  However, in terms of the toppings I think you’d have to lean towards Pizza Express.  Domino’s is a thicker pizza so it really is down to personal preference here, both bases are good in their own right, but if you prefer a thinner base I have no doubt you will prefer the Pizza Express offering.  I think I’ll call it a tie.

For Plymouth readers, there are two branches of Pizza Express in the city.  I visited the Derrys Cross restaurant, which can be found next door to another restaurant reviewed on this blog JD’s Grill.  The other branch can be found near the cinema within the Barbican Leisure Park.

For more information have a read of the excellent blogs at Little Missed Gluten and The Happy Coeliac.  Both are about the launch party and go into more depth about the cross contamination measures that are in place.  For those of you who suffer from further allergies and intolerances you can view Pizza Express’ full allergy information here.  I’d definitely recommend coeliacs and fellow gluten freers giving Pizza Express a go, please comment below with your feedback if you’ve given it a try already.

Kevin, Gluten Free by the Sea.

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