Saturday, 26 March 2016

Pizza Express - A Gluten-Free Family meal out

Pizza Express was one of my go-to places for a family meal out.  However, since we've all gone gluten-free (for various health reasons), we've not eaten out a whole lot.  I'm a pizza addict, and good pizza is something I've really missed since being gluten-free.  I've tried some restaurant pizzas, take-out pizza and supermarket pizza to cook at home and none of them have quite hit the mark.

We've recently joined the #PizzaExpressFamily blogger campaign, so I was really keen to see how our gluten-free experience would be and especially excited since they've just launched GF dough-balls (OMG OMG OMG).

We love eating out as a family, it's a great way to sample different food and I think it's important children can feel relaxed when eating out, but also learn how to behave in a restaurant.


The children's Piccolo menu I've always found to be great value for money - £6.95 for a starter, a main, a dessert and a babyccino.  Now they offer gluten-free doughballs, and the gluten-free brownie as dessert it means that Ruby was able to enjoy every course without missing out.

It's a shame they don't keep a stock of GF pasta, but let's be honest, we go there for the pizza don't we?

We visited one of our local restaurants at the Xscape complex in Milton Keynes. This is always a very busy restaurant being close to the multiplex cinema and the snow-zone, but it's perfect to visit after a family film.  Apart from their great family welcome and amazing food, one of the things I like best about visiting Pizza Express is that they are often in pretty cool repurposed buildings - we've dined in former banks, old Masonic Halls and listed coaching inns.  The Milton Keynes one is a modern, purpose built premises in the leisure complex, so lacks the charm of some others, but it's fresh and contemporary, with subtle lighting (perhaps too subtle for decent photography, so apologies for the grainy shots!).


Ruby got stuck into her colouring and activity sheets (she enjoyed the pop-out Easter finger puppets) while I perused the menu over a chilled glass of Pinot. There was no question she'd go for the dough-balls, and I like the fact these come with a little side of crudit√©s of tomato, cucumber and pepper, helping her get her five-a-day.  The Old Man selected the antipasto.  When it arrived it was HUGE (I suspect they brought us the sharing platter by mistake) but we all chipped in and helped - we're good like that.  The Antipasto usually comes with baked dough sticks, but these aren't available gluten-free so they swapped them for some GF doughballs. I tried one, for research purposes of course, and they were delicious. Lighter and less doughy than the normal ones, but oh how I've missed doughballs and their moreish garlic butter.  I selected the mozzarella and tomato salad which was light and refreshing, with a generous ball of delicious creamy buffalo mozzarella.  The basil pesto dressing made a nice change from the usual sprinkling of basil leaves.



Onto our mains, Ruby went for a classic Margherita gluten-free pizza, I picked the Padana (my favourite) and The Old Man, an American Hot. The gluten-free bases were thin and crispy style but tasted just as good as the regular pizzas I'd missed so much.  I was a little disappointed with the topping on my pizza, I couldn't taste the goat's cheese at all and suspect it was just mozzarella rather than any goat's cheese.  Maybe because they were thinner, or maybe the lack of gluten, but we were all able to clear our plates happily.  I used to not be able to finish a pizza here and we'd often leave with a doggy-bag pizza box, but we certainly felt less full than usual.  Great news - there was room for dessert!!


The menu has simple to follow symbols for vegetarian and gluten-free so it was easy to see what we could order.  There is a GF brownie on the children's menu, but Ruby decided she'd rather have ice cream, and managed 2 delicious scoops. Him Indoors chose the salted caramel ice cream and his badly timed visit to the gents meant I got to sample quite a bit of it.  Oh my word, it was out of this world.  Seriously additively amazing.  They should sell that in supermarkets, I'd fill my freezer up!

My regular dessert would be the Caffe Reale, tiny morsels of spiced baby figs served with creamy mascapone and a coffee on the side.  But I decided to try something new, so I opted for the Tartufo Limoncello.  A pure white lemon gelato bomb, the sharpness of the citrus was balanced with the sweet crunchy studs of white sugary meringue.  I was waiting for the liquid alcohol centre of limoncello, but instead found a small, syrupy, almost jelly centre, so while not exactly what I was expecting, it was nevertheless very tasty and a lovely palate cleanser at the end of the meal.


Overall, I was really impressed with how well they deal with allergens.  The menu was easy to follow and there's some very detailed information on their website.  They even have a gluten-free beer.  All gluten-free dishes are certified by Coeliac UK.

We’ve worked hard to ensure that you can be fully confident of no issues upon entering any PizzaExpress. This includes changing processes in our kitchens – including labelling and storage, using new equipment only for gluten-free food, as well as changing the flour we use for tossing and stretching our dough to be gluten-free.

We're delighted that we can continue to enjoy meals out at Pizza Express and it's great to know that whichever branch we visit, we'll receive the same choices.  It certainly makes family trips out much easier.


Make sure you follow the news and fun with the #PizzaExpressFamily team. There's a Twitter Party coming up on 31st March from 2-3:30pm where you can win great prizes, and keep your eyes peeled for your chance to win a family meal.  Thanks to Pizza Express for providing us with a complimentary review meal for the family.


15 comments:

  1. We are such big pizza express fans - love it when a new menu comes out!

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  2. I can't WAIT to try those gluten-free dough balls ever since I saw them posted about, there definitely seems to be a big movement towards restaurants finally taking allergies more seriously and hopefully in a year or two it will be very standard X

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  3. Sounds awesome and so good that you can still enjoy the gluten free options. I would really like to try the gluten free just to see but I'm always afraid I might miss out. your review sounds like I almost certainly wouldn't! x

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  4. I saw they do gluten free options when we went yesterday and wondered if they would taste any different! I may need to try next time.

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  5. We love going to Pizza Express. My daughter often orders the gluten free pizza as she prefers it.

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  6. Ohh you lucky girl, Padana is my absolute favourite too and fab news about the dough balls being GF too now. Mich x

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  7. It is great they do a gluten free range. The new girl in my care is coeliac and I am worrying about what I can and cannot give her

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  8. I think that it is great that they cater for gluten free. I am going to admit that I always leave PE a little disappointed. I think that our local one (well we live in the sticks so it is a fair way away) is always so busy that the service can leave something to be desired.

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  9. I've never eaten at pizza express but that meal does sound really good.

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  10. How brilliant that restaurants are finally realising that so many of us have allergies. Well done to Pizza Express for their fabulous menu.

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  11. Its great that restaurants are now catering for all dietary needs, years ago I used to have problems being a vegetarian.

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  12. Hope the twitter party went well, I've not been to Pizza Express for ages. Its great to see more restaurants accommodating allergies and expanding their menus.

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  13. This is just so amazing, you would never have read this a couple of years ago, it is great to see restaurants working so hard, they were very accomodating to our medical needs too.

    That Limoncello looks lovely, I may have to try that next time xx

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  14. MY OH has a wheat (and dairy) intolerance and Pizza Express is the most amazing experience for him where he can eat normally. We love it!

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  15. Great blog post, I do love a bit of Limoncello. I've never been a huge fan of Pizza Express but this makes me want to go back and try it again. Not sure if you're Milton Keynes based but I've just published my Affamato Pizza Milton Keynes review, take a look - really great pizza and several gluten free options.

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