These days food is fast. Not in the old sense of waiting sixty seconds for a bucket of chicken and a side of fries, but because the latest foodie trends travel the world and change restaurant scenes at an extraordinary pace. Some spring up and die down while others deservedly stand the test of time.The best part of this revolution is that we’re beginning to rely less on bog standard money grabbing chains. The odd individual restaurant may grow from one to three, but it’s through organic growth and it justifies the success of a truly original idea. Simply put it’s a cheerful step forward for individuality.
Which brings me to my pet hate, Pizza Express. Fair enough, we can’t all make it to some hipster dripping burger joint every time we want to grab a bite to eat, but there’s no reason to settle for this crappy excuse for a restaurant. It’s a mid-range over-priced sprawling chain. I like pizza as much as the next person but I start to hate my friends a little more every time they suggest Pizza Express for a two for one Wednesday. For one it shows a distinct lack of imagination, and honestly - aren’t Wednesdays bad enough without having to dine on tomatoey mulch?
Many would argue it has its place in Britain’s vast restaurant landscape - what about Zizzis, or Ask, or Bella Italia you may be thinking. But my particular issue with Pizza Express lies in its consistent laziness. It lacks charisma, charm, and soul and churns out the same recipes month after month. Once upon a time it did make some ground on the high street and helped improve the quality of what was available. Now the only variation they can muster is the size and shape of their pizza bases. Thanks for the selection. So what if you save a few calories ordering a Leggera, I’ll bet you made up for it with those butter soaked dough balls you just washed down with a glass of house Chardonnay.
As for the argument that they serve your favourite, most trustworthy fail safe pizza? A Sloppy Giuseppe? La Reine? Do yourself a favour and buy one of its clones from the shelves of a nearby Tescos to take home and eat in peace and quiet. You’ll save yourself the discomfort of sitting in a sterile room with walls and ceilings that bounce the screams of ill behaved children towards you. Not that a childfree Pizza Express would be any better - from one end of the country to the other their restaurants are afflicted with decor that’s about as inspiring as a Margherita. The only sign of life is the lonely flower that flops in front of you while you eat.
Aesthetics aside, Pizza Express needs to clean up its act and get with the times. The only way they can match the notched up prices of their food is if they start serving local produce in decent portions. On the plus side you do now get to grind your own pepper, the one small power shift from the man to the people. But that’s as far as it goes. It will forever represent the wannabe middle class who find meat balls on a pizza classy. Really?
There was a time when Pizza Express did some good raising the standard of food available on the high street, but times are moving fast and are no longer even a half decent option. Stale and hard to identify, their personality reminds me of a month old pizza slice I once found under my couch. It has quickly become the Starbucks of the italian restaurant world; It whorishly spreads its legs across every bloody street, yet that doesn’t make me want to go in. To eat there is to be filled with stodgy guilt akin to getting off with your mates ugly friend; it seemed so right in your mind, but so wrong in practice. At McDonalds you pay the clown, with Pret it’s the do-gooder, market stall the market seller. Pizza Express? Who knows, it’s faceless.