This is a sponsored post. I was invited to join a group of bloggers in a pizza-making party to review the event and the newly refurbished Leadenhall Market restaurant. All opinions are my own.
They had me at pizza
A make your own pizza party not only sounds like fun but is also the perfect opportunity to work on your dough kneading skills. One of the biggest reasons that many people (like me) never make pizza at home is because they don’t know how to work the dough. PizzaExpress actually specialise in handmade pizzas. Every pizza is made with dough that is kneaded, stretched and tossed all by hand, no tools or rolling pins required.
Leadenhall Market PizzaExpress has a brand new look
PizzaExpress is best known for being a family style restaurant, but it also caters to city workers, food trend hunters and jazz club lovers. No really, it’s Soho Dean Street restaurant is also a jazz club with daily live performances since 1976! The brand has rapidly grown from its first restaurant in 1965 to over 400 in the UK today, as well as 70+ internationally. Currently, they are rolling out a brand-wide interior design update based on four new styles – highstreet, heritage, urban and retail – to better suit different areas and customers.
The PizzaExpress inside the Leadenhall Market is one of the latest to undergo its interior design transformation. Leadenhall is one of the oldest Victorian markets in London dating all the way back to the 14th century. You might recognize it from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, where an empty shop was used for the doorway to the Leaky Cauldron wizard’s pub.
The new look of the restaurant beautifully weaves the market’s heritage into the design, pairing old photographs, illustrations and original brick features with modern furniture and copper lights. Split over two floors, the basement is bigger than you might expect with a new private dining area for parties or events.
Pizza Making Party
It was so much fun to join the group of bloggers in a pizza making party. Since many of us work for ourselves, it’s the closest we’ll get to a Christmas party with colleagues! The party includes a glass of prosecco on arrival, the famously scrumptious PizzaExpress dough balls, your pizza-making station and a dedicated party host. It’s great value at £21.95 per person (for a minimum of 8 guests) and lasts about 2.5 hours.
Mastering a Pizza Toss
The trick to working the dough is to not be afraid! It’s surprisingly resilient. After kneading and pressing it flat, we practiced stretching the dough by passing it from hand to hand before tossing up into the air! As you can see from the photos below, the guys at PizzaExpress are real pros. This guy looks like he’s been tossing pizza since he was a bambino!
Next is the pomodoro sauce. Fun fact, they use the same tomato sauce supplier for all their restaurants as when they first opened back in 1965! That’s really saying something. I was also really impressed by the exceptional staff and restaurant manager Stela Cinque. It makes such a difference when the staff are all friendly and working hard to do a great job. A huge thank you to PizzaExpress for organising the event and making us feel so welcome.
With so many toppings to choose from, I fell back on the golden rule of thumb of less is more. For my pizza, I placed 10 evenly spaced slices of pepperoni, followed by 3 artichoke quarters, 3 black olives, and 3 jalapeño slices. Then I decorated it with red onion rings and thinly sliced mushrooms. Lastly, I sprinkled over two handfuls of mozzarella cheese.
The pizzas cook really fast and we had them before us in no time. It was really interesting to see all the different pizzas everyone created, such as a Florentina with spinach and egg and a vegan pizza. I think we were all having so much fun that we forgot it was a competition! Ok, maybe I didn’t forget… Check out the before and after baking photos of my pizza below!
And the Winner is…
After we finished eating our host came to announce the awards for best tosser, worst and best pizza. There were so many great pizzas as well as some serious food bloggers among us that I really didn’t expect to win! I felt like a big kid who had just won the class competition. Mum, Dad, I won something!
I think my pizza won because I really nailed the dough part, it was exactly how I like it, not too thin or thick. I’ve only rolled pizza dough once before and it was a total disaster, which goes to show what you can learn if taught properly. I also did a good job of evenly spreading the tomato sauce, which is easier said than done! After a ladle of sauce is poured onto the base you have to spread it by shaking the pizza tray. Finally, I didn’t overkill it with the toppings, carefully placed like a work of art.
Overall I really enjoyed the whole experience and it made me see PizzaExpress in a new light. It had been a while since I ate at a PizzaExpress, as I tend to focus more on new restaurant openings. I was impressed by the quality of the pizza from the dough to the fresh ingredients. Everything was delicious. The new look is also much more adult and sophisticated than what I expected. The brand-wide makeover is not only transforming the restaurants but also the image of the brand.
People have a tendency to lump similar restaurants together, such as Prezzo, Rossopomodoro, Pizza Hut and Dominos. But that’s a mistake, as the differences get lost with such generalisation. A better comparison with PizzaExpress is perhaps Nandos, as they both focus on doing one thing exceptionally well. You wouldn’t compare Nandos with Chicken Cottage!