• Pizza Express: Surprisingly vegan-friendly UK Pizza chain

    January 11th, 2011mr meanerlondon, more restaurants (not LA)

    As a London-resident lacto-ovo vegetarian for decades, I’d always enjoy a trip to Pizza Express. The stone cold marble tables, tiled floor and dim halogen lighting set an urban chic vibe alongside some amazing pizza offerings, many of which are vegetarian. Re-visiting Pizza Express, though, as a vegan required some reorientation with both the the menu and ordering tradition.

    Pizza Express uses a brick oven and hand creates all its dough from scratch daily, as well as preparing fresh ingredients for all the pizzas. The menu often changes, but there is a common core of excellent pizzas, and many of the famous stables (like my old favorite, the Fiorentina) are vegetarian. As any vegan knows, it’s MUCH easier to engineer vegan options from a strongly lacto-ovo menu than it is to try and eke out a vegan existence in a very meat-friendly establishment.

    In fact, Pizza Express makes it really easy to “veganize” just about everything. Before we get to the pizzas, Pizza Express is famous for its appetizers, and two of them in particular: Dough Balls and Garlic Bread. Now, as Pizza Express has some of the best dough anywhere, and that gorgeous Italian-built brick oven they are not hesitant to use it wherever they can.

    Dough Balls (no butter) ₤2.50

    The Dough Balls are vegan if ordered with garlic or oil rather than butter, and are perfect little steamy pockets of succulent pizza dough. Dip them in the extra virgin Italian olive oil, and you have quite the appetizer, I can tell you. We also ordered the Garlic Bread, which usually comes coated in garlic butter.

    Garlic Bread (ordered with oil and not butter) ₤2.60

    Well, I don’t know about you but I actually prefer garlic olive oil, and Pizza Express is quite happy to substitute it for you. What arrives is an incredibly tasty chunk o’bread! Crispy and garlicky on the outside and (duh) steamy and soft on the inside. Although the ingredients are similar to the dough balls, this thing is entirely different in taste and texture and makes a nice, light compliment to the dough balls for an appetizer.

    We spent a while deciding what pizza to order. As there’s no vegan cheese offering at Pizza Express we wanted to get something that had a similar texture without being too dry or too chunky. Usually, mushrooms make a good cheese substitute and if you’re lucky enough to have a sauce that’s creamy in texture (check that box, Pizza Express) the thing holds together just perfectly, and you forget that there’s no cheese at all.

    Funghi Di Bosco: Portobello mushrooms, garlic oil, parsley. (ordered w/o cheese) ₤9.10

    We opted for the Funghi Di Bosco: Portobello mushrooms, garlic oil and parsley, ordered without cheese. We also asked for extra shrooms instead of cheese, and the server was happy to accommodate. When our pizza arrived, we could hardly believe how good it was: Perfect crust (crispy on the bottom, but perfectly chewy) with a light, creamy tomato sauce covered in garlic-infused portobello mushrooms. We threw on some dried chillies and wolfed the thing down pronto.

    The cool thing about Pizza Express is that they are vegan-knowledgeable: If you say you’re vegan when you go in they will advise you on what can be made vegan, and let the kitchen know to be careful about your order. Not only that, there are umpteen Pizza Express restaurants in London, and one in every town and city in the UK (even in some pretty small towns). Add to the vegan-friendly ubiquity legendary service (the staff are all very polite, informative and delight in making everything about your visit just perfect).

    I’ll be adding Pizza Express to my itinerary for every trip I make home going forward.

    Check out the Pizza Express website for locations.

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6 responses to “Pizza Express: Surprisingly vegan-friendly UK Pizza chain” RSS icon

  • i LOVE pizza express. i wish they’d come to america. it’s like CPK but a thousand times better!

  • Here’s the killer bit. Get to know your local PE well enuf and you can take along some vegan cheeze and they will use it.. 🙂

  • Gauri Radha गौरी राधा

    ^ That’s so cool!!

    And this place looks quite appetizing.

  • my fav place, too!!! You got to put the salad on your pizza, though! You’re missing out!

  • I had forgotten about those dough balls! I ate those while living there during my vegetarian days. So glad they’re vegan – now I can get them when I travel there again.

  • That might fly over there, but it’s hard to imagine a restaurant going for that here when they know how sue-happy people can be if they bring in some rancid Daiya and eat it. Stupid, I know, but… America.

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