On the lead up to National Vegan Day on Wednesday November 1st, I was invited to Pizza Express in South Kensington for their first vegan pizza party to celebrate the day and their new vegan menu.
Being a born carnivore I was a little skeptical about trying a vegan pizza because a pizza is not a pizza without the cheese and a dash of meat but definitely a decent cheese is always a MUST.
In June of this year, Pizza Express carefully put together a vegan based menu ranging from starters, mains and desserts and allowing their customers to substitute cheese for vegan cheese, essentially making it easier for everyone to sin together, yay. PE host pizza making parties for groups of more than 2 (obviously) and I was attending the very first vegan pizza party. I know, I’m so millennial.
Driving into the West End is always slightly chaotic and on this occasion, thanks to my ropey satnav, it was even more of a trial. I arrived fashionably late but though, for once, this wasn’t my intention. The evening’s venue was on Cromwell Road which made parking slightly hazardous but once inside it was only then I realised that part of the evening’s entertainment was to show off our cooking skills as well as our eating skills.
My previous attempt at making dough was disastrous so I was delighted to see that the balls were there and already made. Apron on, let’s get to work and it was now up to me to fashion my masterpiece minus the onions – allegories and all that. Subsequently, we were asked what our pet peeves were (food wise), I mentioned my raw onion allergy and my friend, lost for words, blurted out “Pork” when in actual fact, she doesn’t mind it at all. Funny girl, it made me and few others laugh out loud as we all agreed that she was in the right place at the right time (still making me laugh a week on).
Anyway, to work…
Along with the dough we were given pizza trays on to which, we pushed, pulled and generally thumped our creations into shape with the good-natured help of the pizza guys; dramatic damsel in distress is one role I rarely like to play. Once accomplished, on goes the Neapolitan sauce followed by orange peppers, mushrooms, spinach, jalapeños and my new favourite, roquito pepper pearls which have a sweet and spicy taste – loverrrly. Finally, the lynchpin of the entire pizza, the vegan cheese. Would it be strong and tasty enough to anchor the meal?
Into the oven it goes for 5-7 minutes, everyone waited eagerly sipping on their organic white wine, bar me, the smug sober October person (quietly gasping).
7 minutes later…
All ten pizzas were cooked at the same time and came out at the same time – dazzling service, along with endless dough balls and instead of the famous garlic butter, we had an equally delicious substitute of garlic oil. My pizza being the most visibly attractive, I knew I was on to a winner here, ha ha.
The base of the pizza had body and the perfect consistency for a thin crust. The sauce, the spinach, the garlic oil and the roquito pepper pearls created a really piquant and heavenly eating experience – totally lush. The vegan cheese had a creamy essence which made the pizza really enjoyable to the point that you wouldn’t know that it was dairy free. All in all, a total triumph for Pizza Express and myself.
We finished off the meal a choice of coconut or raspberry sorbet to cleanse the palate and provide that sweet aftertaste that one requires after every meal. I chose the coconut and it rounded off the whole experience, perfectly.
In my honest opinion, I feel the staff I encountered that night, especially Rupi, our host for the evening and Director of Quality & Safety really understand that veganism is not just a passing trend but a lifestyle and will make all their customers, whatever their eating choices, very welcome when dining at Pizza Express.
*All allergy & nutrional information and the menu is available on www.pizzaexpress.com