Pizza Express Brighton - A welcome slice of familiar comfort

Pizza Express has made a welcome return to Brighton and Hove’s casual dining scene with all of the city’s restaurants reopening after enforced closures due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Pizza Express Sloppy Joe SUS-201028-133515001Pizza Express Sloppy Joe SUS-201028-133515001
Pizza Express Sloppy Joe SUS-201028-133515001

The popular chain didn’t emerge unscathed from lockdown but all four of its Brighton and Hove sites are open for business.

We visited the long-standing North Laines restaurant on Prince Albert Place earlier this month and enjoyed its comfortable vibe.

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Dough-hurling staff in the open kitchen still look the part in their trademark black and white stripey tops and it all felt reassuringly familiar without being too much of a nostalgia trip.

La Reine pizzaLa Reine pizza
La Reine pizza

The redesigned venue is in fine fettle following an extensive refurbishment and with the help of some judicious lighting feels a lot warmer than its previous incarnation.

Other immediate, and hopefully short-term, changes are the post-lockdown safety measures.

Fortunately the roomy venue has adapted easily to a more physically-distanced layout, and hand sanitiser stations are in force along with a new digital menu and cashless payment.

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The staff were also making a good fist of the circumstances and making sure they don’t come too close to the punters without being in any way standoffish.

TiramisuTiramisu
Tiramisu

We shared a light starter of garlic prawns, cooked in garlic butter, with red onion, roasted red peppers and some rather wonderfully fresh cherry toms which couldn’t have been better if they’d been swiped that morning from a Brighton and Hove allotment.

Thinner, crispier and bigger is a credo that I’d like to be applied to a large percentage of the food I eat, with perhaps the exception of pana cotta, and so the new Romano pizzas were pushing on a very open door.

The whopping 14-inch base is indeed a crispy proposition, thinner than a hipster’s leg and a blank canvas for more toppings than before.

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Our choices, a Sloppy Giuseppe and a regal little pizza named La Reine, were, as our photos show, heaving with ace accompaniments.

Safety measures at Pizza ExpressSafety measures at Pizza Express
Safety measures at Pizza Express

The Sloppy Giuseppe, hot spiced beef, green pepper, red onion, mozzarella and tomato (as if you didn’t already know), is a Pizza Express perennial for good reason and worked well on the thinner base.

Similarly, La Reine, with ham, black olives and mushrooms, was all the better for the oodles of mozzarella plastered over the Romana.

A shared tiramisu finished off the meal, and was good enough to win over the committed coffee-phobe in our partnership, and also impressed the duo’s less reluctant demolisher of caffeine-soaked puds.

It’s not surprising that in a crowded market place Pizza Express is still packing them in and gently adapting a much-loved formula for the future.