Friday, 30 June 2017

Pizza Express Live at High Holborn - A New London Music Venue

It's no secret that I'm a Pizza Express lover.  I always have been, but since going gluten-free 18 months ago to try and address some of my health issues, I've fallen even further in love with it - hell they even now stock gluten-free beer. 

In my opinion, it's the best chain restaurant for gluten-free diners, as there's so much choice and you don't need to miss out on your favourites - hello dough balls!

I was invited along with a bunch of lovely bloggers to the newly refurbished and relaunched branch at High Holborn. Really easy to get to, it's just across the road from Holborn tube station, and a short stroll from Covent Garden and Theatreland making it perfect for a meal with friends.

The purpose of our visit was two-fold.  To experience a pizza-making party, and to get a sneak peek of the basement music venue, Pizza Express Live before it opens to the public with live music and comedy artists.

Now, the pizza party was fun!  I've been to kids pizza making parties at Pizza Express before, in fact we booked one for Ruby a couple of years ago and I have to say I was a bit jealous of the fun they had.  

Slightly awkwardly, we were in the main restaurant area, with other diners all around, and very close to the kitchen where the professional chefs were doing their thing.  The pressure!

The table was all prepared for us, each station had its own apron and hat, and we nervously took our places.  We had a lovely member of staff dedicated to us to show us how it was done and another who kept us supplied with all the ingredients we needed. Clever trick - each person's hat is numbered, then a little numbered label goes onto the pizza before going into the oven to ensure everyone gets the correct pizza.  The paper labels are soaked in olive oil to prevent them from burning.

As a gluten-free diner, I was curious how this was going to work as the gluten-free bases are all pre-prepared and sealed, made in a certified GF factory rather than fresh on site like the normal dough.  However, they were more than happy to give me some dough to play with, so I still got the experience of rolling it, twirling it and fitting it to a pan.  They then let me put toppings on a second, gluten-free base so I could eat it after cooking - winner!

Making your own pizza certainly adds to the experience of eating out.  It's great to be able to pick exactly what you want on it with toppings, but also decide how thick you want your base, whether you want a crust, how much cheese you want, and then have the anticipation of waiting for your creation to come out of the oven.  The host made the activity fun and light-hearted, but I did still feel like I'd learnt some skills.  I can see an adult pizza party working really well as a hen-do or a work outing/team-building exercise.

We returned to our table to await the arrival of our cooked pizzas and enjoyed some prosecco and dough-balls while soaking up the new decor.  Sumptuous deep-buttoned tan leather bench sofas, chevron wooden styling on the walls, the archetypal Pizza Express marble table tops and low hanging pendant lighting made for a very Instagram-worthy setting.

After a lovely meal, and a little light-hearted competition over who had made the best pizza, we were shown down to the basement, the new live music venue. Pizza Express Dean Street in Soho has long been famed as a jazz venue, and more recently The Pheasantry in Chelsea came second only to The Royal Albert Hall as the Best Live Music Venue in the London Lifestyle Awards.  Pizza Express Live at Holborn is set to follow in these footsteps, with a Manager who is passionate about music.

The beautiful, atmospherically styled basement is so new you could still smell the oak flooring.  Due to open in September with music greats such as Mica Paris and Tom Chaplin, comedy legend Johnny Vegas and some 'audience with' guests such as ex-Arsenal player Paul Merson, they will be launching with a bang.

The acoustics in the dining room and the state-of-the-art sound system are going to make for very memorable nights out, where you can experience the intimacy of hearing great artists in a small venue.  The stage is the same level as the diners, with bar-style seating in-the-round meaning you can get up close and personal with the acts, whilst enjoying your favourite foods from the menu, or a drink from the bar.

Like upstairs, the styling is exquisite, oak parquet flooring, leather and velvet seating and wooden chevron panelled walls with moody lighting.  I definitely think this is going to rival the other Pizza Express Live branches.

This is a venue to keep your eye on. You heard it here first!

Disclosure: Thanks to Pizza Express for their hospitality. This is a collaborative post.