Writing a bad review is easier because the expressions of the unpleasant are much wider and everybody, except the wounded, enjoys it. But the 1965 UK chain Pizza Express’ first restaurant in India doesn’t leave any room for criticism.
If a city gets the restaurants it deserves then Mumbai has been a very good girl, of late. At Pizza Express in Apollo Bunder a dish as simple as Dough Balls (Rs 140) served with garlic butter gets us excited. It’s simple — mini balls of dough freshly baked in an oven, warm and soft in the centre, slightly crusty on the outside, perfectly salted and one of the many pleasures of dining at Pizza Express.
Of course, with 440 restaurants across two continents, the Pizza Express chefs with striped T-shirts working at the open counter kitchen know what they’re doing but this would be an assumption judging by what is dished out in the name of pizzas at some of our big-ticket international chains. What matters is the menu. It’s simple, affordable and different from the other pizza chains. The one-page menu includes eight pastas, eight salads, nine desserts garlic breads and pizzas available in classic base and the thinner, Romana base.
The options are Italian: you won’t find Paneer or Chicken Tikka Pizza here. There are the glories of Bolognese and Cannelloni and Emilgrana and Peppadew peppers; the result is all you want it to be, and more. The Cannelloni (R495) is a generous serving fit for two with flavours that are well focused.
There is a liberal stuffing of spinach mixed with restrained amounts of ricotta inside a thin pasta, and laced with a delicious tomato sauce.
The Pollo Ad Astra (R595) from the Romana Pizza section is all thin, crunch, and sigh. The grilled chicken is cooked perfectly, the crust is thin and crunchy on the edges and laced generously with a dose of delicious tomato passata made with San Marzano, which are crushed within 12 hours of harvest. In addition, there are red onions that match the crunch the of the base, the garlic oil, which isn’t overpowering, the sweet Peppadew peppers that easily make it to the top imports to India in this year’s list, and Mozzarella that is not violently (what people call generously) grated on the toppings instead it is sliced and placed on the base in moderation like you’d find in an Italian pizzeria.
To round things off, we opted for the Chocolate Fudge Cake (R250). It is baked gently in pizza ovens as they warm up in the morning. The cake is cake-y, not gooey like a brownie, which has become a trend in the city. It’s airy, soft and the ganache on top is of properly tempered chocolate.
Pizza Express comes as a relief from jaded, commercial pizza chains. The décor is sophisticated and matches up to any fine dining restaurant in the city, the restrooms are clean, the staff is well trained, the prices are reasonable, while the quality of ingredients is par excellence. Don’t expect regular, medium, large pizza options and free delivery within 30 minutes, and you’ll find yourself humming happy tunes at the end of your meal.
At Ground floor, Dhanraj Mahal, next to Le Pain Quotidien, Apollo Bunder, Colaba.
Pizza Express didn’t know we were there. The Guide reviews anonymously and pays for meals.