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UK pizza chains - best of the bunch?

My loyalty to Pizza Express dates back to ancient times when there were only handful of places - all in London. A trip to the capital would not be complete without a visit to the original (?) Wardour Street branch.

And, even now, when I crave pizza, I crave their American Hot. Plus ca change......

But with upstarts like Strada and Ask opening branches "up north", I begin to question my loyalty. So, I ask members, is it time to change? What, if anything, have these parvenus to offer over the nation's favourite?

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  1. It's got to be Pizza Express. It's one of the few places you can visit anywhere in London and know that you're going to eat well. I only wish I'd gone there instead of the brutally bad Thai place at the o2 Arena. I'd happily eat their Funghi di Bosco with pepperoni and parma ham any day of the week.

    Don't know about Strada, but ASK is good too - especially if you're with people who don't want pizza. (Their pastas are pretty good).

    Are there others? Please, not including the dreaded Pizza Hut.

    1 Reply
    1. re: DollyDagger

      On the subject of chain restaurants heres an article on what happens to the tips diners leave and who gets them. Pizza Express, Strada etc are mentioned.
      http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/food/2008...
      I think it will make me think twice about who I choose to dine with in the UK - Pizza Express whilst not squeaky clean seems better than a lot.

    2. Pizza Express hands down. Strada, Ask, and Zizzi are mere imposters with blunt knives!

      1. My relationship with Pizza Express also started at the Wardour St branch in the 70s - I was brought up in London, and used to go there with my sister as a treat after christmas shopping ... I still think it does good quality pizzas which you can rely on. Very expensive starters though - stingey portions of tomato and mozzarella I seem to remember.

        One other mini chain worth a mention is Porchetta in London - good pizzas and pasta.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Theresa

          I also used to go to the Pizza Express on Wardour St in the olden days when the plates were green and the pizzas a little bigger. Then cassata or chocolate bombe for dessert.

        2. Good job folk are confirming Pizza Express....Today's Sunday Times has a BOGOF offer running until 24 April (Sunday to Thursday).

          Off to claim it tomorrow night and check out the looks of a couple of new Lebanese restaurants reportedly now in Wilmslow (Cheshire) - which will make 3 middle eastern ones in the town. I didnt think middle eastern was particularly "Footballers Wives" cuisine......

          7 Replies
          1. re: Harters

            Three middle eastern restaurants in Wilmslow - bizarre.

            I rarely eat at pizza chains, but when I do I usually choose Strada. I think it's better than Pizza Express, and the pizzas are more generously sized.

              1. re: Harters

                Only by reputation. Mr GG is a Mancunian - well, Stockport really (Cheadle). He has friends who live in Mobberley, which is very footballer's wives in its own right.

                Actually, and to keep this on topic, when we saw them last week they were talking about a small chain of Italian restaurants in the North which is part of the Heathcote empire. The Olive Press? There's even one in Cheadle Hulme now, apparently. Have you been there at all?

                1. re: greedygirl

                  Cheadle is almost home turf.

                  My review and subsequent dissing of the Cheadle Hulme Olive Press is here. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/267434

                  I mention an Italian restaurant round the corner that we used to go to a lot and planned to return to. It's the La Piazza - but the bad news is that gossip has it that's "gone off" recently. Pity if true. Nice family business.

                  If you & Mr GG are back in the Cheadle area at some point, may I recommend the Bay Tree in Cheadle itself. Nice neighbourhood restaurant. Gets packed - even midweek. Good three course meal for under twenty five quid. On Wilmslow Road, opposite the Post Office.

                  John

                  1. re: Harters

                    Thanks for the tip. We'll check it out next time we visit the paterfamilias. (He is now banned from eating out with us as he is always rude and ungrateful.)

                    Mr GG says La Piazza is "a nice neighbourhood Italian, nothing special". He took his Dad there a few months ago, I think. His Dad complained. But ate lots of garlic bread. He claims to hate garlic.

                    1. re: greedygirl

                      Just to put a word in in defence of the Olive Press - I know that John had a bad experience/s in the Cheadle Hulme one, but the Liverpool version is good - it's more reliable that the more upmarket Simply Heathcotes ...

                      1. re: Theresa

                        My sense of fair play has come out again. I've also eaten in the OP in Manchester city centre. It was fine. Good service, Good pizza (but not PE standards!).

                        BTW, went to PE tonight to claim the BOGOF. Very busy for a Monday - no doubt all the Times readers.

                        And one of the new middle eastern places has closed, already. And the other one was doing literally no business. But looks worth a try (if pricey) - added to the "must visit sometime" list.

            1. re: rblack

              Strada is waaaaaaaaaaaay better than PE, in my opinion. Far better crust, nice wood-burned taste, better quality ingredients.

              And what's with the "American Hot" situation, anyway? As an American I can say it is a confluence of flavors I don't recognize as standard pizza fare at home.

              1. re: sloepoke

                Bit of an "English Muffin" scenario, perhaps. :-0