After a brief summer hiatus Out & About UAE is back! Kicking off with a new feature to the blog in the form of our very first restaurant review.
Pizza Express is a staple of the UK high street, so (as British expats) we were very excited to discover that the company were opening their very first branch in Abu Dhabi at the World Trade Centre Mall. The restaurant itself is located on the fifth floor of the mall and is currently the only place open on this level, but don’t let that put you off as the venue is simply stunning.
Entering through large double doors we were greeted by the friendly staff who offered us a variety of seating options in the form of free standing tables or one of the large booths. The venue is new (and it shows), having just opened a few short weeks ago. The decor is a fusion of the traditional Arabic architecture of the mall itself, with its Islamic style stained glass windows, combined with the furnishings and tiled floors of an Italian taverna. As this is a Jazz venue the walls are mounted with trumpets and saxophones in striking silver and gold colour formations.
A large bar runs down the length of the restaurant with ample seating for those wishing to enjoy the music. Rumour has it that the venue is currently procuring an alcohol license, making it one of the few places in the capital (not-attached to a hotel) where you will be able to enjoy an alcoholic beverage.
The food options are great as the items on offer are a replication of the UK menu, giving a nice sense of familiarity, but with a few surprise additions. Pizza Express is well known for its dough balls, which we hold in very high regard. The ones served here in Abu Dhabi did not disappoint – as expected they were crunchy on the outside and soft in the inside, served warm with a pot of garlic butter which is just waiting to melt into the dough. Other starter options on offer include antipasto, grilled aubergine, stuffed peppers, garlic breads, and smoked salmon – catering to a variety of tastes and especially good for vegetarians.
Now lets talk about the pizza, probably the primary reason for visiting the restaurant and reading this blog post. It is important to note that these are not the American-style pizzas that you will find at fast food establishments such as Pizza Hut or Dominoes. This is a far more authentic experience more akin to something you would get if you actually went to Italy – so we are talking thin and crispy bases and quality fresh ingredients. All of the standard favourites from the UK menu are present such as the American Hot, Four Seasons, Sloppy Giuseppe and (my personal favourite) the Padana – these are exact replicas of the UK recipe though the pork products have obviously been substituted. On this occasion we decided to try some of the new Romana pizzas on offer so opted for the Caprina Rossa & Cipollini.
The two pizzas that we sampled were absolutely delicious with a thin and crispy base topped with fresh ingredients. The focus of the Caprina Rossa was beetroot, which is something that we had never tried on a Pizza before – but this was complemented by red onion and rocket, making for a delcious combination. The Cipollini diverts from the norm but replacing the traditional tomato sauce found on most pizzas with a creamy white sauce – this is a brilliant idea and tastes great with the baby onions and sweet potato, which really compliment the flavour. If pizza is not your thing there is also an ample selection of calzone, pastas and salads available.
A trip to Italy would’t be complete without a dessert, and the offerings here at Pizza Express do not fail to disappoint. The menu contains chocolate fudge cake, cheesecake, and gelato. Despite being tempted by the sweet dough balls and nutella, we instead opted for the tiramisu – which was exactly as you would expect with thick layers of cream, coffee soaked biscuit layers and ample chocolate. It was not the best tiramisu that we have every eaten, but a very good version of it.
One of the best things about Pizza Express is that it is a family friendly restaurant and children are well catered for. Children are given activity books and colouring pencils to keep them entertained whilst they wait for food. The children’s menu itself is quite extensive and includes many healthy options and for 40 AED you get a starter, main, desert and drink – which is a great deal in our opinion.
The venue also has a great outdoor terrace which gives some spectacular views down to the city streets below, or up to the towering Burj Mohammed Bin Rashid & Landmark skyscrapers. This is a lovely place in the evenings and will be a prime dining location once the weather cools down. Many people will be attracted to the venue for its nightly Jazz music which kicks off at 7pm and makes a nice accompaniment to any meal.
In summary, we really recommend the first branch of Pizza Express in Abu Dhabi and hope to see more springing up throughout the capital in the future. The familiarity to UK residents is also a bonus, as it provides a feeling of home and the way the menu has been adapted for the UAE market should certainly be applauded. The only downside we found during our visit, was that some of the staff were a little pushy when it came to up-selling certain food and beverage items – but this can be forgiven as the restaurant has only just opened.
Location: Level 5, World Trade Center Mall, Al Markaziya, Abu Dhabi
All views within this blog are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE, unless otherwise stated.