Yesterday evening, we had planned to go to the fun fair in Brent Cross with my friend Aimee and her two, much to the children’s excitement. Less than an hour before we’d planned to go, the car wouldn’t start… Typical! It’s the second time this has happened in a couple of months, and my four were not remotely impressed. Oh joy! I called Aimee and we decided to meet up anyway, go to the park and have a munch at PizzaExpress, where I was meant to review the children’s menu. Do you know any child who can resist a Piccolo Menu?
I’ve always loved PizzaExpress. When I arrived in Greater London all those years ago (it will be 16 years next month!), the first restaurant I went to was PizzaExpress. After all these years, I still remember having tomatoes and mozzarella for my starter. Funny the little things you remember, isn’t it? I have no idea what I had after that (or who I was with!), but I can still picture my starter, the fragrance of the basil, the balsamic vinegar…
The reason I hold PizzaExpress so close to my heart these days is because for a very long time, it was the only place where I felt my little Jumpy would be safe for a meal out, despite her allergies. At PizzaExpress, she can have a 3-course Piccolo Menu and eat food that looks just like her siblings’, and that’s worth so so much to me as an allergy mum. In some restaurants, all she can eat is plain rice or chips with ketchup, so a 3-course meal is a big deal! You can download allergen information here (bottom of the page).
Anyhoo… when the lovely people at Mumsnet asked me whether I wanted to go to PizzaExpress with my children, let them eat whatever they fancied from the Piccolo menu and try out the new activity packs, I couldn’t say no, could I?
As soon as we got there, we were shown to our table and the children were immediately given their menus, activity packs and crayons. That’s exactly what happens every single time we walk into a PizzaExpress restaurant. The fact the children are given something to do as soon as they walk in means they are a lot less likely to misbehave or be grouchy. It also meant I could have a chat with Aimee. Win, win!
The first thing they all seemed to get engrossed in was decorating their paper hats. My kiddies love those hats. It’s not much more than a bit of paper, but it makes them feel like they’re part of the PizzaExpress family. They just love it.
Another favourite of theirs is the Dough Ball character they can decorate. They all went for crazy styles, using the colouring pencils and the stickers provided. Happy children, happy Mummy.
Crevette quickly moved on to the menu. I’d told him there were new things and he was worried the dough balls might have disappeared from the menu. Nope. Phew!
All the children were looking forward to their starter, the famous (and addictive) Baked Dough Balls, served with garlic butter (they could also have opted for olive oil and balsamic vinegar) and a crunchy salad (baby plum tomatoes and cucumber). When I mentioned Jumpy’s allergies, our waitress immediately offered to substitute the dough balls for anything else she might want (they’d run out of allergy-friendly dough balls). She went for chicken strips and was very happy indeed!
For their main course, the children had the choice between no less than eight dishes, none of which were fish fingers or nuggets and chips! Beanie and their friend Dan went for their favourite: Pepperoni Pizza (American).
Jumpy had the same thing, on a gluten-free pizza base. I love the fact she can have exactly the same thing as everyone else! Her pizza was served on a black board (as opposed to a white plate), to show hers was the ‘free from’ option. Love that! Her pizza was also bigger than the others’, so we took half of it home (yay!).
Crevette’s best friend Tilly went for Bolognese pasta and Wriggly tried the brand new Pollo Salad, served with Dough Balls. What a plate she had! Torn chicken, Cos lettuce, roasted peppers, mozarella and light dressing. It was delicious (it was a generous portion and I helped her finish it). Aimee and I had a leggera pizza each.
Dessert is always a highlight when we go to PizzaExpress. I always go for dolcetti: coffee with a small dessert, and the children feel like grown-ups when they order their dessert with a Bambinoccino on the side. Such a great treat!
Beanie and Dan had the gluten-free Chocolate Brownie, a family favourite. The other four children went for Piccolo Sundae: one scoop of vanilla gelato topped with chocolate or fruit sauce and served with a baby cone and fresh strawberries. Crevette took this picture (standing on his chair!):
After they had finished their food, the children went back to their activity packs as Aimee and I were chatting. One of the sections, ‘The Dough Kitchen,’ is informative, and explains to children why tomatoes are classed as a fruit and tells them that cheese is good for their teeth. Other activities challenge them to draw veg, recognise them, spell them and decide whether they grow above or below the ground.
Another section is all about fun, again with word games, mazes, informative bits and counting. It’s absolutely perfect for all ages. My children are 3, 4, 6 and 9 and they were all entertained and fully absorbed in their activities for ages. The 3-course Piccolo menu, with free activities and a Bambinoccino, is £6.95, which I think is really reasonable.
Do we like the Piccolo menu? You bet!
Today, Crevette decided to enter the ‘Dough Ball Adventure’ writing competition. Children aged 6-12 can enter here (with an adult) by submitting their Dough Ball adventure story (up to 200 words) here for the chance to have their stories being made into animations.
So far over 300 stories have been submitted and I think it’s a brilliant incentive to keep little ones’ brains ticking during the summer holidays They’re giving away a prize every week, as well as a grand prize: a glamping adventure holiday! Crevette entered today with ‘The Hungry Dough Balls’ and he’s desperate to win this week’s prize: a bed with a den underneath! Other prizes include Kids’ Pizza Making Parties!
Disclosure: I am a member of the Mumsnet Bloggers Panel, a group of parent bloggers who have volunteered to review products, services, events and brands for Mumsnet. PizzaExpress sent me vouchers to cover the cost of our meal. I have editorial control and retain full editorial integrity. All photos and opinions are my own.