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23.7.15

Race for Life Preparation at Pizza Express

On Saturday I picked up my best friend and we headed on our two and a half mile journey to Huntingdon. We'd managed to find a hotel bargain and had access to their gym and swimming pool so we packed the correct attire and left towards lunchtime so we could fit some exercise time in.
Luckily our room was ready when we arrived so we took our bags up, I threw Christines retro-style bracelet gift at her whilst she waited for me to stop faffing, then when got ready and hit the gym.
After an hour in there, and around an hour in the swimming pool we headed back to our room to shower (separately!!) and get ready for dinner.
With wifi not working, I sat with a coffee and coloured in some of my Mindfulness colouring book whilst I waited for Christine to finish her turn in the shower.

Taxi ordered, we listened in to conversations in the lobby, resisting the urge to not laugh or get involved. As we arrived in Huntingdon high street memories flooded back of the days when I used to drive around the ring road during my driving lessons. I recognised the high street and thought back to the two job interviews I had there at Superdrug.

Pizza Express was easy to find as it was only around 3 metres away from where the taxi dropped us off. As we sat at our table we looked around and noticed it was full of all sorts of different people. Couples of all ages, a man and his grandmother, families, a table of 4 women, and I think this shows how good a menu is in a restaurant. I think it proves that there is something for everyone, and everyone in the restaurant certainly looked happy and relaxed.
We did discuss the fact that something was missing and this was that there was no music. We probably wouldn't pay too much attention to music that was on, however although it was something little it would have added to the atmosphere,

We ordered our drinks and an intro of roasted tomatoes, which were so full of flavour and mouthwateringly delicious, and looked over the menu. I usually have a habit of looking at a menu before I head to a restaurant but this time I decided to sit and have a proper look whilst I enjoyed my colg Pinot Grigio Blush. We weren't pressured to hurry up and order which was lovely, especially on a busy Saturday night.

We decided to share our starters, mains and sides and to be selfish and not share our desserts....the only part of the meal we had preplanned.
I wouldn't usually order a Risotto when out, I'm not sure why, it's just one of those meals that never feels special enough to order when there is pizza, pasta or steak available. But we did order the Risotto Fresco for the starter, as well as the Dough Balls Doppio, simply because Pizza Express dough balls seem to be the starter everyone has to have. I see so many comments about them on social media that it seemed rude to not order them.
The trio of dips served with the dough balls were amazing. Whilst I preferred to dip then in the garlic butter, followed by Pesto...which FYI I hated until that day! Christine took a shine to the harissa spiced tomato dip.
The Risotto surprised me and, confession time, would make me order it as a main when I next visit Pizza Express. Seriously, me ordering such a dish is unheard of so this is big news!

Then came the mains and the sides.
The Caesar salad was beautiful. I adore caesar sauce so I kind of kept the salad to myself (Sorry Christine!). The polenta chips were coated with rosemary and gran milano cheese, I know, I know, best chips ever right?! And they were, we really enjoyed them and they didn't taste too heavy which was a plus when we were already feasting on a carb heavy course. The only thing I would say, the polenta chips were served with a honey and mustard dressing. We didn't feel like this went with the rest of the meal, or the chips, so did end up leaving it to the side. I am usually a big fan of that dressing but it seemed an odd combination with the other flavours too.
Our two main meals were a Romana pizza and a pasta. The pizza was Rustichella, the waitress was really helpful and let us change the pancetta topping because my friend is weird and said she doesn't like pancetta (friendship fail!!) and instead we opted for smoky pepperoni, which worked just as well I expect. The pasta we ordered was Leggera Pollo Arrabbiata, and the waitress again was really helpful and informed us that some people find this dish too hot so if we wanted to we could order it with half chillis. We loved that she pointed this out to us as sometimes I feel you are left to your own devices when it comes to spicy meals. We did order with half chilli (half the amount they would usually put in) and although I didn't find it spicy I think it might be because I didn't actually get any chilli in my scoopful.
It worked really well to share our meals this way as we got to try two different dishes, and the pizza and pasta went really well together.

And then came dessert. Oh how we were ready for this moment.
I have to admit that despite knowing what I wanted to order because of looking at the menu in advance, it was a tough decision. It was one of those moments when you wish calories didn't exist so you could eat all of the desserts. But this wasn't the case....so for me, Tiramisu was the chosen one. Christine went for one of my other options, the Eton Mess Cheesecake. I think the noises we both made whilst eating these made it clear that we were enjoying them!
We both ate our last mouthful and sat back with our hands on our tummies nicely full, but not stuffed to the point we were uncomfortable. We finished our glasses of wine, and left to find a taxi back to the hotel.

We walked around Huntingdon for a while, taking a selfie as we stood near a water sculpture and discussed our plans for the morning. What time to get up and so on. But we didn't feel that pressure or nervousness that we had done before. We were relaxed, happy and well prepared for a good nights sleep and a successful 5k the following day.
Thank you Pizza Express for treating us to such an incredible meal and to a fantastic evening. One we really needed.

What we ordered:

Drinks
Pinot Grigio Blush, Veneto, Italy

Intros
Roasted Tomatoes

Starters
Risotto Fresco
Creamy white wine risotto with oak-roasted salmon, garlic and fresh parsley, finished with rocket, Gran Milano cheese and a wedge of lemon
Dough Balls Doppio
New recipe: A double portion of our famous dough balls served with a trio of dips: pesto, garlic butter and pestorissa; a tasty harissa spiced tomato dip

Sides
Polenta Chips
Italian polenta chips with rosemary, oven baked and finished with Gran Milano cheese, served with a honey & mustard dressing dip
Caesar Salad
Cos lettuce, Gran Milano cheese, anchovies, croutons and Caesar dressing

Mains
Rustichella (Romana)
Pancetta, mozzarella and tomato finished with rocket, Gran Milano cheese, roasted tomatoes and Caesar dressing
Leggera Pollo Arrabbiata
Chicken with roasted red & yellow peppers and pennette pasta, in a spiced Arrabbiata sauce of tomato, garlic, fresh parsley and red chilli. Finished with Gran Milano cheese. Under 525 Calories. (You can ask for more or less chilli's on this. We opted for half chilli's and it was perfect)

Dessert
Eton Mess Cheesecake with gelato
A twist on a British classic; strawberry swirled cheesecake on a crumbly biscuit base topped with whole pieces of meringue
Tiramisu
New Recipe: Made by La Donatella, using the traditional Veneto methods and ingredients; layers of ladyfingers, mascarpone cream, coffee and cocoa