Eating at PizzaExpress in West Didsbury is very hands-on. Upstairs is a party where guests are learning how to make pizzas and throw dough. Downstairs, our kids are having their very own dough-throwing lesson.
The Lapwing Lane restaurant has just re-opened after a refit. When it opened in the mid-1990s in the old post office it was pretty much the only place to eat between Burton Road and Didsbury village.
But now the area has taken off with a Metrolink stop, beer shop Wine and Wallop and, soon, Chilli Banana a few doors down.
The restaurant has been transformed and features artwork inspired by the building’s heritage as a post office, and there is now a courtyard at the back.
Manager, Nathan Kazybrid said: “We love our restaurant’s new look and have a friendly and enthusiastic team who are looking forward to welcoming everyone over a delicious pizza.”
The early evening patrons are a mix of school-uniformed kids with their parents and relaxed after-work groups. A gentle hum rather than a rowdy crowd.
Tables with children are issued the standard pencils and puzzles but there is something much better to keep their attention while waiting for the kids’ menu starter of doughballs served with salad and either garlic butter or an olive oil and balsamic dip.
An open kitchen can sometimes feel a little bit oppressive. But the chefs are all smiles when approached by our two young diners.
After watching them do his stuff with the dough, they were thrilled to learn how to toss the floury discs in the air – and sometimes even catch them. (NB – none of this food made it to the table!)
The kids’ menu includes selection of pizzas and a handful of pasta dishes, with penne bolognese and a pizza (half margherita and half pepperoni – thanks again to PizzaExpress staff for being so accommodating of an indecisive eight-year-old) duly ordered.
As part of the autumn menu, the new risotto fresco available as a starter or main warms your insides on dark and dank evening.
Oak-roasted peppered salmon fillet in a creamy risotto with a little fresh tomato chopped through is hot with crushed peppercorns and chilli oil.
But if you really want to get a sweat on try the Romana American Hottest pizza. Deceptively reasonable at first bite but the pepperoni, hot peppers, red chilli, spicy sausage and finished with chilli oil may finish you off.
Of course, we are made of stronger stuff and rounded things off with a honeycomb cream slice and the kids went for a gooey chewy brownie and a refreshing apple juice ice lolly, again off the children’s menu, and a ‘cuppaccino’ as our resolutely Northern offspring insisted the complimentary bambinoccino – warm frothy milk with a sprinkle of chocolate – were called.
Two children’s menu – £13.90
Marinated olives – £2.90
Rustica tomatoes – £2.90
Buffalo mozzarella and tomato salad – £5.85
Calamari – £6.00
Romana America Hottest pizza – £14.25
Risotto fresco – £11.15
Honeycomb cream slice – £5.85
Large cappuccino – £3.10
Two coca-colas – £5.10
1 litre still water – £4.25
175ml Sauvignon blanc – £6.40