Review: PizzaExpress on Jesus Lane, Cambridge
One of the popular restaurant chain’s two Cambridge branches has recently undergone a renovation. The Cambridge Independent went along to see it and to sample the food
PizzaExpress on Jesus Lane – the other is on Regent Street – has just reopened with a stylish new look. The revamped restaurant draws heavy inspiration from Cambridge’s heritage, stunning architecture and river pastimes.
The refresh is on the ground floor of the prestigious Pitt Club, a grade II-listed neo-classical building named in honour of William Pitt the Younger, who had been a student at Pembroke College.
Included in the makeover are the Venetian Room and the Oak Room which are also great spaces for large bookings and room hire. Particularly eye-catching in the dining rooms are the magnificent, large-scale art deco mirrors dating back to the 1920s and 30s.
Indeed, upon first entering the establishment, the stunning interiors certainly grab the attention. This was like no other PizzaExpress I’d ever visited previously.
Glancing at the menu, there were a number of items that I immediately fancied. In keeping with the times, there are vegetarian and vegan options – though not too much of the latter – and gluten-free pizza bases.
We had some marinated olives and ‘watermelon chills’ (very refreshing drinks containing watermelon, strawberries, apple juice and mint leaves) while we were deciding what to have as our starter and main course.
In the end, I went for the calamari (lightly-crumbled crispy calamari rings served with Caesar dressing, a wedge of lemon and fresh parsley) – my wife opted for the dough balls.
The dough balls come in two forms: the ‘PizzaExpress’ dough balls are served just with garlic butter, while the ‘dough balls doppio’ are presented with a trio of dips – pesto, garlic butter and pestorissa. She opted for the former.
There were no complaints from us regarding the starters we’d chosen and we eagerly looked forward to what was to come.
There is an excellent selection of pizzas – the main two are ‘Romana’ and ‘Classic’ (‘Leggera’ is pizza under 600 calories or less) – though not quite such a wide selection of pasta dishes. Still, this is ‘Pizza’Express, after all...
I ordered Padana (goat’s cheese, mozzarella, tomato, caramelised onion, spinach, red onion and garlic oil) on a gluten-free base and I couldn’t fault it in any way, the caramelised onion giving it a real kick.
My wife had the cannelloni (soft pasta filled with spinach and ricotta, baked with passata, béchamel, mozzarella, garlic oil and Gran Milano cheese) and also enjoyed it. I tried it myself and, although it was tasty, I felt I had made the right decision going with the pizza.
We shared a tiramisu for pudding. Again, no complaints from us – though I have to say that my mum’s is better!
After the meal, duty manager Marius Argint spoke to me about the revamp. “We had a refurb about three weeks ago,” he said, “and they’ve done basically everything. In this room – the Venetian Room – they’ve changed a lot of the mirrors because some were cracked, they’ve put new colours in, new spotlights, new tables...
“We’ve had new bathrooms put in, in the kitchen as well the floor and the back area have been changed. Basically, we have a very nice refurbishment and it took only four days to do.”