Pizza Express, Queen Street, Glasgow – UK

GermWe recently took a trip to Glasgow to show Number One Son the beautiful Christmas lights and bring Student Daughter home for a bath and some home cooking.  Organised as ever (or just being a control freak), I went online and booked a table at Pizza Express.  We visit this restaurant chain frequently in Edinburgh, as it is a good family restaurant which always offers special deals and tasty food.  A quick search online produced an offer for a three-course set menu at £12.95.  Anyone out there with teenagers will understand you need to save the pennies where you can.  I gleefully printed it off and took it with me.

The entrance to this particular branch is separated from the main restaurant by a glass partition.  This means that every time the door is opened, patrons are treated to an icy blast from outside.  To take a positive view, this might help to keep you awake while you waited interminably to be fed.  I was less than amused, however, when one person allowed their child to swing on the door for five minutes while they paid their bill and put on their coats.

On entering the busy restaurant, we were greeted half-heartedly by a girl whose English was not great.  She was brandishing a cloth and some cleaning spray, so we gathered she wasn’t actually waiting tables.  She handed us off to another girl who was obviously higher up the food chain.  We were ushered to one of a row of tables lined up against the back wall.  The tables were very close together.  Since I regrettably don’t have a size zero backside (try double digits), it was a bit of a squeeze to get into my seat.  Fortunately, I managed not to sit in the dinners of the people at the next table.  (Who, by the way, spent all their time watching us and listening to our conversation.)

After about ten minutes, the waiter arrived to take our order.  Again, his English was not great and he seemed to have difficulty understanding our  accents.  We showed him our special offer voucher, and hubbie and the kids ordered from the set menu.  My daughter asked for her pizza to be made without olives, so the waiter asked if she would like an alternative topping (which presumably would be free).  When she asked for peperoni, he shook his head and said he would have to charge for that.  Honestly, are a few slices of peperoni really so much more expensive than half a dozen olives?

I chose my own meal from the set menu offered by the restaurant – three courses for £16.95 – because I like the Padano pizza from that menu.  Cue heavy sigh of impatience from the waiter.  Unfortunately for me, I concentrated so hard on making sure the waiter understood our order, I forgot to tell him I didn’t want the spinach that came with my pizza.

We waited a good twenty minutes for our garlic bread and cheese.  It was lukewarm when it was tossed in front of us.  The mozzarella was tasteless and so rubbery I’m sure it would have bounced had I thrown it at the waiter’s head.

By the time our pizzas arrived we had been twiddling our thumbs in the noisy, draughty room for an hour.  If only it had been worth the wait.  The food was not hot, and my Padano pizza was piled high with spinach.  I tried to remove as much as I could, and hubbie willingly ate it while the rude people at the next table eyed us with disgust.  Once the spinach was removed, however, I was disappointed to discover that there was very little of the other toppings on the pizza.  A couple of bits of goats’ cheese and a sparse sprinkling of caramelised onion.  We ate our food, but not with relish.

We ended our meal with chocolate cake and ice cream.  When it eventually came, we discovered that the cake was as cold as the ice cream.  It had obviously just been taken out of the fridge.  A nice touch would have been to microwave it for a few seconds to slightly melt the icing, but actually one serving of cake was devoid of icing anyway.

The toilets in the restaurant are down a set of spiral stairs, where there is also another seating area.  I watched in amazement as the staff made a family with a pushchair struggle down these stairs to their table.  When I descended the stairs I noticed the steps were covered in what looked like sawdust.  On the way up, my nose discovered it was in fact spilled parmesan cheese.  I visited the ladies at the beginning of my visit and at the end (no comments, please) and the cheese was on the stairs both times.

The restaurant lacked ambience, and was a little grubby.  The toilets, however, were the worst I had ever encountered in a restaurant.  There were four cubicles.  One had a blocked toilet.  Another had no toilet roll.  A third did not lock, there was no toilet roll and the seat was actually broken off yet still laid dangerously on the toilet bowl.  Clearly the toilets are not regularly serviced.

We don’t eat out very often, so visits to restaurants are supposed to be a treat.  Our visit to this restaurant was, for me, on a par with camping in the Highlands.  The food, the service and the general surroundings were substandard.  Needless to say, we did not leave a tip.  The lesson for me?  Don’t go out for tea at teatime on a Saturday.  The lesson for Pizza Express?  A busy restaurant is no excuse to let standards slip.

Pizza Express, 151 Queen Street, Glasgow, G1 3BJ.  Website.

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