Magazine article The Spectator

The Great Pizza Express Scandal

Magazine article The Spectator

The Great Pizza Express Scandal

Article excerpt

WELCOME, everyone, to this first-ever report from Whichever?, a non-subscription-only publication which isn't Which?, as that's really boring and rubbish value for money, because once you've subscribed for 27 years and finally decided on the best-value fridge/freezer, you've bought it 52 times over anyway. Now, at Whichever? we are, on the whole, totally indifferent to value for money and even rather pride ourselves on it. Our motto? Just Buy the Bloody One You Want and Stop Dithering, You Silly Old Moo. But recently I was rather shocked by a visit to Pizza Express. Now, as editor of Whichever? (as well as secretary, typist, janitor, tea-lady, chief time-waster at the water-- cooler and receptionist, for which I always dress nicely, as first impressions are so important when it comes to clients), it takes something quite monstrous to shock me; but this truly did.

Now, it wasn't the restaurant as such. Come on. You've been to Pizza Express, and know the restaurants are amiable enough in their rather bland, corporate, chromed, squiggly logo-ed, we're-retaining-complete-control-of-the-pepper-mill sort of way. And it wasn't the waitress, who seemed utterly charming. And it wasn't the pizza as such either. The pizza seemed very amiable too; and tasted nice enough. The trouble, though, was the size of it. It was titchy. It was the size of a side-plate. It was the size of a very small side-plate. I wanted to say to my pizza, `Carry on at school, do your exams, get some experience, see the world, and come back when you've grown up a bit, there's a good boy.' It was the opposite of hearty. It was unhearty. It was weedy. It was piddly. And it was L7.50. And it only had one-and-a-half anchovies on. Which, ounce for ounce, must put Pizza Express anchovies up there with crack cocaine, if not plutonium. So I said to my partner, `Is it just me, or have the pizzas here got smaller and smaller over the years?' Now, my partner, too, is a very Whichever? sort of person. I am even thinking of putting him on the board and letting him take over on reception while I go for lunch (so long as he puts on a suit - and shaves). But he, too, was rather taken aback. `They do seem absurdly undersized,' he said. And our ten-yearold son, who has the appetite of a horse, if not 12 horses, a buffalo and 42 elephants who haven't eaten since a week last Wednesday? He said, `Can I have another one after this?'

So, have Pizza Express pizzas got smaller over the years? Or have I just got greedier? Is it, even, a complete rip-off? A scam? A national scandal? A disgrace? To this end, I decided to leave the reception unmanned (sorry if you called and there was no one to greet you, but now you understand why) and to embark on a special investigation the like of which we at Whichever? have never done before, probably because we usually can't be arsed with this sort of thing. Whatever, after meeting with our editorial director (who also, coincidentally, happens to be me) I decided to order pizzas from all over the place, weigh them, measure them, count the anchovies, dispatch my partner to do complicated things with something called 'pi' (which is why he couldn't man the reception in my absence) and work out what they all cost ounce for ounce. In all instances I ordered an Italian-based margherita with ham and anchovies. In all instances I ordered the 'medium' size, except in those cases (that is, Pizza Express, La Porcetta, Mauro's) where only one size was available. Here are the results:

Pizza Express: 13oz, gins, L7.50. Anchovies: 1.5. Cost per oz: 57.7p. La Porcetta: 25oz, 13ins, L5.50. Anchovies: 7. Cost per oz: 22p. Pizza Bella: 17oz, loins, L16.55. Anchovies: 6. Cost per oz: 38.5p. Domino's: 19oz, pins, L9.79. Anchovies: 11. Cost per oz: 51.5p. Pizza Max: 16oz, gins, L6.05. Anchovies: 4. Cost per oz: 37.8p. Pizza Hut: 23oz, Bins, L7.89. Anchovies: 9. Cost per oz: 34.3p. Pizza Go Go: 14oz, Bins, L6.55. Anchovies: 5. Cost per oz: 46.8p. Mauro's: 19oz, 14. …

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