I suppose the food at Pizza Express ought to be the same wherever you go, countrywide – which as far as I’m concerned is a good thing, since I’m a big fan of their pizzas. However, the company is creative when it comes to choosing venues, which gives each eatery a streak of originality too.
Apropos of this, I have to put in a special word for the branch of Pizza Express on Jesus Lane, Cambridge. The restaurant occupies the ground floor of a Grade II listed neoclassical building, originally constructed as a Victorian Turkish bath in 1862. You can read more about the building’s past incarnation – and Victorian Turkish baths in general – on Malcolm Shifrin’s fascinating website here.
As you can see from the photograph, it would be quite possible to walk past without noticing that it’s a Pizza Express at all. Inside, the rooms on offer give a real sense of occasion. There’s a choice of a wood-panelled library – all dark corners with flickering candles in the evening – and a vibrant, conservatory-style room with roof lights and large mirrors. The restaurant also has a grand piano in the foyer/bar area, where musicians entertain two nights a week. If you’re not already familiar with the menu and online booking system, you can click here for details. I continue to be impressed by the reasonable prices (around £9 average for a classic pizza) and the service I’ve had at Jesus Lane has always been friendly and efficient, too.
The building is owned by the University Pitt Club which still occupies the first floor. I keep reading articles that claim the scurrilous rumours about the club are untrue, but I’m prepared to overlook this.