Monday, February 08, 2010

Expressing disappointment

This is not just any tagliolini fungi. It's Francesco Mazzei's tagliolini fungi for Pizza Express. I've got a lot of time for Mazzei and his Liverpool Street restaurant, L'Anima. Just after it opened I went with my friend Suz and, although we stuck out like sore and slightly shabby thumbs among the cityish clientele, we were treated with exceedingly good grace. Apart from one oversalted pasta dish, the meal was brilliant, and the chef-patron subsequently proved to be a generous interviewee at the last minute, when he could – and many would – have just told me to bugger off.

Mazzei follows Theo Randall into the guest chef slot at Pizza Express, and at the beginning of February his dishes were launched at a party at the chain's Soho restaurant. Unable to waddle that far, I tried his pasta dish – there are also pizzas and starters – at Pizza Express in Hale over the weekend. Away from the bright lights of Greek Street, it wasn't, frankly, that hot.

There was a decent quota of chunky mushrooms and the promised whiff of truffle, but the portion was exceedingly mean for £9.45, and it had been flashed under the grill, leaving some strands in an advanced state of burny mortis, crisp, black and crunchy. I understand that the launch went well enough, but there are 372 restaurants in the PE chain; the dishes will have been designed for easy and effective roll-out, and if Mazzei was hoping to show off his wares further afield, he's been let down by the fellas in the stripy tops.

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