I love that in the UK there are no Applebees or Macaroni Grills (though there are TGI Fridays of which refuse to step foot in on principle). The UK has its own class of restaurant chains, and in the midst are the highly popular Pizza Express and Zizi, which are essentially the same restaurant with different toppings.
Both Zizzi and Pizza Express would not be nearly as popular as they are without vouchers (or coupons to my American friends). In the recession, the two have been synonymous with the word, and if you enter one with out a 2 for 1 deal, you’ve very much been had. It’s been said, therefore, that no one in London has not been to at least one of the two in the last 6 months. It’s a good business plan.
So when my friend asked if I wanted to grab a bite to eat, I said yes, under the condition that we go cheaply. Zizzi, it was.
We met at the Charlotte Street location, which is just a 5-minute walk from my office. I’ve been here a few times with mixed results. Lasagna, good. Salad, not so good. Pizza, it depends.
Tonight I had the Sofia Pizza – spicy chicken, sausage, pepperoni, green chilies, fresh mozzarella and rosemary. Not being the biggest fan of pepperoni, I swapped it for olives. The pizza itself was just ok. I could see how it might be good if I got it straight out of the oven. Instead, it tasted like it had been waiting around for a while. The chicken and sausage was dry, the fresh mozzarella just more like normal mozzarella, and the crust very difficult to cut through. Even so, the flavours were pleasant, and the rosemary was a nice touch.
But the most amazing thing about my experience at Zizzi was the service. The UK is notoriously bad for restaurant service. Unless you’re at a really high-end restaurant, you can expect to be treated like a nuisance (and even there there are probably far too many exceptions).
Tonight, however, I was completely blown away. Our server apologised for making us wait barely five minutes when we sat down. When I asked for no pepperoni, she actually offered a different ingredient, hence the olives. She came back shortly after we started eating to ask if everything was alright – even the manager did the same! For my American friends, this may not seem like much, but here – and in a chain restaurant – this was nothing short of a miracle.
I’m willing to overlook my tough pizza crust, and give this one a thumbs up. Service with a smile goes a long way.
33 Charlotte Street
Fitzrovia, London, W1T 1RR
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Through the end of June, it’s buy one main, get the second for 10p. Download your voucher here.