Social mobility is the thing. These days, we British like to imagine we’ve left the chains of class behind us, but of course, a faint rattling can still be heard. And sometimes not so faint. Take that ubiquitous eating out experience: pizza.
You might imagine that the lowest common denominator for a sit-down pizza experience in Newport would be Pizza Hut, at Coppins Bridge. With its brash, lively styling; upbeat music and all-you-can eat offerings, this is accessible pizza for the masses. But perhaps when you’ve dined there for a while you’ll yearn for something a little classier. Maybe the forest of bobbing branded balloons and the delight of endless Pepsi refills are no longer enough. If so, it’s time to walk up the hill to Pizza Express. There you’ll find cool jazz, potted plants and wooden floors. You might have to wait a bit longer for your pizza to be made by the daftly-named pizzaioli, but you will feel comforted by the gushingly middle-class menu, full of artisan wotsits and aspirational Italian lifestyle cliches. But what when that too begins to fade? At Pizza Express the kids’ parties have the pretence of being educational and the names of the children are easier to spell, but it’s still not quite you, is it? You see the beautiful people walking by, and not coming in. Where do they get their pizza? It’s not far. Just around the corner, in fact.
The top of the pizza tree in Newport is Olivo. Here you can squeeze into the characterful little shop alongside the cream of the Island’s county town. Real European staff converse with each other in strange tongues and serve up all sorts of delights. You’ve reached the town’s pinnacle of pizza excellence. And yet, and yet even this will pall. The exquisite truffle oil, the Parmesan grated at your table, the exotic and the artisan – these pleasures you cherish but in the back of your mind there remains a still, small voice whispering the irresistible words “cheese stuffed crust”.
And so back down to the tin shed by the river went Matt and Cat, down to Pizza Hut. Greeted and seated by the politest of young waiting staff, they started their meal with unlimited salad. That’s right, unlimited. And by ‘salad’, they actually mean lots of carbohydrates, gloopy sauces, and a smattering of salad greens for propriety’s sake. And hey, free bacon sprinkles – it’s vegetarian bacon too. Pizza Hut veterans may recall that the salad bar could end up looking like a war zone, but when M&C visited it was regularly cleaned and replenished.
Meal deal, two courses plus unlimited salad and drinks £13.99
Heavenly Veg pizza £10.25
Unlimited drinks £2.55
Salted caramel cookie dough £4.55
Matt and Cat ate moist, but not oily, pizzas served very quickly by lively and cheerful staff. Matt was particularly delighted with his Philadelphia cheesesteak pizza. Guess what was on it? Cheese and steak. No need for a stripey-shirted pizzaiolo to explain that; although M&C’s server did confide engagingly about some of her favourites from the menu.
Cat’s Heavenly Veg pizza was adorned with a tangle of peppery rocket plus red onion. With its spongy and satisfying deep-pan base and generous discs of goats cheese it was the kind of vegetarian food that comes without self-flagellation.
Dessert was flavour de jour: salted caramel. And in Pizza Hut it is a flat patty of cookie dough, natch. You’d think that if you bake cookie dough, it might become a cookie. But no; it becomes a soft, hot, but incredibly sweet delight which needed to be tempered with every ounce of ice cream that was loaded onto it. An unexpectedly stylish, confident dish that in another context wouldn’t have been a disgrace to a fine restaurant.
That’s the thing about Pizza Hut. It’s dressed up as a kids’ sugar-rush hallucination for the style-blind. But look past that. The Pizza Hut people are excellent hosts and there is some decent food to be had. What’s more you won’t be out of pocket, and you most certainly won’t be walking out of there hungry. Half of Cat’s goats cheese pizza was boxed up and eaten for lunch the next day.
This is the full-length version of the review that appeared in the Isle of Wight County Press.
- Extremely friendly and efficient waiting staff
- Tasty food, quickly served
- Look out for seasonal offers
- Can be busy at times due to proximity to Cineworld
- Salad bar is occasionally depleted - but not for long
- Be prepared to join in with a round of 'Happy Birthday to You'