Pizza Hut, Newport
Pizza Hut is a brand which, here on the Island, has a history of not being particularly good - and this tradition has been carried on pretty enthusiastically for some years.
The last time Matt and Cat ate at Pizza Hut Newport, back in 2005, they were shown to a table with a dead fly on it. Their original 2005 review was succinctly damning, saying amongst many other criticisms "The meat on the pizza is not dissimilar to Friskies". But late in 2011 word went round that there was a new broom sweeping through Newport's moribund Pizza Hut. Perhaps, seven years after their dreadful experience, it was time for Matt and Cat to cross the gaudy threshold once more and see if the ghost of that most notorious dipteran debris could be laid to rest?
Pizza Hut is situated inside what must be the favourite to win the close-fought contest for the Island's ugliest building - squaring up to previous title-holder, nearby County Hall. It's also conveniently located underneath Cineworld, which is where some of the Island's foulest, noisiest and most expensive food is served to eager cinema-goers. Rather than buy polystyrene popcorn and synthetic-cheese nachos, would-be Cineworld customers can head downstairs to the doors of Pizza Hut in search of something better: and canny diners might time their meal according to the cinema schedule and avoid the throng.
On the evening Matt and Cat visited, the restaurant was busy with a range of customers, and surprisingly the bedlam of yelling fidgety kids and frantic gangsta rap which they'd previously experienced had been replaced by a calm and cheerful atmosphere. Gone were the slouching and tardy waiting staff: gentle music played as a courteous chap greeted his guests at the door and found them a table to their liking. "Your waitress tonight will be Keira", he said slickly, sliding menus in front of the diners before the chirpy waitress in question rolled up right on cue and took drinks orders.
The Pizza Hut menu, as is often the way in franchises, is an experience in itself. Pages and pages of deals and information; exhortations to add stuff in, take stuff out, and goodness knows what else. In the plethora of dish options and primary colours Matt and Cat may have missed a few bits out - and they didn't even start on the ranks of offer cards on the table. This data download was deftly dealt with by Pizza Hut's graphic designers - something other venues may want to consider as an alternative to smudgy and confusing bills of fare adorned with clipart.
Notwithstanding, they both found something they liked the look of. Pizza Hut has adroitly addressed the dichotomy in the pizza market. Some like the big, filling, brightly-coloured and strong-flavoured pizza typical of, say, Domino's. Others prefer a smaller, subtler pizza, perhaps with some interesting tastes and textures in it - more like the kind of thing you find at Pizza Express. At Pizza Hut, the pizza section is cannily divided into 'Posh' and 'Classic' sections, thus delivering both of these. The posh pizzas feature offerings such as "Heavenly Veg" and "Posh Prosciutto". Matt and Cat decided that this part of the menu was definitely aimed at the ladies. Overleaf was 'classic' Pizza Hut pizza - massive doughy discs piled high with meat and cheese. One for the lads, maybe? Stereotypes to the fore, when Keira returned Matt and Cat ordered as you'd expect. Posh Cat had Portabello Blue - blue cheese and mozzarella on a light, creamy base with sliced Portobello mushrooms and finished with a sweet balsamic drizzle. Classic Matt picked a large Cheesy Bites™ farmhouse classic with sliced ham, bacon and mushrooms.
Both dinners, as with all main meals here, came with a free unlimited side salad - you could just go and fill up as often as you like. This seemed almost too good to be true, so M&C went up to the salad bar to try their luck. It was true. As much salad as you can eat. The only problem seemed to be that what Pizza Hut called salad would be what most of us might call hi-carbohydrate stodge. A vat of iceberg shreds, some token chunks of cucumber, plus a few tomatoes, peppers and sweetcorn kernels made up the green salad items. The rest - of which there was plenty - was pasta, potato, couscous, coleslaw, spaghetti (yes, cold spaghetti) and the like, mostly pre-lubricated with slatherings of sauce and, if your salad felt under-dressed, you could add some more. A great feature if you want to fuel up a hungry family, but perhaps a missed opportunity for some real tasty fresh green salads. In the spectrum of posh vs. classic; the salad was definitely 'classic'.
Regular posh portabello pizza £9.75
Large cheesy bites farmhouse pizza £15.50
Apple juice £1.95
Unlimited Pepsi £2.25
Coffee 2 @ £1.75
Back at the table, the salad soon made way for the pizzas. Cat's posh pizza looked and tasted unexpectedly classy. The thin base was topped with a creamy bechamel sauce, and some nicely tangy blue cheese. Freshly-applied balsamic reduction cut through the rich cheese and made for a stimulating and enjoyable taste combination. Matt's monster cheese-stuffed experience was just as he'd hoped. The pizza crust was transformed by some Pizza Hut magic into a ring of little cheese-stuffed doughballs. It surrounded a very generous pile of meat - actual bits of real ham and stuff that tasted like smoked bacon. A far cry from the erstwhile 'catfood' meat experience that Matt and Cat had so brutally condemned back in 2005. Cat deftly swapped a slice of her posh pizza for Matt's heavy-duty stuffed crust dinner and had to agree. Matt found his pizza to be good and plentiful - so much so, in fact, that like Cat he only managed half of it, and was able to take the other half home in a box.
So Pizza Hut clawed its way back with an unexpectedly favourable showing. It's never going to be the venue for an intimate evening of haute cuisine, but it's certainly not the bearpit it once was. Service was, if anything, almost over-attentive. It's possible that M&C outed themselves later on with an indiscreet tweet, as at the end of the meal sunny Kiera was relegated in favour of the venue's manager who, crouching earnestly at their tableside, explained his Augean task. He seems to be winning as, not only was the service friendly but it was fast. Yes, fast. Are you listening, Pizza Express? You should be. Matt and Cat were only referred to as 'guys' twice, which is a pleasingly low 'guys' quotient for any pizza venue. The menu had something for everyone in quite a clever way, and the food was satisfying, plus with the unlimited salad and unlimited drinks, you most certainly will not go away hungry or thirsty. Matt and Cat paid fairly well for their meal - at £32.95 this wasn't cheap, but it did include coffee, and of course an entire tasty meal of cold pizza for both of them the next day. Recommended.
6 comments (newest first)
When have you ever seen anyone in a farmhouse produce an enormous meaty cheesy-doughball-encrusted pizza?
Matt responds: not often enough.
What £15.50 ! , For a Hut pizza ? .It must have been bloody huge to justify that price , No thank you …………
Hi I work at pizza hut and happened to make your pizzas I looked at your comments at how good the pizzas are so why did they come back with a complaint?
Matt and Cat respond: We can easily explain that. You are mistaken. We neither sent any back nor complained.
It’s a Tweetup! Right here, on Matt and Cat’s website!
Had a very reasonable pizza, unlimited salad AND unlimited tango at Pizza Hut, Portsmouth for 7 quid. It was packed but service was quick and really friendly. I’d go back.
I wonder if the take-away service is also now improved. We swore never to go there again after a 90 minute wait one evening when I gave up, demanded a refund and went to KFC.
I tend to avoid pizza hut as it always, without exception, means a very uncomfortable evening of “tummy trouble” for me. Not something that I get from any other pizza places, including the various kebab shop pizzas I partake in.
If you want to see complicated menus, try the Domino’s web site, maybe your next pizza review?