PizzaExpress “Living Lab” Restaurant Launch
(Pizza Express, Red Lion Street Richmond, October 20th 2010, review by Tom Green, Photos PizzaExpress)
A collection of mirrored Bose speaker-integrated circles hang at angles from the ceiling. Large white domes float above red leather dining booths where you can adjust your own personal sound and lighting levels. You can even plug in your own iPod. The soulful tones of singer Andreya Triana, the current “go-to girl for leftfield beats producers”, resonate throughout the clean white space, whilst Italian circus chefs parade the floor juggling dough. There’s a buzz here I’ve not felt before in Richmond, let alone in a Pizza restaurant. According to the turquoise suit stood beside me, it’s only the beginning.
What’s most surprising about this newly rejuvenated venue is that it’s still Pizza Express. A typical restaurant refurbishment usually consists of a new colour scheme, a revised menu and maybe the addition of a few works of art. This goes well beyond your average paint job; an observation reflected in the titles of those behind its reincarnation.
In the choice words of Karl James, the ‘Conversational Expert’ behind the controversial staff training –a method centred on the fine art of flirting – the new Pizza Express is all about “everyone having a fucking good time when they come out.” The staff are indeed more attentive and charming, and thanks to the contribution of Sergio Luzzi – University of Florence’s ‘Professor of Acoustics’ no less – you no longer have to shout over your Sloppy Giuseppe to have a chat.
Without compromising the authenticity and integrity that has defined this restaurant chain since its Soho conception in 1965, what’s been achieved here is quite unique. Richmond is now the proud owner of Pizza Express’ ‘living lab’; an ever-evolving blueprint for the restaurant’s future development. If those at the helm of this project succeed in maintaining the energy of a live music environment, whilst upholding excellent standards of service and food, I’ll be returning regularly. I mean, where else can you watch a live band with a cold glass of Prosecco and a side of dough balls and nutella?