‘Perfect’ dough balls and local musicians live at PizzaExpress Liverpool ONE

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Our verdict on the popular pizza joint and their Live Summer Sessions.

You may know PizzaExpress as a popular pizzeria, but did you know it is also the home of live music, featuring the likes of Van Morrison and Amy Winehouse?

Hosting over 1,500 shows per year, PizzaExpress’ founder, Peter Boizot, sought ways to include music in his restaurants and the flagship venue in London has hosted internationally acclaimed artists since its first ticketed performances in May 1976. 

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Now, live shows are taking place at more venues across the country, with a series of al fresco performances celebrating Britain’s musical talent, in support of music therapy charity, Nordoff and Robbins.

A lover of good music, and someone who can never say no to pizza, I headed down to the LiverpoolONE branch to experience PizzaExpress in a way I never have before.

Live Summer Sessions:

PizzaExpress’ Live Summer Sessions took place in Liverpool, from July 20 to 23, and I visited the restaurant on Saturday (July 22). In typical British fashion, it was pouring down, so the performances were hosted indoors - rather than being al fresco - however, they were enjoyable nonetheless.

Myself and my dining partner were seated right next to the (very beautifully set up) stage, providing an excellent view of the local bands and artists. Throughout our meal, we enjoyed original songs from a local band and a solo artist, who each performed 40-minute set. I absolutely love live music, and it was played at the perfect volume - not too quiet but not so loud you can’t hear yourself think.

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The performances were definitely a hit, with a group of little girls deciding to come right up close to the stage and dance their hearts out.

And, what makes it even better is that the performances were for charity, with diners being handed a QR code allowing them to donate to the UK’s largest music therapy charity, Nordoff and Robbins, if they wished to do so.

PizzaExpress Live Summer Sessions. Photo by Emma Dukes.PizzaExpress Live Summer Sessions. Photo by Emma Dukes.
PizzaExpress Live Summer Sessions. Photo by Emma Dukes. | Emma Dukes

The food: I’m usually an independent restaurant kind of girl, but I have always said PizzaExpress is one of the best places for vegan pizza. Even going back years ago when veganism wasn’t as popular, I could always count on PizzaExpress’ Vegan Giardiniera and I still absolutely love it.

To start, myself and my dining companion both got dough balls, because honestly, who goes for pizza and doesn’t get dough balls? I opted for the Vegan Dough Balls, which come with a delicious plant-based garlic butter, and my companion went for the Dough Balls Al Forno, which are oven-baked with a trio of melted cheeses - mozzarella, cheddar and gran milano.

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Vegan Dough Balls.Vegan Dough Balls.
Vegan Dough Balls. | Emma Dukes

My dining partner rated his choice a solid 8.5 out 10 and said it reminded him of a really good cheese on toast, but, the vegan option was the winner for both of us. The garlic butter was excellent and they were just perfect.

Dough Balls Al Forno.Dough Balls Al Forno.
Dough Balls Al Forno. | Emma Dukes

For the mains, I of course got the Classic Vegan Giardiniera which comes with artichoke, mushrooms, red onion, black olives, tomato, vegan mozzarella alternative, garlic oil and parsley. I rarely finish a full pizza but I ate the whole thing and it is still just as good as it was years ago. My pizza preferences aren’t for everyone, but if it’s topped with olives and artichoke, I’m pretty much guaranteed to love it - can you tell I also like pineapple on pizza?

Vegan Giardiniera Vegan Giardiniera
Vegan Giardiniera | Emma Dukes

My dining companion opted for the Calabrese pizza, featuring sausage, ‘nduja, roasted peppers, red chilli, tomato, buffalo mozzarella, rocket, basil and pine kernel pesto and gran milano cheese. He too added black olives. Again, he rated his pizza a very respectable 8.5 out of 10 and finished the whole thing.

Calabrese pizzaCalabrese pizza
Calabrese pizza | Emma Dukes

To drink, I chose Pornstar Martinis, my alcoholic drink of choice other than Espresso Martinis. And, honestly, they were the best I’ve had in a long time. I could really taste the vanilla in there and I might even go as far as saying they were the best Pornstar Martinis I’ve ever had.

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My dining companion had the Mean Time Pizza Pale, and enjoyed it so much he said he’d buy it elsewhere if he could.

Pornstar Martini.Pornstar Martini.
Pornstar Martini. | Emma Dukes

Our overall experience was great, with lovely live music, an excellent server and delicious food. Although the Live Summer Sessions in Liverpool are now finished, they are still taking place at other PizzaExpress venues and hopefully we’ll see more live music here soon!

Other PizzaExpress Live Summer Sessions locations:

  • July 27-30 – Leeds, PizzaExpress Dock 
  • August 3-6 – London, PizzaExpress Kings Road 
  • August 10-13 – Cardiff, PizzaExpress Mermaid Quay 
  • August 17-20 – Brighton, PizzaExpress Jubilee  

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