Could the revamped Pizza Hut finally be a serious rival to its more upper-crust competitors?

Pizza Hut, Kensington, 2 Kensington Church Street, London W8, tel: 020 376 1800

Hut. It's not a very nice word, is it? It brings to mind something ramshackle, without proper cooking facilities and quite possibly with a leaking roof. It's not ideal as a name for a restaurant... But somebody, somewhere, named their prospective chain Pizza Hut. And now, 51 years and 34,000 restaurants later, the name has passed into the language – so much so that a new advertising campaign shows a tempting crisp, fresh pizza with just the word "Hut?" on it.

That is what my son says when I ask him if he fancies a summer-holiday treat of a meal out at the Hut. "Hut?" he says in an unconvinced tone. "Why not Express?" And therein lies the problem with Pizza Hut – it's been overtaken in terms of fun and quality by other chains. But the look of that new pizza has piqued my interest, and I want to see whether the Hut can regain some kudos.

Since my son passes, I take eight intrepid co-workers to give the new menu a good working over. We have a vegetarian, a junk-food junkie, a visiting French student and several cuisine connoisseurs to accommodate – let's see how the Hut handles us.

It's easy to be sniffy – the menu has such classic comments as "Our mozzarella cheese comes from British cows" and "Rules of the Hut: talk while you eat". But even though the garlic ciabatta resembles a standard bread roll, and that mozzarella comes out of a box marked "with added starch" (something we spotted out the back on delivery day), there's plenty of choice for hungry lunchers . There's no shortage of those lunchers either – from Kensington office folk working the £7.99 set lunch to backpack-toting tourists looking to refuel.

For £6.99, the Everything Buffet is a greedy eater's dream. Two pasta choices, an endlessly replenished array of thick- and thin-crust pizza and a surprisingly perky salad selection. There is "proper" hummus, cherry tomatoes, Greek salad, balsamic dressing – all the things my salad aficionado friends expected not to find. "Better than I remember" seems to be the consensus.

Quantity is one thing; what about quality? I want to see how the Hut compares with Express and others when it comes to the crunch. The mozzarella and tomato salad (£3.79) tastes... OK. There's fresh basil on it, and the cheese, British and starchy as it may be, is soft, without that industrial squeakiness some mozzarella has.

I follow it with a Tuscani pizza, the chain's newest, thinnest, crispest offering and the one that's starring in that ad campaign. From a choice including Carne Amanti (meat lovers in old money), Pollo Portobello, Caprino and Verde (with asparagus, spinach and peas, no less) I opt for Prosciutto and Rocket (£9.49). At the risk of being sniffy (again), I do wish restaurants would either educate their staff in what they're offering (enabling them to describe and, importantly, pronounce their own menu) or call the food something easier. Our waitress struggles with carne and prosciutto before giving up, muttering, "Sorry, I can't say those names."

So, the famed Tuscani. It comes on a large black board that makes slicing the 30cm or so diameter pizza easy, but I find eating off black slightly offputting. It's certainly thin and crisp, and the prosciutto and rocket are both fresh and packed with flavour. What is unforgivable is a sickly sweet passata that overpowers everything above and below it. A waitress brings a proper giant pepper grinder (haven't seen one of those since the 1980s) so that I can get some other flavour going, but it can't fight the red goo.

Others fare better with a Hawaiian (no accounting for taste) and a Hot'n'Spicy – although at £4.99 each, they looked good value until they arrived, side-plate sized. That buffet seems a better and better idea.

We polish things off by sharing a trio of cheesecake slices (sweet), profiteroles (very sweet) and Hot Cookie Dough (so sweet we can feel the enamel on our teeth dissolving, though it's voted top pud).

We waddle back to work full but not entirely satisfied and on a major sugar high. Pizza Hut is stuck in that middle ground between the high-volume, ever-churning world of fast food and the more relaxed, discerning restaurants it hopes to emulate with the newer menu items.

Perhaps the best news for the Hut I can offer is that I'd take my kids there – even if I'd have to talk them into it.

12/20

Scores: 1-9 stay home and cook, 10-11 needs help, 12 ok, 13 pleasant enough, 14 good, 15 very good, 16 capable of greatness, 17 special, can't wait to go back, 18 highly honourable, 19 unique and memorable, 20 as good as it gets

Pizza Hut, Kensington, 2 Kensington Church Street, London W8, tel: 020 376 1800. Open from 11.30am-11pm daily. Price for nine, including soft drinks, £120

Second helpings: Authentic pizzerias

Franco Manca

4 Market Row, London SW9, tel: 020 7738 3021

A new wood-burning stove, imported from Naples, advertises the seriousness of intent at the atmospheric Brixton Market site that was formerly Eco (RIP); fans claim it offers the best pizza outside Italy

Pizza Margherita

2 Moor Lane, Lancaster, tel: 01524 36333

Still good, after nearly 30 years, this welcome oasis, owned by the sister of Pizza Express's founder, still specialises in top-rate pizza

Sarti

121 Bath Street, Glasgow, tel: 0141 204 0440

A genuine family-owned Italian, in the city-centre, famed for its excellent pizzas and its lively atmosphere

Reviews extracted from 'Harden's London and UK Restaurant Guides 2009'

Life and Style
tech

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again say analysts

News
A Brazilian wandering spider
news

World's most lethal spider found under a bunch of bananas

Life and Style
fashion

British supermodel and hitmaker join forces to launch a 'huge song'

News
news

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge announce they are set to welcome second child in spring

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Life and Style
gaming

I Am Bread could actually a challenging and nuanced title

Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in the win over QPR
footballInternet reacts to miss shocker for Liverpool striker
News
news

Footage shot by a passerby shows moment an ill man was carried out of his burning home

Voices
Sol Campbell near his home in Chelsea
voices
News
i100
News
Kimi the fox cub
newsBurberry under fire from animal rights group - and their star, Kimi
Sport
Fans of Palmeiras looks dejected during the match between Palmeiras and Santos
footballPalmeiras fan killed trying to 'ambush' bus full of opposition supporters
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
filmsIt's nearly a wrap on Star Wars: Episode 7, producer reveals
News
i100
Travel
travel

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    SCRUM Master

    £30 - 50k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a SCRUM Master to joi...

    Franchise Support Assistant

    £13,520: Recruitment Genius: As this role can be customer facing at times, the...

    Financial Controller

    £50000 - £60000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: A successful entertainment, even...

    Direct Marketing Executive - Offline - SW London

    £25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A fantastic opportunity h...

    Day In a Page

    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
    Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

    How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

    'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

    Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

    Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
    Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

    Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

    After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
    Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

    Terry Venables column

    Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
    The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

    Michael Calvin's Inside Word

    Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past