Pizza Express for birthday parties

Wednesday, 21 May 2014
This is post 150 since I started this blog.  In a few weeks, it'll be a year since I jumpstarted it into action again.  I haven't quite decided how to mark it yet but in the mean time, here's a post about D's birthday party for you.

We deliberated a bit on what to do for D's birthday party this year.  He missed out last year as I never really got anything organised for him - the whole year was a bit weird because of the  desmoid diagnosis just before it started and the resulting fallout.

This year I knew he would be more aware and as this year just generally feels a lot more positive, it was a better year to organise something.

So, what do you organise for a four year old?  We thought about an entertainer and a hall somewhere as it was popular with some of his pre-school friends.  We thought about a soft play party - but we did that for his second birthday.  Then somehow I landed on Pizza Express.  D has been a fan of pizza making since he was quite small - it was a bit of a monthly tradition for a while.  He loves Pizza Express - so do I.

We had a little bit of a wobble over numbers, worried that when we invited ten we might not have the required eight but generally, all was quite exciting.  D was telling anyone who would listen FOR WEEKS that he was going to be having this party and listing off the people that would be coming.

When I called to book the party, the manager did point out that four is a little young - it's at the bottom end of their age range - but I was fairly sure that all would be okay - at that age, parents tend to stay and help - and they've all been in preschool since September so were well versed in following instructions.

When we arrived it was a little bit quiet.  Ten on a Sunday morning isn't the busiest time of the week unsurprisingly... squash and water was already available on the tables for children and there were balloons and chef hats for all.

We furnished the parents with drinks and the children with activity packs.  We had one slightly late guest and so the boys decided to keep an eye out for him.  Note how little D is in this picture - although he's had a growth spurt recently, he's nearly a head shorter than most of his contemporaries.

We decided to start the dough balls without the last guest, in the hope that he would arrive and enjoy the starters as the children were beginning to get a bit restless.  At this point, there was a little bit of dead time when I wasn't entirely sure what was happening but it all came good when eight of these little plates arrived.

This was just the right time really - for most children this hit at about snack time (half ten) and most plates were well attacked - with a few not really attempting the salad but most enjoying the dough balls.  This was a cover bit of organisation too - a friend pointed out that this would stop them eating the toppings when pizza creating!

As soon as the dough balls were done, the table was set up for pizza making.  This was set up on an adjacent table to allow for a smooth transition from one activity to the next.  

Charlotte, the waitress running the party, was really rather good.  She clearly explained to the children what to do - pinching the dough around the edges of the pizza pan and then shaking the passata over the top.  

Here's a great photo of C, one of D's oldest friends - well they've known one another since very little anyway even if she is six weeks younger - receiving her passata.

A good bit of shaking later and the passata is covering most of the base.  Charlotte checked that all of the pizzas were properly topped.  Then it was off to the kitchen to choose the toppings and many had the large pizza oven pointed out to them.  Most of the children chose three toppings - ham, pepperoni and cheese were popular.  D went with pepperoni, cheese and red peppers.  The pizza below was from one of the other party goers: - 

The children then got to top their pizzas, often with a bit of 'help' from parents who made sure that they were evenly distributed.  The organisation here for the pizzas was excellent.  All of the children had a chef's hat with a number on that they had to remember.  There was a certain amount of achievement in remembering what number they had and seeing their pizzas ready.  

Here's D (who was number 1) with his pizza.  He had 2/3 of it and had the rest of it for tea!  

My only niggle with the whole party experience would probably be at this point, just before the pizzas came out.  All of the children were reasonably engaged with decorating their chef hats but this was a suggestion on my part - there wasn't really anything for them to do at this point.  A group of four year olds not having a lot to do for fifteen minutes isn't brilliant.  We gave some of them the little colouring books from the party bags to keep them entertained too.  I have seen suggestions on other places that maybe taking a pass the parcel or something else would be a good idea - although there was no obvious source of music to be able to do so.

Anyway, it's a minor niggle on a good day otherwise.  All of the children ate a lot of their pizzas and parents helped.  We also provided a few pizzas for hungry parents.  Mr K gleefully pointed out that ordering more vegetarian than meat pizzas meant that the meat pizzas disappeared really quickly and the veggie ones were left until the end... 

After this, it was time for birthday cakes (we got this one from Asda - I PROMISE that I'll make one next year) and then little ice-cream sundaes with chocolate or toffee sauce.  A few of the children really couldn't manage these.  It's a good thing that there were some parents on hand... 

Pizza boxes (numbered up with the number from before) were provided for children to take away the remainder of their creations, we handed out party bags and cake and balloons were taken.  

We overran by about twenty minutes, meaning the party ran from about 10-12.20.  In total, the party came to about £160.  Given that we had three courses and pizza making for eight kids, two lots of garlic bread, three pizzas and a collection of drinks for the adults, I'd say that's pretty good value.  

I'd go again.  Thanks to Pizza Express St Mary Butts for making it such a great experience for D.  It's one that I know he'll remember.  The manager made sure to check in that all had run smoothly and that we were happy with the experience and we really were.  So much so that we just might do it again next year.  

I wonder just what D will be into next year!  

Disclaimer: - I didn't receive any compensation for this post - we just had a great time and I wanted to share!  

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