Versa | Inside the Pizza Express HQ of Oxford’s “elite” dining society

Oxford’s all-male Gridiron Club has exclusive use of a room above Pizza Express at the Golden Cross in the centre of Oxford, the manager has confirmed.

The top-secret HQ

In return for their membership fee, members of the dining society can feast on pizza in peace, without ordinary students or the public. This Pizza Express, located in the Golden Cross Shopping Centre and not otherwise known as a location of elite hedonism, is described on its website as “full of history and character” and “ideal for families and tourists”.

The use of Pizza Express as a base for the club has invited derision from students. Sonia Morland, women’s officer of St John’s Pizza Society, said: “As a self-proclaimed pizza expert, I’m personally very surprised that any society could consider themselves elite whilst being based above the home of mediocre pizza, Pizza Express. Unless they’re getting their kicks from telling waiters their 2-4-1 Orange Wednesdays code whilst dressed in blazers, I’d recommend they relocate to Mamma Mia’s.”

The Club’s private room

David Cameron is a former President of ‘The Grid’, though this was prior to Pizza Express’s opening in 1988. The Prime Minister’s memory lives on in the Club: the wall features a cartoon from The Spectator of the Prime Minister with “BLOODY SMART” written above.

Still dear to their hearts

According to its Wikipedia page, The Club was founded in 1884 at Oxford University and “membership was solely drawn from major public schools…[which] is still largely true”. The magazines on offer in the club’s premises do not remotely indicate this.

Just a bit of light reading

The walls of the Grade II listed restaurant are decorated with pictures of past members of the society.

The 2013 ‘Gridiron Club’ – one of many pictures which adorn the room

Pizza Express has recently included Bollinger Champagne on its menu, a beverage which the members can enjoy with their pizzas from the full ice bucket which was waiting in the room on the day VERSA had access.

Always at the ready

Morland also highlighted ‘The Grid’s’ need for a more inclusive membership policy, saying:”Perhaps they could learn some taste if they invited a few discerning women to their little club.” This comes after the dining society has been criticised for sexism: they recently voted against including women as members, as reported in The Oxford Student.

Pizza Express head office and The Gridiron Club’s Presidents did not reply to VERSA’s request for comment.