I’m quivering as I put pen to paper on this issue. I’m very much aware that there are two things that the collective London dining psyche monitor very carefully: free food and pizza. I’m not even going to attempt to envisage the level of public excitement a combination of the two would produce. Probably something between the riots of 2011 and La Tomatina festival in the usually restrained Valencian town of Buñol – except with water cannons splurging out a rich tomato sauce in a vain attempt to calm the din.
I’m also aware of the caveats attached to having a pair of meatballs substantial enough to raise one’s colours, declaring what one believes really constitute the upper crust of the fiercely competitive pizza establishments in the capital. Every man, woman (and probably dog too) has a staunchly robust view on what is the “best” and will seldom be convinced otherwise. This is a dangerous article to write. I’m beginning to empathise with Salman Rushdie; I am definitely about to face a healthy amount of wrath for the contents of this text.
So, before I enter witness protection, here are five of what I believe are varied, unique, and unmissable pizza-based experiences. Bear in mind, there are still a few I need to visit. L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele in Stoke Newington is next on my list – unless I’m barred in advance as a result of the following.
135 Wardour Street, Soho
One fact here to begin with is difficult to contest: Alan Yau knows how to do a restaurant. I’m yet to find one which even narrowly dips its toes into the pool of mediocrity. You have him to thank for the likes of Wagamama in the past, and more recently Hakkasan, Busaba, Yauatcha, Park Chinois, and the fabulous Chinese pub concept The Duck & Rice, just to name a few. Naturally therefore his ability to produce a pizza is no half-hearted attempt. For just over a fiver you can bag a twelve-year culture sourdough slice of pizza heaven. I tend to go for a simple margherita – you won’t be disappointed. Being an all day Italian cafe, the selection of sweet treats is unavoidable too.
Various sites – national
Now here’s a contender you will be familiar with. Franco Manca are spinning their dough all over London and beyond these days. Critics are often swift to turn up noses at chain enterprises. In some cases, the obvious fears can be realised. Not in this case. A concise list of pizzas, coupled with seasonal specials chalked-up on the wall give the diner oodles of choice. Washed down with a decently-priced biodynamic wine from the carte du vin, it creates a recipe for success – and they are reaping the rewards. There’s probably already one on your doorstep. Go – now.
Rufus Pucci Pizza
1 Cale St, Chelsea
When it comes to London’s gastronomic institutions, Pucci Pizza would score undoubtedly the highest ranking on the lists of the Chelsea collective. From earning its pedigree on the King’s Road over many years, the new restaurant resides on the comparatively tranquil Chelsea Green and under the management of the next generation in the form of the ever-effervescent son, Rufus. This definition of a true neighbourhood dining room remains respectful of its roots: a robust Italian menu, warm, friendly service (most likely Rufus himself) and a genuine window into the real Chelsea neighbourhood which keeps the locals flooding back again and again. If the pizza isn’t enough for you, the restaurant is supplied by one of the best fishmongers in town (a few doors down) and the fish is not to be missed. Tatler described the calamari starter “to die for”. They’re absolutely right – but the prawns are too.
94 Waterford Road, Fulham
At last! A restaurant on the section of the New King’s Road to offer an edible oasis amongst the myriad chandelier shops, and stores full to the brim with high end bath tubs with the feet on them. Don’t get me wrong – I do love gormlessly staring into these gleaming, ethereal boutique shopfronts as much as the next man. However, I feel they mock me as they are completely and utterly surplus to my requirements until I reach my fifties and/or become suitably wealthy to afford such bourgeois extravagances.
Now, comrades, back to the issue in hand. With Santa Maria already established as the destination for pizza pilgrimages (they didn’t make the list, alas) in Ealing, there were high hopes amongst the discerning diners of Chelsea & Fulham when they opened in 2016. Their mission was to bring unabashed Neapolitan fare to Fulham – and they really have. Light, fluffy, well seasoned dough, stone-baked to perfection in the wood-fired oven with a range of dough-adorning options from mashed potato to devilish nduja – there really is something for everyone on the menu card which offers substantially more choices than its competitors – and that goes for the starters and salads also. It offers the whole Neapolitan restaurant package. If you get carried away, there are plenty of beds in the nearby facility to take the load off for a while.
Seven Dials, Fitzrovia & Shoreditch
It’s not often you find a game-changer in an industry such as pizza. After all, it’s a craft which has been perfected over centuries, relies on linear concepts and techniques, and doesn’t need to bring much more to the table than perfecting the best of what is already available, right?
Wrong. Homeslice have a “go big or go home” attitude to their offerings. Not just in size – where you have a choice of twenty-inch or twenty-inch, but in the flavour concepts also. My first visit had me salivating over goat shoulder, savoy cabbage and sumac yogurt. With other options such as oxtail & watercress with horseradish and sorrel cream, or wild venison with kale onions and dukkah, you’re bound to find something truly original and loaded with flavour. Of course, being nearly two feet wide, it’s perfect for sharing with a combination of two choices – unless you’re some kind of obscene pizza eating machine.
We love Homeslice so much we popped in for an interview a little while back.
Homeslice photo by Charlie McKay