Tuesday, 18 November 2008
I took the rare opportunity of a day off in Brixton to sample the pizza at Franco Manca. After an in depth article in OFM a couple of months ago, the internet has been awash with chatter about this place. And I felt like it was my duty as a Brixton resident and foodie to see what all the fuss is about.
Foolishly I forgot to take a note of the address, assuming that it must be easy to find. But I found myself walking back and forth along Electric Avenue, dodging the market vendors, trying desperately to find this "hidden gem". It always helps of course if you are actually on the right road. A quick call to 118500 and I was back on track. I was put through to Franco Manca who then guided me into the restaurant which was about 18 yards from where I was standing. The charming chap on the phone even spotted me and came to greet me. Top class service from beginning to end.
Snuggled into the heart of Brixton Market, remember, if you can, that it's Unit 4, Electric Lane. The restaurant bridges both sides of the covered market alleyway which adds a great natural flow to environment. On either side are large pizza ovens that have been hand build over in Naples. They generate a temperature of 500'C which is the key to their sourdough pizzas having such a crispy crust and soft middle. I inspected them with great interest, taking notes for next year's big project where I am planning to build an outdoor earth oven in the garden. Should be epic. If anyone's got any advice, I'd love to hear from you.
I ordered the chorizo pizza which comes with dry and wet sausage from Brindisa. It arrived almost as soon as I had spoken. Given all the hype, I was determined not to be prejudiced and was hoping it would live up to all the noise. And it did. As promised it was gorgeously charred on the outside, with the appearance of tiger bread whilst the mozzarella, tomato and chorizo was perfectly cooked as well. The puffy crust was crisp on the outside and pillowy soft inside. A bit like a savoury, hot macaron!
The chorizo had a lick of char and otherwise was simply irresistible. I was tempted to add pepper and chilli oil but didn't want to tamper with something that had been thought through so clearly. The mozzarella made almost made me giggle as it unwound as I tried to eat it like some sort of practical joke. All this fatty, carby goodness was washed down by a jar of their delicious home made lemonade followed the best espresso I've ever had for £1!
All the ingredients are impeccably sourced with superb credentials. But the crowning glory is the sourdough base that takes 20 hours of careful nurturing before it meets its glorious fate in the super charged ovens.
I was amused when two gentlemen in suits arrived and loudly asked "are you the guys who make the best pizza in London". I felt like I stood out pretty badly in my brown cords and blue v-neck jumper, but I was a chameleon by comparison. It seems that word has spread and that this gem is fast becoming a lot less hidden.
Be warned that Franco Manca is only open on week days from 12-5. My pizza, lemonade and coffee came to well under a tenner.