I’ve had a bit of a thing about sourdough pizzas since discovering Streatza early last year, they blew me away with the quality of their product despite working from the back of a 1969 Citroen van. Since then i’ve also enjoyed several amazing pizzas from Honest Crust who are somehow even better. Both are street food vendors though as unfortunately it seems nobody in Manchester is able to offer decent pizza in a restaurant. I’d heard that wasn’t the case in London so on a recent trip set out to find the best sourdough based pizza in the capital.
A combination of research and recommendations led me to a shortlist of three; Pizza Pilgrims, Pizza Union and Franco Manca. Eventually deciding on the latter, primarily due to the convenient location of one of their nine restaurants but also because I’d eaten a Pizza Pilgrims pizza the previous night at awesome street food event Street Feast LDN (review coming soon). Their Tottenham Court Road branch is just a short walk away from Euston Station.
Franco Manca are yet another of those ‘no reservations’ places so I worried about getting a table, I needn’t have. Although it was quite early on a Sunday afternoon the restaurant was much quieter than I expected. Inside is casual and relaxed but looks quite smart too with exposed brick walls and marble table tops. The large open kitchen is an impressive centrepiece, we took our seats with a nice view of the kitchen.
The menu is small and simple with a choice of just 6 pizzas, although additional toppings are available. I went for option 4; Gloucester Old Spot Ham (home cured), Mozzarella, Buffalo Ricotta & Wild Mushrooms. First impressions were excellent, it looked exactly like my kind of pizza. And it tasted pretty good too, the flavour of tomato from the sauce was deep and vibrant while the ham and cheeses were obviously high quality. The highlight for me though were the variety of little wild mushrooms which were really tasty.
The downside was the base, whilst the crusts were cooked perfectly I felt the bottom was too thick, undercooked and as a result rather doughy. Such a shame as otherwise it would’ve been a great pizza and the base is clearly something that Franco Manca pride themselves on.
Proving that mine wasn’t an exception, Mrs FG’s number 3 ‘Courgette, Basil, Mozzarella, Ricotta & Pecorino’ suffered the same thick, doughy base. We didn’t like the rest of this one as much either. Personally I wouldn’t have chosen a three cheese pizza and did feel it was too cheesy. The ricotta was spread on the base instead of tomato which I wasn’t impressed with. The courgette were really good though.
Although I was a little underwhelmed by my pizza I was very happy with my choice of drink. The No Logo Pale Ale, craft brewed in the Cotswolds was fantastic and a bargain at just £3.20. If only more restaurants in London and Manchester too for than matter would follow this example rather than stocking the same old overpriced ‘craft’ beers. Unfortunately Mrs FG came off worse again as her ‘Organic Lemonade’ wasn’t at all what we were expecting and tasted a little weird.
Overall Franco Manca didn’t live up to my high expectations, though it was always going to be difficult after eating the best pizza i’ve had for years the previous night from Pizza Pilgrims I just can’t help but be disappointed by the doughy base. They are still decent pizzas though, maybe only an additional 30 seconds away from being great pizzas and it’s a really nice place, service was very efficient and friendly throughout. It’s also incredibly good value for a London restaurant, at under £20 for 2 large pizzas a beer and lemonade it’s difficult to complain.
I’d certainly much rather eat here again than any of the mainstream pizza places, it’s just a shame that still all the best pizzas i’ve eaten in the last 18 months have been from street food events.
Date of visit: 25.05.2014Follow @FoodGeekUK