Last night, I scheduled a much needed catch up in central London with one of my very oldest friends. She suggested we visit a new Pizza restaurant on Tottenham Court Road, named Franco Manca. This newly opened Sourdough Pizzeria is the sixth one of it’s kind in London, with other branches being based in Northcote, Brixton, Chiswick, Westfield and Balham. I had never been to any of them before, so I was excited to see what was on offer.
The restaurant operates a no booking policy but we were seated immediately on a table for two at around 7.15pm on a Tuesday – unfortunately this is prime central London real estate so we were remarkably close to the pair of diners next to us, but the restaurant was buzzing and noisy with post-work chatter, so it’s not like we could really hear their conversation or vice versa (mind you, I do talk rather loudly)!
I ordered the ‘number 5′ on the menu - tomato, garlic, oregano, mozzarella, capers, olives and anchovies. At £6.70, I was impressed both with the size of it (massive) and also the quality – lovely soft, yielding dough and vividly coloured, fresh ingredients on top. It was (needless to say with that list of toppings) very salty, but I am a salt fiend so that wasn’t a problem for me! I ate every last bit of this, and it was an absolute delight.
My friend ordered the equally amazing-looking ‘number 3′ which came with wild broccoli, mozzerella, and Gloucester old-spot hand sliced sausage. Weirdly, this pizza comes without tomato and I think it suffered a bit for it, but it was reportedly still very tasty, and when it’s priced at £6.75, you almost forget that you are in central London. We washed our pizzas down with a pair of pale ales, and even had change from £20 (before a tip) when we got the final bill – amazing!
I was really, really impressed with Franco Manca. They make great, fluffy pizza dough and create fresh and slightly different topping combinations to the usual chain restaurant fare, whilst remaining loosely traditional (and not going too off-piste a la Fire and Stone). What’s more, they use rare breeds to produce all of their salamis and sausages, using animals that have been raised and live in the wild. Their wines are organic, and in the summer, they use British ‘heritage tomatoes’ as much as they possibly can. This is all really good news.
When you can get real pizza, made with love like this, for under a tenner, it’s hard to see how the other, less exciting chain pizza restaurants (you know who you are!) are going to measure up. I don’t think they can.