Friday, 26 September 2014

A nicer place to stuffa your face?

I was on my second pint before I realised I was in the wrong place.  Laura and I had finished fixing my website, and we were hungry.  And there was only one thing I was willing to eat.
"L suggested we try out Santore's.  S's friend works there, and apparently it's in Finsbury."
My heart sank as the Google search came though.  Santore's wasn't in Finsbury Park, but Exmouth Market - which, as some of you probably know, is in Finsbury Finsbury.  Once more, I had failed to do my research.  L would not be impressed.  I pulled out my notebook to scan my list of targets - and relaxed.
"Let's go to Papagone's."  I suggested.  "Okay, so it's a bit cheesy, but I'm pretty sure it has a wood fired oven."
I was right - and, after reading the menu, it became clear that Papagone's has more to it than meets the eye.  Fresh buffalo mozzarella?  Check.  Aperol spritz? Check.  Falanghina?  Check.  Strega?  Check.  And, to top it all off, I happen to know that their ice cream is to DIE for.
After careful consideration, I went for a Capricciosa - egg, ham, artichoke and, for an extra £1.90, buffalo mozzarella.  What came wasn't a disappointment - the base was a bit soggy, but I suspect this to be a side effect of the milky cheese.  What was more, I was offered sprinkles - result.  Laura was also happy with her Peppino - mozzarella, ricotta, spinach and sun dried tomato.
"It's a really good combo,"  she commented, "but Franco Mancha is better."
Mmm.  But Papagone's has a lot going for it and not just my points above - the staff are all Italian, the men flirtatious without being lecherous, the atmosphere fun and relaxed, and they cater for parties - which the repeated playing of "Happy Birthday" confirmed.  Okay, so at the end of our meal the service got a bit slow, but it was worth it for my pistachio and "nutella" ice cream - heaven.
Papagone's, I have to hand it to you - you've been the best so far. But will you beat Francho Mancha?  Only time will tell...

Friday, 19 September 2014

Second Screening

As you may have already figured out, I am taking this mission seriously - VERY seriously.  I have been doing my research, asking my fellow foodies where I can locate the perfect pizza - and there is one restaurant that keeps cropping up in conversation:  Franco Mancha.
So, when Charlotte suggested we meet up in Brixton, I jumped at the chance to try it out.  I say try out, but I have eaten there before.  Sadly on the day in question I had the joint second worst hangover of my life (I rate my hangovers as carefully as my pizzas) and I could have been served up a stuffed crust from Pizza Hut and appreciated in no less.
And so we headed over to the Village Market - to find it locked up.  Apparently Monday is not Pizza day in South London.
Undeterred, we Googled "Brixton" and "pizza" - and found one dodgy take-away listed.  That was when I remembered  - the Ritzy cinema did pizza, and I seemed to recall it wasn't bad.  
I have to say, I do enjoy hanging out at the Ritzy.  Not only does it show a pretty cool selection of movies, but the cafe and bar are great places to chill with a pint or grab a bite to eat.  But I didn't want to chill.  I was on a mission.
It turned out the pizza menu was pretty short, and only one of them had mozzarella on it - the classic margherita.  I went up to the bar to order, and was impressed not only by the  price (£7,50!) but also to hear that the mozzarella was of the buffalo variety.  In fact I was so impressed I decided to let them off failing to have a wood-fired oven and stone baking their grub instead.
Sadly, what arrived was a little on the disappointing side.  The pizza reminded me in taste and appearance of those mini ones my mum used to buy from Iceland - , hardly any tomato sauce, way to many herbs, chewy, and not a bit of fresh mozzarella in sight.  Oh.  Dear.
I like to think that the other pizzas on offer may have been better - but I know that L would NOT be impressed.  And, quite honestly, next time I go to the Ritzy, I'll stick with popcorn.
4/10.  And that's being generous...

Tuesday, 9 September 2014


It was within a week of my brief that I found myself in Soho.  The bar I had arranged to meet my fellow groupies in was closed, so I headed over to the Soho Theatre bar, safe in the knowledge that they served decent beer.
Little did I know, they also served pizza.  And not any old pizza.  Oh no.  Pizza from Soho Joes.
I tried to play it cool as I ordered; I was there as a friend of The Band we were about to see perform and the 100 Club, and I had a reputation to keep.  But I couldn't help myself.
"So is the mozzarella buffalo mozzarella?  And is it a wood-fired oven?"
My two pre-requisites failed to spark interest in our server.  They weren't really sure, and whilst the veggie option (that's aubergine, artichoke, mushroom and pepper if you are wondering) put in front of me confirmed the cheese situation (not a buffalo, fresh or otherwise in sight), our waitress was none the wiser about the state of the oven.
Another slice?  Well, one needs to be sure...
In all fairness, the pizza wasn't bad - it was pretty big, and at £9 a pop met my frugal standards.  As for the location? Can't argue really.
But a central location was not what I was looking for.  What I wanted was the best pizza in town, and whilst it tasted okay, the base was a bit soggy, and I was disappointed not to be offered any "sprinkles" - some Parmesan or chilli flakes might have made all the difference.
My friends tucked into a "Tonno" (tuna, red onion and olive) which went down very well, with the caveat that it's consumer would have eaten a fried rat and enjoyed it they were so hungry,  The "Choriza" (chorizo and red pepper) also filled a hole, but was reportedly more than a little greasy.  Mmmm....
Well, what can I say - I'm feeling generous.  The location and price balanced with the overall quality brings the Soho Theatre/Joes in as a 7/10 for me.  But is it good enough for L?
I don't think so.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

The Brief

It was on a Sunday afternoon that I first heard of my mission.  I was sat outside The Swan Hotel in Stafford sipping a pint of EPA when L pulled me to one side.
"There's something I need to tell you."  She muttered, eyeing our fellow patrons with suspicion.  I leant in.
"I want you to be in charge of the Hen Do - I'm going to have it in London.  But I don't want any L plates, or any of that shit."
My hear sank.
"No strippers?"
"No, No strippers, Shelly."  She hesitated.  "Can I trust you with this?"
"Yes, of course!"  I spluttered, the pain of my dented pride surpassing the feeling of mild disappointment.
"What I want, though, is pizza.  Good pizza."  She added.

I understood completely.  You see, L is quarter Italian.  And she is about to marry an Italian Italian.  "Good pizza" to her is not what it is to you or I - I can quite happily chow down a Pepperoni Passion from Dominoes and feel satisfied.  No, what we were talking about was the real deal:  fresh buffalo mozzarella and a paper thin base, cooked to perfection in a wood fired oven.  I swallowed awkwardly, my throat suddenly dry.  I took a sip of my beer.
"No problem."
"Good."  She sat back in her chair and lit a cigarette before turning her attention back to the rest of our party.  I let the conversation wash over me as I digested the enormity of the task ahead of me.  I knew that I couldn't screw this up, and I knew that there was only one way that I could fulfill this brief.
I was going to have to eat pizza.  A lot of pizza.