Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Anarchy in the UK

I went out for pizza last night at a new fangled pizza place in Covent Garden called Fire and Stone. Actually, I think it has been there a while, but it was new and fangled to me. Now, this one meal encapsulated everything that is wrong with the state of pizza in this country from conception to end product. This truly was the devil's own pizza joint.
Now, the constituent parts of this pizza experience need to be broken down and looked at. The place itself is a cavernous space decked out a bit like a club. Trendy with a slight industrial feel, lots of block colour and moody lights. The furniture IKEA chic (though probably twice as pricey) and the staff a big melting pot of very sweet and friendly euro flotsam and jetsom. Harmless enough you'd think, but I ask you is that the kind of environment you want to eat a pizza in? We'll move on and come back to that.
The menu, every pizza on it was named after a city, the cities divided geographically by continent. The idea being each pizza is influenced by city and continent to form a gastronomic fusion. So, the Bombay pizza features:

Roast chicken breast, spiced tandoori yoghurt base, broccoli, sliced
red onion, mozzarella, spiced mango chutney and cucumber and mint yoghurt.

Now, when the pizza actually arrived the base was thick and sweet despite claims that the base would be thin and crispy. Everything tasted fresh and good, they had obviously sourced the good stuff but put it together pretty poorly. This all got me thinking about what a misguided venture the whole thing was, and what a good pizza should be.

As far as I am concerned with pizza simplicity is best and freshness paramount and you'd better have a fiendishly hot oven too. The best pizza's I've eaten are in New York and Italy. The Italian one came out of an oven built into a hill side that has been in use since Roman times and the one in NYC was in John's Famous Pizza the first time I ever visited the city. Now, both pizza's are viewed though the rose tint of happy memories and novelty but there is something fundamental to be learnt from both experiences:

Pizza is food to share, so the notion of an individual pizza is pointless. Make my pizza big with mounds of toppings that I can share with my friends.

Pizza is the best kind of convienience food, I don't need to feel like I'm eating somewhere special or swanky, it's a pizza for fucks sake, I just need enough elbow room and a space for a beer. Spend your money on a decent oven and a guys who know what they are doing in the kitchen.

Pizza is Italian food. They been making it for a long time. Leave it be.

Make my pizza base thin, make it crisp. I have no desire to fill up on spongy bread.

Don't get me wrong there are some cracking pizza places in London, but on the whole we get them badly wrong, the time has come, I think, to make a stand. For someone to come along and make pizza that rules, a pizza to liberate us from the tyranny of Pizza Hut, Pizza Express and places like Fire and Stone.

If anyone knows who they are please tell me...


cookiecrumb said...

Yeah, John's is pretty good. I dumped one on the floor there once (it was an accident!!) and they rushed a fresh one to our table for free.
I'm so sorry about the sordid conditions, pizza-wise, in your part of the world.
Around here, if I have to resort to chain pizza, I like Round Table. But I guess they're not in the UK.

Monkey Gland said...

Nah, no Round Table in the UK, though there are some very good local London pizza companies (none of which operate where I live! d'oh!)

cookiecrumb said...

Which is funny, because didn't the round table originate in England? Y'know, that slut Guinevere and all? (She was a pretty good pizza cook, though.)

deborah said...

Any time I see tandoori on a pizza menu I order the pasta and leave it be.

As for pizza being just for one; most of the pizza I had in New York was bought as a once slice only. You the know the massive slice you fold in half, and eat standing at the high table with a cup of fizzy drink! I loved that kinda pizza too.

Monkey Gland said...

Saffron: A slice of pizza is another thing entirely! I'm talking those sad little circles of dough you get presented with sometimes that dare be called pizza!