In a five person household like ours where everyone has such hectic social schedules, it's completely impossible for us to pin down a date and time where we'd all be available. Hence, for all our talk about getting a dinner booking for London Restaurant Week, that plan eventually flopped. What we can manage, when the stars do align, are slightly spur-of the moment lunches at nearby eateries involving two or three members of the house. MF was suddenly free, I was suddenly free and we managed to rope AT in last-minute, so we were able to pop round to Franco Manca's latest store.
MF picked the place based on recommendations she'd had from friends, and when she sent AT up the stairs to inform me where we were eating, the message got a bit garbled because he's a historian with a very fine brain filter.
AT: I didn't really catch where we were going and I still have no clue where it is, but it somehow involves the Franco-Prussian War.
The lot of us left the house at 11.30 am, and made it to the restaurant in good time, just about beating out the lunch crowd. They don't take bookings, so it's first come, first served like so many other places in London these days. With fewer people in the restaurant, service was quick and friendly, and we got a mix of things from the main menu and the specials board, which was right above my head. Had to crane my neck a little to see what was on it, but all the choices looked rather interesting. AT & I rather cheekily got glasses of their organic white wine, which was very tangy and moreish, while poor MF who was on interdict at the time had to content herself with a shot of Monmouth Espresso.
So many of our friends have tried Franco Manca since they opened a branch in the heart of UCL territory. While people like The Smelly Vagabond, who like their pizza crusts thin, completely failed to see what the hype was about, the rest of us who enjoy thicker crusts thought it was really good. Some reviewers named it the best pizza in London, but I'm choosing to reserve judgement on that count. The only pizzas I've consumed in my times here have come from Domino's, Pizza Hut, Papa John's and a slice from Strada once, so while Franco Manca obviously comes out tops in my experience, it's more a default result than anything. (Still love it though)
AT opted for the Number 4, consisting of Gloucester Old Spot ham, mozzarella, buffalo ricotta, wild mushrooms, and a very small bit of tomato. It almost tasted like a carbonara done pizza-style. MF got something off the specials board that consisted of a lot of meat and tomato sauce with extremely sweet slices of pumpkin. It was a rather interesting one.
I got the Number 5, which came with tomato, garlic, oregano, capers, olives, anchovies and mozzarella. It's not for the faint hearted - my first bite can only be described as an anchovy explosion in my mouth. Nothing subtle about the tastes here, and the strongly salty anchovies are well-matched with equally piquant capers.
Crust-wise, the slow-rising sourdough that they use has a very mild flavour, but it's so fluffy and chewy. If you're not the kind of person who normally discards the edges, these shouldn't be wasted - generously pour the garlic infused olive oil that's available at every table onto your plate, then dip the topping-free bits of crust in it and eat with great relish. I promise you won't regret it.