Unit 4, Market Row,
London SW9 8LD.
Tel: 020 7738 3021
Food type: Pizza
Food rating: 4/10
Nearest tube: Brixton
Website: Franco Manca
“How would you score a perfect pizza?”
That was a question that my dining companion posed to me. Indeed, how would I score the perfect pizza? Does it merit a 10/10 score? After all, that is what my Food Rating System would suggest. Or maybe, a 4/10? Because even if it is perfect, it is after all, an honest-to-goodness slice of pizza pie. Heading to Franco Manca, I was assured two things – 1) I would be guaranteed awesome pizza and 2) Scoring said pizza was not going to be easy.
Franco Manca has had enough buzz on the blogosphere and internet to attest to its pedigree. Located smack, dab in the middle of Brixton market, this is certainly not the place you would expect to find gourmet pizza (or indeed any decent kind of pizza). The people running this tight ship are certainly serious when it comes to their pizza. Not only are ingredients carefully sourced (their chorizo is from Brindisa, tomatoes from Liguria, flour from Naples to name a few from their long list of suppliers) but the oven with which the pizza is cooked is custom made and flown all the way from Naples. The reason for this is simple – their wood fire ‘Tufac’ brick oven can reach temperatures of 500°C, which if you have watched Heston Blumenthal’s ‘In Search of Perfection’ series, allows the pizza to be cooked in 90 seconds.
The restaurant only opens for lunch and I would suggest you head there early (ideally by 12 noon) if you fancy getting a seat on one of their long benches. Indeed, on the weekday we visited, there was a long queue which stretched outside Brixton market by 1 pm, to give you an idea of the popularity of this eatery. (Just imagine what it is like on Saturday lunch).
Part of the beauty is that the pizzas are surprisingly well priced with a basic pizza of tomato, garlic & oregano coming in at £4 moving up to a very fair £5.90 at the top end for tomato, chorizo & mozarella. The drinks list is limited with a single organic beer from Hefworth & co at £ 1.90, home-made organic lemonade at £1.40 (apparently it is made using Amalfi lemons) and a single red and white wine from Valli Unite, Piedmont.
We tried a variety of pizzas – all of which were made using the restaurant’s signature Sourdough crust. The benefits of their oven was clear with the thin pizza crust getting just a lick of the heat from the oven which gives it that charred note. Another reason for showing up early is that the pizza tends to get a little more time in the oven. We noticed that as the place began to fill up, one of the pizzas we received had a base which had not been cooked long enough resulting in it being slightly soggy. Of the various options we tried, my favourite had to be their special of the day – a Parma Ham, Rocket, Sun-dried Tomatoes, Mascapone Pizza.
“4/10 – Dedicated, focused approach to cooking; good classical skills and high quality ingredients”
Ok, so maybe the pizzas at Franco Manca were not perfect. But it was a damn sight near that. Do I think it deserves a 10/10? Or even a 9/10? As good as they were, this was in no way a ‘life-changing’ experience. Irregardless of my score, there is just one thing you need to know – this is the best pizza place in London and at the prices they are charging, represent ridiculously good value. Forget cheap cheesy (pun intended) pizza chains like Pizza Express or God-forbid, Fire & Stone. Do yourself a favour and head down to Brixton for some pizza loving goodness.