13 Station Parade, Balham High Road
SW12 9AZ London
Reviewed on Tuesday 9 June 2009
Inside the restaurant
The first things you see when you enter in Double Espresso are the cakes in the refrigerated display. After all this place is also a coffee place and it can be nice to sit outside on the large sidewalk. The restaurant is not very big. It is dominated by a large counter and on top of it there is a TV. The atmosphere is very relaxed: I like it. It looks as though the place is family owned.
As starters we ordered the Involtini Di Prosciutta (melted mozzarella cheese wrapped in slices of parma ham – £6) which was amongst the specials of the day, and a Formaggio Di Capra Grigliato (grilled goat’s cheese on toasted bread and mixed grilled veg – £5.50). They were followed by two pizzas: a pizza Double Espresso (made of mozzarella, tomato, prawns, basil, blue cheese and garlic – £8.50) and a pizza Fiorentina (£7.20). The red wine was a Merlot Malbec 2007 from Distant Land in New Zealand (£20) which was quite enjoyable.
The melted mozzarella were quite good, and the slices of parma ham were slightly crispy and fortunately not too dry. The salad was a good addition to them. It was “only” three pieces but they were quite filling so you are warned! The goat cheese could just have used a little extra virgin olive oil to set it off. As it was, it was just a little bland.
The pizzas were made of an extremely thin base. We like that. From where we were we could see the pizzaiolo preparing them. He was nice enough to invite us to take a photo closer when he noticed we were taking photos As it was their “home” pizza I chose the Double Espresso. I have to say I was not too sure about the mix between prawns and blue cheese but hey, only one way to find out! Actually it was a pretty good pizza. The prawns were big enough to have a taste and the blue cheese was not too strong. I wished the garlic was stronger but I am a garlic fan. The Fiorentina was good, with the egg perfectly cooked: still liquid but not running. It lacked some flavour though. We finished the meal with two Limoncello.
Involtini Di Prosciutta
Formaggio Di Capra Grigliato
Overview of the two starters. The bottle of red wine was a NZ Merlot Malbec 2007 from Distant Land.
Preparing the pizza!
Pizza Double Espresso "raw"
On its way to the oven! Nice pizzaiolo!
Cooked pizza Double Espresso
Cost and conclusion: it was just under £60 with service charge included. Considering we had two starters, two pizzas, a bottle of wine that was not cheap and two Limoncello (served wonderfully cold) it is good value for money. The food was good, the service friendly: it is a very decent option if you are in the area, and it is much better than Cattle Grid located on the other side of Balham train station.
Traditional Neapolitan Restaurant
64 Battersea Rise
London SW11 1EQ
Reviewed on Tuesday 2 June 2009
Pizza Metro is apparently the first restaurant in London to cook their metre long pizzas in a wood burning oven. That was in 1993. We did not order a metre pizza even if it would have been fun taking a photo of it. For a half metre rectangular pizza the price is the same as two round pizzas so we prefered the classical rounded way. We saw some tables getting a metre pizza and it is quite impressive because it is put on a raised baking tray that is at eye level. Not too convenient for chatting across the table but fun to watch! The atmosphere is very Italian with a map of Italy, giant bottles of wine next to the windows, frypans attached to the walls. Several customers were also Italians. A good sign
We ordered two pizzas: the Ripieno which is a kind of calzone pizza with ricotta, parmesan, ham, basil, Napoli salame, tomatoes, and mozzarella (£9.95) and the Diego’s with mozzarella, buffalo ricotta, Napoli salame, rocket, basil, olive oil and parmesan (£9.95). We had a bottle of red wine Angelo Rosso Sicilia 2007 (£16). The Diego’s had an extremely thin base that was nicely crispy on the edges. I really enjoy thin base pizzas. The toppings were excellent too and the creamy buffalo ricotta was a great touch to the pizza. I was a little surprised my pizza was precut but it was fine. I guess it is easier when kids eat at the restaurant. The Ripieno (not precut of course) was good, and very hot due to the folding design of that pizza. The tomato sauce used in the pizzas had a good “real tomato” taste. The pizza base had a nice flavour, and the mix of ingredients in the pizza was well balanced (nothing nasty, like too salty ham, for example). It was just a little ‘different’ with the buffalo ricotta. I liked that there was also mozarella as I find just ricotta in a calzone to be a bit bland. The pizza base could have been a bit crispier, but it wasn’t soggy either. The spicy oil could also have been spicier.
As desserts we had a chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream and a vanilla panna cotta. The waiter came with a plate of desserts and these were the ones we chose. The chocolate cake was nice, not too sweet at all, and moist in the centre, crispy on the outside. The vanilla panna cotta was great: light enough, not too sweet and with some crumbles on top that were a good addition.
At the right in the back there is the food burning oven
Huge bottles by the windows
The two pizzas
The chilli oil!
Detailed view of the pizza Ripieno
Detailed view of the pizza Diego's
Vanilla panna cotta
Chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream
Cost and conclusion: the total bill was £53.89. It already included the service charge, something I dislike since it should be up to the client to decide on. That said, the service was excellent (friendly and paying attention) so they deserved it. The bill was a little on the expensive side but at least the lunch was good. While we found the pizzas better than at Buona Sera located 5 minutes walk away we still prefer the pizzas at Franco Manca (in Brixton) and at Rustica (in Richmond).
Pizzeria Franco Manca
4, Market Row, Electric Lane, Brixton
London SW9 8LD
Reviewed on Saturday 16 May 2009 lunch time
Pizzeria Franco Manca
This was the third attempt to get a lunch at Franco Manca and we were finally successful! The first time we tried to go there was on a Sunday and this place is closed on Sunday because it is within Brixton Market (closed on Sunday). We managed to eat at the Ship Tavern then. The second time we went on a Saturday for 12:30 pm and the queue was so long that we did not have the patience to wait and instead discovered a new Japanese restaurant called Ukai Sushi which was good. This time we decided to camp there Friday night go there early on Saturday to be sure to avoid the queue so we managed to get there for 11:20 am. The pizzeria was already open and doing preparation, but not yet ready to accept clients. They told us to come at 12 when they formally open. We walked around the market area (watch your wallet…) and came back to the restaurant at 11:40 where we saw people seated! We jumped quickly on the few available seats to be certain to get one. We had to wait until 12 when they formally took everyone’s order. If you wish to avoid the queue, come early too because at 12 there was already a queue. When we left at 1, the queue was long enough to go to the street (see photos below).
The menu is quite simple: you have the choice between 6 pizzas and there is also a pizza of the day. We asked for the pizza of the day and a calzone. As drink we had the beer (Hepworth organic 330ml – £1.90) and a glass of red wine (Organic Dolcetto – £1.40 for 125ml but I think it was more 250ml than 125ml!). Franco Manca is known for their sourdough pizza base: “The pizza is made from slow-rising sourdough (minimum 20 hours) and is baked in a wood burning ‘Tufac’ brick oven made in Naples by a specialist artisan. This oven produces a heat of about 500 degrees c (930 degrees f). The slow levitation and blast-cooking process lock in the flours natural aroma and moisture giving it a soft and easily digestible crust. As a result, the edge (cornicione) is excellent and shouldn’t be discarded” as they explain on their menu.
Franco Manca is not your typical restaurant: in fact, it is more canteen than restaurant. Think paper serviettes, long tables, seating according to how many will fit (and you might have to get up partway to let someone in or out), and choose-your-own cuttlery from a tin in the centre of the table. One glass tumbler per person, to hold whichever drink you choose. So its as basic as you can get. Then there is the setting to consider – France Manca is inside Brixton market. In fact, it occupies small sites on both sides of the main alley, so there is a constant stream of people passing through. 2 metres away is a fishmarket – and yes, you do smell it. Sitting in the aisle of a market, you’re open to all the sights, smells and temperatures (no heating here). So is it worth coming? Read on and decide for yourself.
The pizzas were excellent! I really like when the base is crispy on the outside and slightly burnt while being still soft inside. For the Calzone the sour taste was a little strong but with the pizza of the day it was fine. We were not too keen on the drink. The beer was ok, but it could have been cooler. On the bottle they say to serve it at 5° and I believe it was warmer than that. As for the glass of wine, it tasted a little like cheese at the beginning and then it was ok (and there is no such thing as a wine glass here). It would be nicer to have more choice even if it would be more expensive. After the pizzas we got two espressos (£1 each). They were really tiny but excellent. One downside is the proximity of a fishmonger next door and we could smell fish from time to time depending on the direction of the wind. Since the restaurant is on both sides of the main alley in the covered part of Brixton market, it might be better to choose the side opposite the fish store – if you can.
Pizza of the day
Wood burning 'Tufac' brick oven
Glass of wine and organic beer from Hepworth & Co
The two pizzas, and you can see the chilli oil
The queue going to the street at 1 pm!
Cost and conclusion: for £16 (service charge not included automatically to the bill – we like that) the lunch was excellent. It is not just good value for money but it is also good in absolute. Until now our best pizzeria was the Rustica in Richmond (especially their Buffalo pizza) but Franco Manca is challenging it well. The two are pretty different by their surrounding (Rustica is in Richmond, Franco Manca is in Brixton market…) and setting which is reflected by the bill (almost half price here) but they share one thing in common: quality pizzas! The service was friendly and efficient. We will be back of course.
Pizzeria Sette Bello
8 Amen Corner, Tooting
SW17 9JE London
Reviewed on Monday 4 May 2009 evening
Pizzeria Sette Bello
Reading great reviews about this pizzeria, I tried to have a lunch there several weeks ago to find out it is mostly (only?) open during the evening. If it happens it is closed, you can always go to Limoncello located two minutes walk from it (review of Limoncello). They also have good pizzas.
Some huge bottles of wines against the wall
Back to Setto Bello now It is located five minutes walk from Tooting Broadway. The restaurant is made of one large room and is decorated with bottles on the walls and also pictures, including family photos. There is a great atmosphere and it is very family friendly. It is nice to find an authentic Italian restaurant in that area where curry restaurants are the norms. The prices are low compared to other pizzerias I know. Pizzas are aroud £6-£7, you can get veal with cream for about £12 and desserts were around £3 something. Unfortunately the receipt is not detailled. A bottle of a red house wine (a 2007 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo) was around £10.
Red house wine
We ordered two pizzas: a Calzone (ham, cheese, tomato) and a Fiorentina (mozzarella, tomato, spinach, egg, parmesan and garlic). The calzone was absolutely massive and it was not because it was the second time I was eating out today. It was good but the pizza base was too soft for my liking: it feels a little too much like bread. I like when it is crispy outside, soft inside. Still, the base was good and all the ingredients were good too. Next time I will just ask to cook it a little longer, even if it gets slightly burnt. The fiorentina had also the same little problem: too soft, no crisp at all. Toppings and the egg were good. The chilli oil was very nice and it was indeed spicy which surprised us as a real good spicy olive oil is becoming rare.
The wine was good, dry enough and going well with the pizzas.
We took for desserts a so-called strawberry sorbet that turned out to be ice cream (too sweet for us) and a vanilla ice cream with coffee and amaretto (nice, the coffee and amaretto were good at counterbalancing the sweetness from the vanilla ice cream).
We ended with an espresso and a double espresso and they were fine.
Vanilla ice cream with coffee and amaretto. In the background the so-called strawberry sorbet that turned out to be ice cream
Cost and conclusion: two pizzas, a bottle of red wine, two desserts and two espressos for £33.95 (with optional service charge to add) is a good value for money. The pizzas were good but we feel they could have been exceptional if cooked a little longer so they would be crispy. They were not crispy at all. The service was nice but the single waiter was a little overloaded doing all the service so it took a good 5 minutes to get the chilli oil (through the owner who was helping the waiter). We will certainly be back.
32 The Quadrant, Richmond, Surrey, London, TW9 1DN
Reviewed on Saturday 2 May 2009 lunch time
We have been many times to this place which is, in my opinion, the best pizza restaurant in London. It has already been reviewed previously here. It is a good place to stop before going to Richmond park for taking photos of deer & bunnies.
The room open to the street
This time we both decided to take different pizzas than the usual ones we get so we ordered an American Hot (£9.50) and a Capricciosa (£10.90). As drink we chose Moretti (£8.50) as suggested by the waiter who said the staff liked this beer better than the Peroni. We thought it was an excellent beer. The American Hot pizza was a little disappointing because it had too many pepperoni for my liking, making the pizza a little too greasy. The Jalapeno chilli bits were not spicy enough. Fortunately the pizza base was really exceptionally good, being tender and crispy at the same time. That was very nice. The Capricciosa pizza was excellent, with tasty mushroms, the right amount of pepperoni and a perfectly cooked egg.
American Hot pizza
Overview of the two pizzas
Cost and conclusion: it was still a nice lunch with one exceptional pizza and one average pizza on toppings but both fantastic for the base. The Capricciosa will become one of our favourites, with their Buffalo and Calzone pizzas! The bill was £28.90 (plus service charge to add).