Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Pizza East - The Professional's view

In today's Metro the regular restaurant review by Marina O'Loughlin was Pizza East. The place I was lucky enough to go to when I volunteered at the London Restaurant Festival.

This is the first time I've seen a professional review of a restaurant that I've already been to. And our opinions couldn't have been more different, especially with regards to the pizza. Although we did agree about the cauliflower.

I think it just goes to show that the dishes you order definitely leave a lasting impression. Overall I thought the place was so-so, with room for improvement. I certainly wasn't left with the glowing impression Marina was.

Marina's article

In the finest traditions of Mills And Boon, Pizza East's initial effect on me is to set my teeth on edge - but true love is just around the corner...

When I phone to book and the cool gal tells me she'll need my table back by 9.30pm, I'm already irritated.

Then there's the location: Shoreditch, isn't it time you got over yourself? Didn't Nathan Barley teach you anything?

Also, for owner Nick Jones (of Soho/Shoreditch Houses, Cecconi's etc fame) to open a sprawling pizza joint might be construed as a grooming process for hipsters currently too poor for his other operations.

Moustaches twirling: one day, my dears, you'll be able to afford the REAL THING.

It is, too, a blithe rip-off, sorry, homage to Croc-wearing American superchef Mario Batali's Los Angeles raves – American staff and all.

Our imported waiter, complete with little brush 'tache, gives us a thorough patronising, possibly thanks to our lack of wetlook leggings or facial hair.

But from here on in, it's love. The place is framed in a familiar aesthetic: distressed paintwork, exposed brick, statement lampshades. But done well, as it is here, boy does it work.

There's a central kitchen with wood-fire belching oven and bar seats, perfect for single diners.

The mod-Italian food is far more LA than Lazio, not fancy-schmancy, but dependent on accurate cooking and decent produce.

The menu fizzes with so-now ingredients: soppressata, Boschetto al Tartufo, cima di rapa (although it's billed as simply cima, which is an entirely different thing), and divided into terse headings. I'd happily eat all of it.

Everything is good: pillow-soft, piquant mackerel escabeche (raw, citrus-'cooked') with lentils; wood-roasted squash with farro (spelt), mint and grilled chilli; a luscious cauliflower carbonara, posh cauliflower cheese, rich with cream, Parmesan and pancetta.

Slow-cooked beef cheeks slump at the touch of cutlery, porcini and parsnips adding autumnal depth.

But the pizzas... oh, mama. Plump, airy and pleasingly chewy, thicker – in the LA way – than the Neapolitan thin crust, with the tang of sourdough and the crunch of semolina, they are my second favourite pizzas in town, after Franco Manca.

Mine is a pizza bianca without tomato and with veal meatballs, cream, lemon, sage; not bland, but subtle, luxurious, a thing of real loveliness.

Thin-crust fans might not like it, nor will the wine on tap slapped into little tumblers appeal to wine snobs, but it's all doing it for me.

Fluffy little clouds of doughnut with a Valrhona chocolate sauce provide the final part of the seduction. This one's a keeper.

1 comment:

  1. this is the place i meant the other day!


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