It's pretty hard to come across someone that doesn't like pizza but it is surprisingly even harder to find an authentic Italian style pizza with a thinly stretched, wood oven baked base and delicious toppings in London. Thank god then that my neighbourhood has seen a recent influx of new pizza joints, even more so as pizza has over the years become my to go to dinner on a Friday night to line the stomach in the most delicious and carby of ways possible for the night ahead. I've tried some fantastic and rather mediocre doughy wonders along the way so you don't have to which is why I thought it was about time to give you my top 5 picks in terms of price, size and flavour. You'll never be stuck finding a delicious pizza in East London again, thank me later...
I had seen and heard many good things about Pizza Pilgrims ever since they had opened their first street food stall in 2011 yet never managed to make it to one of the branches of their ever expanding London pizza empire. However this changed the minute I got wind of them opening their first proper East London outpost in Shoreditch, a stones throw away from my flat, finally giving me the chance to try what all the fuss was about and thankfully they did not disappoint. Though I've only gone in to collect takeaway orders so far, the restaurant has a cozy and welcoming vibe and by offering a BYOB option means you are going to get great value for your money here, particularly considering what you usually pay for a bottle of wine in a restaurant in this part of town.
Of course it is ultimately all about the pizza served here and I can confidently say it delivers on all fronts. Top quality ingredients which are expertly prepared, with not a gimmicky topping in sight (don't even get me started on pineapples)- this is pizza at it's best. Whether you go for a classic margarita or my absolute favourite here- the mushroom, truffle, fior de latte and parmesan pizza (which by the way happens to be my favourite truffle pizza ever and that is saying something), you are always going to get a bloody fantastic pizza at more than a decent price with the most expensive one on the menu coming in at just £11. Pizza Pilgrims comfortably and effortlessly measures up to the kind of pizza I got to eat in Italy which makes me even more delighted to have them finally making their delightful dough around the corner from me. If you want fantastic pizza go here, you won't regret it.
Yes, this pizza is never going to be as artisanal or hyped up by food bloggers as say Pizza Pilgrims or Franco Manco but where else in London would you ever, ever get a freshly prepared, decently sized and most importantly pretty damn tasty pizza for £2.99 that isn't totally gross, baked from frozen or hygienically very questionable?! I for one am yet to find anywhere else apart from this little cafe with pizza making van parked in front on Hoxton street. Made fresh to order and with a variety of classic toppings (I recommend the Fiorentina with egg, spinach and olives as well as the classic margarita) you can't really go wrong here especially if you are on a budget or wanting to feed a few of your favourite people without breaking the bank.
It's not a place to really eat in unless you have a thing for Homebase-esque interiors but in a city where even a coffee can cost you close to a fiver it's rather refreshing to find that you can get decently priced food that doesn't compromise on quality and taste and shouldn't be seen as any less of a great pizza spot just because it lacks fancy interiors or designed up menus. Olive is a true hidden gem in my neighbourhood that I hope will remain there for some time to come and I urge you to give their bargain pizzas a go next time you are nearby!
Franco Manca could have easily been contender for best pizza in east for me were it not for the distance from my house to theirs (the London fields restaurant is a good 20 minutes walk away and they unfortunately don't deliver) which makes taking it away a bit of a pain especially as the tiny dining space tends to be packed and with a queue sneaking out the door almost any evening.
Franco Manca may have turned into a little bit of a chain by now with branches all around the country but they do still manage to serve consistently fantastic sour dough pizzas, baked in one of their proper wood burning oven. Toppings are kept traditional yet exquisite with their tomato, mozzarella and basil variety being a simple yet fantastic marriage of classic flavours where the ingredients do the talking. One minor minus point from my side, and a very minor one at that, would be there lack of any bianca (white pizza without tomato sauce) options and fairly limited selection of none meat topped pizzas apart from the aforementioned Italian classic. Their short menu is of course not a bad thing per se, they really do know their pizza and I would more than happily eat at any at their branches around the country, in the safe knowledge that I'd be without a doubt getting a pretty fantastic pizza. Franco Manco then is a chain concept that actually works particuarly where the likes of Pizza Express have tended to fail in terms of authenticity by staying true to their mission of making great pizzas.
Maybe my expectations of Homeslice were a little too high from the onset- I had seen their huge pizzas, measuring an impressive 20 inches, all over social media for a while, intriguing me particularly with their creative toppings, and thus setting the bar pretty high before I even got to sink my teeth into a slice. Don't get me wrong the massive pizza I ordered to takeaway to share with a few of my friends during my favourite Friday drinks occasion wasn't terrible but in my eyes it also wasn't worth the £20 price tag, particularly considering just how many pizzas from my favourite van I could have bought for the same money (nearly 6 FYI!).
I do have to admit that having the option of getting 50/50 of their pizza options is quite fun as I am always one for variation and I did really enjoy the half that was topped with an unusual mix of aubergine, cauliflower cheese and spicy harissa but was sadly rather let down by the other half which came topped with mushroom, ricotta, pumpkin seed and chilli side and tasted uninspired particularly when compared to Pizza Pilgrim's similar yet superior mushroom truffle pizza. Yes, there are lot more variations I would love to try at Homeslice, with them offering a great range of veggie friendly options including an equally intriguing pizza that comes topped with butternut pumpkin, broccoli, pecorino and crispy onions, but ultimately I just don't think the end result here is worth the price tag especially with all the new competition when it comes to amazing pizza in east London. Good but not quite the best and one worth revisiting only when you've got some extra cash to spend.
I have to admit my bad experience here may be partly my own fault by not ordering well but for me this newly opened pizza joint / bar over several floors around the corner from London Fields proved to be more style than substance. Yes, Martello Hall has a cool vibe about it and comes with undoubtedly great interiors, the pizzas have quirky names (Smokey Bandit anyone?!) and are topped with achingly of the moment ingredients such as kale and toasted pistachio but it was all a bit... meh. The dough wasn't quite as light and stretchy as I would have liked and my truffle pizza, not exactly cheap at £11 for one person, lacked any truffle flavour, indeed the whole pizza topped with truffle oil, potato, sage and mozzarella didn't taste of anything much at all. Maybe I have been a a little spoiled of late with the high quality of pizza I get to take home whenever I want but with so many other great options east I would say try somewhere that is cheaper and better for pizza especially if you, like me, like your flavours strong and prices reasonable!
I thought I would share a few quick impressions of the best food, drinks and places I enjoyed during a recent weekend trip to Düsseldorf, there on this occasion to show one of my best friends in the world my one and only hometown from it's best side.
If you go to one place for dinner in Düsseldorf make it this place. Serving European / traditional German dishes with a modern touch I am yet to have a less than stellar meal here. In fact every time I have eaten here it's been simply fantastic. It may not be cheap (our dinner with a glass of wine came to around 27 euros each) but for that you get to enjoy expertly prepared and seriously tasty food. You can go for a German classic like their infamous (and huge) Schnitzel, served with a refreshing cucumber and mayo salad and potatoes as my friend did on this occasion or try something a little more exotic and fusion driven. I did and wow I did not regret it. Indeed my seared tuna sashimi, arriving on a bed of Asian vegetables and served with smashed avocado as well as an incredibly delicious sesame dipping sauce was out of this world, in fact probably one of the best dishes I have EVER eaten. This was a simply beautiful and refined marriage of flavours and had me ohhing and ahhing throughout. is a real calinary gem and can often commandhy queu peak times but those queues are there for a reason, heck I'd happily wait a few hours just to eat that tuna again.
PS: get the sweet potato fries on the side no matter what main you settle for - they are fried to absolute perfection.
To our utter delight temperatures reached a heady 23 degrees on the Friday of our stay which of course proved to be the IDEAL aperol spritz weather, it of course being my all time favourite sunshine drink. To make things even better we also managed to find the perfect seats outside a stunning new cafe part of the Kö bogen which also happened to overlook a scenic and recently redeveloped park bang in the centre of town. Sitting here sipping on a huge, chilled and refreshing spritz I could not help but feel like on a proper holiday even if we were only a 45 minute flight away from London. The perfect place to have a chat and watch the world go by.
Named after one of Dusseldorf's most famous sons, world renown and slightly nuts artist Josef Beuys, this bar may be a little off the beaten track and hidden amongst the more touristy drinking dens in Dusseldorf's going out district but it is more than worth seeking out. Every detail counts here, from the cocktail menus coming in an old school cassette case to the expert bartenders mixing up delightful and imaginative cocktails behind the stunningly lit up bar. This place could easily hold its own when compared to some of London's far more established counterparts, with my amaretto sour as ordered on the occasion being one of the best I have got to sample. Make sure to not arrive too late, this place gets super busy with people that know it is where to get the best drinks in town.
Ok so Dusseldorf's clubbing scene may not be quite on par with that of Berlin or London but that doesn't mean that you can't find a decent club to spent a night out at here. In fact Der Salon des Amateurs which translates into something like 'the amateur's salon' was named as one of the 25 best clubs in Europe by the Guardian and in my opinion very rightly so. During the day a cafe that is part of Dusseldorf's modern art museum, at night Der Salon transforms into an intimate, vibey and seriously cool club that hosts an eclectic area of DJ's and attracts a mixed and artsy crowd that were an absolute joy to get to know on our Friday night out there. It's not pretentious and an absolutely unique experience - a must visit even for people that aren't into clubbing.
I have written about my favourite noodle bar in the world, Naniwa, on numerous occasions on this blog and I make a point of eating here (or on this occasion ordering a takeaway) every time I'm in town. This place is as authentic as noodle soups and yaki soba get and the locals know this too well with a queue forming outside most dinner and lunch times no matter the day. Anything you order here is bloody fantastic but I have one ultimate favourite that I wish I could magically import most weekends when I need a decent hangover fix..what dish you may ask? Well they wrap their delicious soba noodles and stir fried veggies that come tossed in a sticky and delicious sauce in a Japanese omelette and top it with mayo and pickled ginger. It's slightly stodgy, eggy, satisfying and oh boy basically THE best hangover cure I have had in a long time. Naniwa please open a London branch soon, I need this to be a regular addition to my diet and so will you after trying it.
There are certain London restaurants where it is almost impossible to get a reservation at a reasonable hour especially if you don't tend to plan your life half a year in advance. Arguably in most of these cases this is more about the hype, location and supposed "be seen at" factor surrounding said restaurant than indicative of the standard of food served there (prime examples are spots like Duck & Waffle, Sexy Fish and various other fancy central London restaurants) which means I rarely make the effort to attempt to score one of these sought-after reservations. The Palomar however is a seldom exception to this rule. Serving the food of modern Jerusalem with similarities in the style of cooking to other favourites of the blog, Ottolenghi and Honey & Co, but coming with an extra unique twist by fusing Southern Spanish, Levant and Northern African elements, it may take a little bit of effort to score a table here or in my case may result in you eating at a slightly odd time but oh my is it worth it...
I mean I should have hated the place- even three weeks ahead of when me and my friend were looking to book a table for a belated birthday dinner there were no reservations left other than at a very awkward "are we having dinner or lunch or late lunch" time at 3:30pm on a Sunday - not that it bothered me too much, Sundays are after all for throwing out the usual time and space confinements, after all who doesn't like to get wasted at 11 am when a bottomless brunch calls. Another slight negative was that even with a reservation in hand we failed to score one of the much coveted bar seats. Usually a bar seat is of course not what one would go for when a lovely table for two, as we got on this occasion, is available, however at The Palomar watching the chefs work their magic as they plate up and prepare the dishes is very much part of what has given The Palomar it's excellent reputation and though I got to see glimpses of it I can sadly not report on this part of the dining experience, being tucked away in the more tranquil dining room at the back. That is however not to say that The Palomar relies on this sort of spectacle to be classed an outstanding restaurant, in fact my meal was so fantastically good that it was hard for me to imagine (though undoubtedly doable) how sitting at the bar would have made it an even better.
Why? Well the small plates served here are of an absolutely stellar quality and more experimental and playful than my other Middle Eastern favourites. Yes, culinary purists might raise an eyebrow at their, amongst London foodies infamous Polenta Jerusalem style - decadently rich polenta served in the cutest of metal pots and coming with an earthy and moorish mix of asparagus, parmesan, mushroom ragout and truffle oil but Jesus Christ it was one of the best things I've eaten in a looong time, so many flavours, cooking methods and culinary influences skilfully combined into something so incredible that we basically inhaled it and had to refrain ourselves from ordering another round. Even a simple sounding starter of 'Kubaneh' or Yemeni pot baked bread served with tahini and velvet tomatoes was far from it- a beautifully fluffy rounded loaf similar to a brioche, so inviting that I fully committed to the gluten induced pain to follow, proving also perfect to mop up every last bit of the rich tahini and fragrant tomato sauce reminiscent of a smooth gazpacho. Though technically a very simple starter of some bread with dips, it was in its execution nonetheless quite mind blowing, combining temperatures and textures in ways like I've never had them before and once again illustrating a fine and capable hand in the cooking produced here.
This trend continued with the rest of the small plates arriving at our table. A delectable dish of beetroot carpaccio topped with burnt goats cheese, hazelnut brittle and pomegranate molasses vinaigrette elevated this humble veg into something quite extraordinary while a dish of josperised aubergine, an aubergine grilled under a high heat and combined into a silky baba ganoush like paste with a feta emulsion, tomato, fresh oregano, crispy shallots and pine nuts, was like no aubergine I have ever had before- unexpected, delicious and once again completely worth the hype. That is not to say they only know their veg here. My plate of juicy prawns on a bed of smoky beetroot, labneh, basil and chilli was perfectly prepared, fresh and once again winning with it's unusual flavours. Can you tell I love the place already?
Ok, The Palomar isn't cheap, in fact a little pricier than the generous set menu at Honey & Smoke and on a similar level of dining in at Ottolenghi, but it is no doubt worth every single penny. This is hands down fantastic, imaginative, modern yet satisfying food that stands out even in a restaurant scene as diverse and competitive as that of London. Yes, it is going to be a total pain to get a reservation here and may not be cheap but listen to me and pick up the phone to book yourself a place here asap. You won't regret it. I am already earmarking a return for a bar seat even if it means it may have to wait a couple of months.