1. PIZZA PILGRIMS, SHOREDITCH
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.
2. OLIVE, HOXTON (FOR SHEER VALUE)
RATING OUT OF 5: 4
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!
RATING OUT OF 5: 4
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.
RATING OUT OF 5: 3
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.
RATING OUT OF 5: 1
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!