On a freezing Friday evening, Michael and I joined the rather impressive queue that had formed outside Franco Manca in Brixton Market. As annoying as it was to stand and jiggle on the spot to increase the blood circulation to my fingers and toes, at least I knew from the growing crowd and my tripadvisor stalking that I was in for some fine pizza.
^ That was about the length of the queue when we joined, and it took us just under half an hour to reach the front and be seated. The wait also gave me ample opportunity to get snap-happy and meet the faces behind the stunning sourdough pizzas zooming past me in every direction as the waiters moved at a million miles per hour.
Service: The staff were absolutely amazing; a real streamlined and close-knit team shouting Italian at one another as the various perfected stages of the dough-to-table process were performed. The manager was a real delight and very much in control of the chaotic restaurant, handing out menus to people waiting, clearing tables and checking that everyone had everything they needed and were enjoying their food. The administration of this place was nothing short of identical to what you would expect from a local family-run trattoria in the suburbs of Italy, which was really wonderful. Despite being at full capacity and under pressure to hurry people out of the door and make room for new, eager & impatient customers, the waiters don’t rush you to pay or leave… although your pizza will magically appear before your eyes before you’ve had much of a chance to blink, but that is perfectly fine by me.
Ambience: Sadly, this is where the restaurant really fell short. Due to popular demand the restaurant has had to make the most of a tiny space, with the indoor dining area split across two premises opposite one another, and people squashed on benches outside each of them, narrowing the gap for passers-by even more so that diners are quite literally brushing shoulders with pedestrians walking past.
The indoor seating area isn’t anything to write home about either, unfortunately, with mostly communal tables and very stark, harsh lighting.
Michael and I were lucky to get pretty much the best table going; a table for two next to the window, and from which I could watch the talented trio of chefs hard at work.
Having said all of that, Franco Manca has a number of branches, so I can’t speak for the ambience at all of them; this was simply our experience of the Brixton venue, but Michael has previously been to their restaurant on Tottenham Court Road, which he says was much more of a ‘smart’ restaurant, so I guess it depends which you visit!
Food: The pizza, on the other hand, was sensational. At the end of the day that’s what we came for, and when you’re paying the glorious prices offered by Franco Manca, you can hardly complain about a lack of elbow-room or candles!
Their menu is short and to the point, showcasing a number of relatively traditional pizza-topping combos, as well as some daily specials.
As both a pepperoni and ‘la reine’ (ham, mushroom & olives) lover, I was finding it incredibly difficult to choose between the cured organic chorizo & mozzarella (£6.95) and Gloucester old spot ham, mozzarella, buffalo ricotta & wild mushrooms (£6.85) + olives. Michael saved the day however, offering to share each with me, despite being a devout pepperoni man. It wasn’t long before our steaming hot pizzas landed before us.
It’s fair to say that I was more than a little excited to receive these heart-shaped beauties; the perks of being a food blogger absolutely held true for once! Thank you Franco Manca.
Both pizzas were outrageously tasty; the infamous sourdough crust lived up to its reputation and was definitely the most enjoyable crust that I can ever remember having – I could happily eat a plate of it on its own! The chorizo was exceptional. The circles of generously thick sausage were full of delicious, meaty, flavour, and melted in your mouth.
Our other pizza was equally good, with the creamy ricotta mozzarella adding a highly welcomed delicious new dynamic to an old favourite. The Gloucester old spot ham was also of a noticeably high quality, with a slight smokiness coming through, and was anything but dry.
I honestly cannot tell you which I preferred; I loved getting to experience both at the same time and enjoyed them equally for slightly different reasons. Either way, I can assure you that you won’t be unhappy with your choice!
We washed the lot down with a bottle of their ‘bianco Ottavio Rube’s organic wine’ (£13.95), which was certainly pleasant enough (particularly for the price). My only criticism is that they didn’t have any ice cubes; I’m a girl who likes my white wine pretty frosty, plus, how hard is it to keep an ice tray filled on standby? Thankfully (in this regard only) the winter air kept it pretty chilled, so I was a happy girl regardless, but I think this is something that could be easily remedied for future guests.
Franco Manca is definitely a very strong contender in the ever-challenging scramble to win the title of ‘best pizza’ but, for me, it doesn’t quite steal the prize from Homeslice (you can read my review of them here). However, Michael prefers Franco Manca’s pizzas, so that just goes to show how amazingly tasty the pizzas at both restaurants are! In short, you’re going to leave either trendy pizza hub very happy, and will simply have to check them both out for yourself (and let me know what you think!) to see which you prefer.
Price: The bill came to a grand total of £27.75, without service, for two pizzas and a bottle of wine. Pretty damn great if you ask me. The pizza base and ingredients used are a million miles better than what’s on offer from our beloved high-street pizza chains, and half the price, so I definitely think it’s worth checking out your nearest Franco Manca branch next time you fancy some tasty pizza!