Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I can be fairly spontaneous (as spontaneous as a rigid Singaporean can be, that is), and, yesterday, while on the Victoria line, figuring that I would be doing quite a fair bit of travelling anyway, and deciding to take advantage of the one-day travelcard fare on an Oyster card thingy, I ventured southwards to Brixton to try out Franco Manca, allegedly the best pizza in London.

Franco Manca (Italian for "Franco's not here", a reference to the restaurant that used to occupy the space before Franco Manca) serves up proper Italian pizza (i.e. a maximum of four toppings) made with a sourdough base which has been baked for 20 hours in a wood-burning oven imported from Italy. The restaurant is located in Brixton Market and sits rather incongruously between a Caribbean grocer's and a wig shop. I sat outside, along the market walkway, which wasn't the greatest spot, because there was a smell of fish wafting over from the fishmonger nearby. Still, the smell wasn't strong enough to put me - or anyone else - off their food.

There are seven pizzas served on any given day (six on the menu, and a special), none costing more than £5.80. I'm a sucker for anything with the word "special" (seriously) so that's what I opted for. It turned out to be a no-tomato pizza (yes, amazingly enough, that's what tomato-crazy LMR opted for) with mozarella, Italian sausage and what the waiter called "broccoli from the South of Italy".

I thought the sausage was a little too salty, while the broccoli tasted a little more like watercress. The mozarella was incredibly delicious (apparently, Franco Manca flew in a cheesemaker from Sorrento to train their supplier Alham Wood Cheeses in Somerset) in the art of mozzarella making. but that wasn't the point of the pizza. The main focus was the dough. And, my gosh, I have never tasted a pizza base as delicious as this in my life ever. And it was astoundingly light too.

According to owner Giuseppe Mascoli, if the crust is covered in small black charcoal marks ("like a leopard's skin"), it "means the pizza is cooked just right." Indeed, it was.

All of this was washed with a glass of homemade organic lemonade, served in bottles which reminded me of home (as these are exactly the kind of bottles I have at home in Singapore). If I hadn't been so full (and caffeinated from an interview which I later learnt went better than I thought, but still not good enough), I would have opted for an espresso (Franco Manca uses Monmouth coffee). The restaurant also serves water on tap, organic wine (£7.50 for a 750 ml bottle, £1.40 for a glass) and organic beer (£1.40 for a 330 ml bottle).
All of this - and a sense of humour too - for less than £8. Greta doesn't work there anymore, but her name's still on the till.

Franco Manca is only open from 12 noon to 5 pm, Monday to Saturday.

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