Last Friday, I was being taken out by my sister-in-law and her boyfriend. They had recommended a restaurant in Brixton Market that they said was amazing. I’ll admit to being a little nervous, as normally I organise the restaurants that we visit and I like to be in charge of excursions.
The place that we were looking for was Franco Manco (website: http://www.francomanca.co.uk/pages/index.html). It was 9:30pm on a Friday night in Brixton Village and we found that there was a queue for a table at least fifteen people deep (this is one of those restaurants where you can’t book a table). The people already at tables did not look like they were going to go anywhere quick. To make matters worse, we had the added complexity of having a dog in our party and therefore had to have one of the outdoor seats (fortunately under the glare of several outdoor heaters). All-in-all, I was very hungry and somewhat impatient. “This place better be good”, I muttered hungrily to myself.
Luckily, it was. I was struck by the simplicity of the menu. There were six pizzas to choose from and two “specials” (one vegetarian and one meat). Amazingly (for London, anyway) all of the pizzas were under £10. I ordered the special pizza, which had slow cooked lamb on top. Fortunately, for me, the pizzas arrived extremely quickly and I was simply not prepared for how good they were going to be. The pizzas are cooked on a slow-rising sour-dough base, which is given at least 20 hours to develop which is cooked in a brick oven that was constructed by specially designed by artisans in Naples. They claim that the oven can get to the heady heights of 500°C. The result of this cooking process is that it produces a “crust” or “cornicione” that is lovely, light and soft. The restaurant is very particular about their ingredients; the menu and website both explain exactly where the cheese, tomatoes and meat are all sourced from. You immediately get the distinct feeling that they care deeply about the quality and the heritage of their ingredients and products. A picture of the delicious vegetarian special (featuring potatoes and green pesto) is shown below:
A word on the wine. Actually, several words on the wine. Of the wines that were available on the wine list, I was drawn immediately to their natural wines, which are produced by Ottavio Rube in Piedmont (northern Italy); these are organic and non-sulphite wines. I selected the Ottavio Rube Vino Rosso (pictured). Now, I’ve had a few biodynamic wines in my time, so I was prepared for what we were about to taste, but others in our group weren’t. The wine that we tasted was focused on pure fruit flavours, but with little depth or subtlety. I’ll be honest, I would have much rather had a lovely traditional Chianti with this gorgeous pizza; this wine didn’t exactly tickle my fancy, but it seemed (to me) appropriate – as their focus on natural wines fitted nicely with their focus on the food ingredients.
So, conclusion? They have had several reviews stating that they serve the best pizzas in London, if not the UK. Hyperbole? Not in my book. I can state that I haven’t had a better pizza outside of Italy. I will certainly be coming back.