Stop right there. I've found the best pizza in London. And it's right on Tottenham Court Road.
My friend Harry used to rave about this place, urging me to venture South of the river to Brixton to give it a go. I never got round to it but my ears pricked up when I heard that they were opening one in my part of town, right in the heart of London. Not your usual takeaway affair, Franco Manca is all about the slow-rising sourdough which is then baked in a 'trufae' brick oven until perfectly crisp. Then the freshest of toppings are scattered on top and you're ready to dive right in.
I went with work on the rainiest of Thursday nights. Predictably at places with a no booking policy, there was a queue but we managed to get drinks in while we were waiting and the promised 30 minutes of wait time was actually only half that. Inside, it's heaving and buzzy with a great view right into the open kitchen in the middle of the room.
Start with some of their 'bites' - the fresh burrata is my complete weakness and to die for here - and resist the urge to consume your bodyweight in appetisers before the main event. The pizza menu's short but sweet with about seven to choose from, as well as a vegetarian and meat special chalked up on the board. The boys went for the one with Gloucester Old Spot ham, mozzarella, ricotta and wild mushrooms which they wolfed down in record time. I chose the Meat Special which came with prosciutto, parmesan shavings and fresh rocket, and although they forgot my request for added artichokes was the best pizza I've ever eaten. The flavours here are delicate and well thought out with portions big enough for even the heartiest of appetites, and that sourdough? Perfect. Just watch out for the chilli oil which is deceptively hot.
Faced with the prospect of dessert, who could refuse? There's chocolate cake and lemon tart on offer but the star of the show has to be the simple but tart lemon sorbet that comes with a shot of Limoncello to pour over it. The perfect little palate cleanser and not too abusive on the waistline either.
This place is a hot ticket so be prepared to queue but it is worth it. The food's unbelievably affordable and they have a couple of other spots (they're even in Westfield) so there's no excuse not to get your pizza on. Healthy January? Who cares when pizza's this good?
Photo by Bears Bites