Unit 4, Market Row,
Electric Lane, Brixton,
London, SW9 8LD
020 7738 3021
I heart Brixton. When I first moved to London I lived there for a while and would spend sticky summer Sundays watching movies in the Ritzy Cinema, jog around Brockwell park taking in the views of the city, scoff jerk chicken until my belly ached in Negril on the hill and enjoy sweaty gigs at the Academy. I adored walking around the market, nipping into the bookmongers and little Asian supermarkets, and always I would see the eager queue for Franco Manca and think “one day, one day…”
Well yesterday was the day. Josh and I braved the queue and yes it was long, very long – “mental” as the guy behind me labelled it before skulking off – but oh my, it was worth it. I have read breathless reviews of Franco Manca, describing the pizzas as extraordinarily good and the best pizzas in Britain and everyone I have ever spoken to about it have just said “just go there.” And so, having done so, I urge you to do the same.
The pizzas are made from slow-rising sourdough, which takes at least 20 hours, before being baked in a brick oven – blasted with heat of more than 500 °C – so that it takes less than a minute to cook and the pizza’s dough is soft, chewy and ever-so slightly sour. Wonderful and about a lightyear away from the stuffed crusts of Pizza Hut. The menu has just six pizzas, a salad, a couple of wines, a beer and a few juices – all at very keen prices. The pizzas range from £4.50 to £6.95 and have organically sourced toppings. So far, so good.
Josh ordered the tomato, cured chorizo and mozzarella pizza with an additional topping of Gorgonzola and I went for the mozzarella and wild broccoli with wootton organic pecorino cheese. We sat and waited as staff raced around, the queue grew longer and market shoppers strolled by. Franco Manca is spread across two halves of the covered market corridor, next to a barbers and a fishmongers, and the higgeldy-piggeldy tables and chairs, inside and out, provide an ambiance that is surprisingly cosy and relaxed considering the inherent frenzy of the setting.
The pizzas arrived in a few minutes and were served with a smile. Wow. They were unfussy but packed a mighty punch. The dough was stretchy and had a lovely bite. Speckled and charred it looked absolutely beautiful and tasted just as good. A quick grind of pepper and glug of chilli oil and I was set. This was the good stuff. I had a juicy big slice of Josh’s pizza and it too was exquisite.
Josh – who had been a little cheesed off by the long queue and was already a bit grumpy that I was making him accompany me to a showing of a Japanese movie based on a Haruki Murakami novel which he was almost certain to find dull – and who has a longstanding commitment to Dominos pizzas, said that Franco Manca’s were good and that the dough was pretty special. This is a result, I promise you.
From the service, to the price (£20 for two with a glass of wine and juice), the quality to the flavour, Franco Manca does it for me. And judging by the popularity of the place and the smiles on the diner’s faces, does it for others too. Don’t wear shoes you can’t stand around in for a long time and take a friend who can keep you entertained. Wear loose fitting clothes as the pizzas are big and you won’t want to stop until your plate sparkles. Just go there. This is a place to be happy, it’s La Dolce Vita.