In a location like London with such demanding cuisine tastes, sometimes things are best kept simple with added focus on quality and value for money. Franco Manca recently was named “The best place in the UK to buy a Pizza for under £5” by review site Yelp, for their modestly priced £4.50 organic tomato, garlic and oregano pizza.
Franco Manca restaurants are dotted around many hot spot locations in London such as; Brixton, Covent Garden, Soho, South Kensington and Tottenham Court Road. Along with further spread outposts in Brighton and Surrey.
Having previously visited the Brixton Market Franco Manca which has a busier vibe, with a fast turnaround of customers, the one I visited for this review in Soho has a sit down meal feel and is filled with the ambience of a slower paced, formal restaurant.
Situated on Berwick street, just off Oxford Street, the setting is hardly where you’d expect to be buying a Pizza for £4.50 in central London. Upon arrival, I was greeted by a Hostess on the ground floor entrance, I was then led to a staircase which took me down into the basement. It was here that both the dimly lit, yet authentically decorated sitting area and open plan kitchen are based.
The traditional and honest open plan kitchen goes hand in hand with Franco Mancas core values and cooking style. Franco Manca follows the simple traditional Neopolitan style of pizza cooking, which involves using slow-rising sourdough cooked at 500 degrees celsius in a wood burning oven. This method allows to lock in the flours natural aroma and also gives the crust a slightly fresh but burnt crispy after taste.
The toppings and pizza options at Franco Manca are fairly limited, there’s only six different types of Pizza on the menu, along with the option to add/remove toppings at your request. In my opinion, offering less toppings and pizza variations but focusing on high quality toppings and a authentic preparation style is the key to success of Franco Manca.
Take the number four pizza I ordered at the Soho location – Home Cured Gloucester old spot ham, Somerset mozzarella, buffalo ricotta and wild mushrooms with organic tomato sauce from the Mediterranean. This is a simple pizza, but made well with a lot of hard work that has gone into sourcing the best ingredients possible. Franco Manca even changes the sourcing locations for certain ingredients depending on when is best to source for the season. The organic tomato sauce for the base is sourced from Italy and Spain in June, from the UK in August and finally the Mediterranean in October until June once again.
To wash down the pizza I went with the organic lemonade, reasonably priced at two pounds a bottle and very refreshing. Franco Manca also have a small but carefully picked selection of alcohol, which includes their “No logo” pale ale, brewed for them in The Cotswolds at 3 pounds, which for the area is very competitively priced. The last few lines of my review were to talk about how higher priced, high street competitors such as Pizza Express should take a leaf out of Franco Mancas book, when I come to find about the recent takeover of Franco Manca by the same restaurant group which owns Pizza Express. For now, all this could mean is quicker expansion for the brand, but in the future, who knows how it might shape the direction of both the brands…
COST: £17.65 for two number four pizzas, a lemonade and a water.
LIKES: Sourdough base, quick service, quality of ingredients
DISLIKES: Lack of caramelised onion topping option, no locations in the North of England
VERDICT: Definitely one of the best Pizzerias in London in my eyes, the simple menu and focus on quality and quick service does it for me. I strongly suggest you give here a try before spending the almost same amount for a meal for two and drinks on a single pizza in Pizza Express.
Text and Photos by Oliver Jackson
Franco Manca – 51 Berwick St, London W1F 8SJ
Mon – Fri: 11:30-23 Sat – Sun: 12-23