Grabbing a great ‘pie’ - as the Americans call them - in London is about as rare as finding quality Indian food in New York. It’s there, you just can’t find it. There are only a handful of places that can justifiably be said to serve quality pizza in Zone 1. Princi and Rossopomodoro are contenders while out in other Zones, street traders such as Fundi, Well Kneaded and Pizza Pilgrims (often trade in Zone 1 and soon to be at a bricks and mortar site on Dean Street) offer even better options. Sacre Coeur and the ever-expanding Franco Manca valiantly service Zone 2's cheese-related needs.
So why the lack of great pizza parlours in Zone 1? It can’t be an issue of low profitability, pizzas are one of the higher margin products and there are far too many awful slice-microwaving takeaway kiosks in the West End fleecing tired hungry tourists before the Angus Steakhouses could (RIP) for that arguement to hold true. Maybe it’s that people are happy with the tasteless cardboard served out of Pizza Express and Zizzis? Maybe people aren’t fully aware how much better something as simple as a pizza can be? If that's the case maybe it is time for a revolution, I mean you only have to look at burgers for a precedent.
|Seating -space at a premium|
Hidden away in the corner of Neil’s Yard, the location of Homeslice isn't ideal for footfall but the benches outside and the inviting smell of baking dough and heady basil will undoubtedly draw in the punters. They serve pizzas by the slice as well as a monstrous 20"er. Homeslice has versatility on its side functioning as a takeaway, a quick lunchtime bite or a long romantic evening for two. The menu is as simple as it comes, 7 pizzas with the first 3 also offered by the slice. They also offer half and half toppings on a whole pizza.
Homeslice then is a definitely nod in the right direction. Before becoming ‘Slicers, one of the founders had worked making pizzas so could roll them but didn’t know how to make the dough. The other had a few years cooking experience but none with pizzas, that is until one day the two of them and a mate decided to build a pizza oven. They developed a basic dough recipe through trial and error which has now evolved into fresh yeast/mother dough based recipe. They haven't been pushing the takeaway option as they are waiting to see what customers want, but I can foresee a rise of quality pizza by the slice, like in NY, becoming the next big thing.
|Menu on the day we went. Subject to change regularly|
I went with a friend and we got a whole pizza and chose half and half finocchiona and caprese. The salami was fatty and had a punchy fennel kick while the caprese was a nice contrast with deliciously fresh tomatoes and a heady basil aroma. The high quality of the ingredients was obvious and that they had been treated with respect. Too often a restaurant claims top quality ingredients and then ruins them. Here, especially with something as straightforward as pizza, the ingredients are allowed to hitch up their skirts expose a cheeky ankle and show-off.
Pizza-nados have always spent most of their time debating one area of pizza-making and that is usually the dough. I’ve been to Princi and Manca’s and think that that the former’s base is too dry and the latter's is too soft and chewey for my perfect slice. Here the base has a nice char and a slight chew. A great dough. The tomato sauce is light, fresh as daisies with a light vinegary twang. It reminds me of Pizza Pilgrims'.
|Close up on the Caprese - the picture of summer|
Your drinks choice is simplified to either beer on tap or wine, believe it or not, by the magnum. The way it works (other than to get you very drunk) is after you’ve finished your meal they measure the level of the liquid remaining with a ruler to calculate the number of glasses you've had. Sure its slightly kitsch, and some may find it a little awkward, but I personally saw it as a bit of fun. The kitsch continues with the finding of this guy on our table. Of course I could have used the other normal chilli oil bottles, but that wouldn’t be any fun now would it?
|Measuring the wine - he looks a little confused|
Overall the pizzas were very possibly the best I’ve had in London. Certainly better than Franco's and they run the Pilgrims damn close. Maybe not the most authentic Napolitan-style pizzas I’ve ever had but they never claimed to be. At £20 quid, it seem rather pricey, but it’s definitely enough for two to share and you're getting far better quality than 99% of other places in London. So like most foodie choices, you could pay £9.95 for an American Hot from Pizza Express and be perfectly happy*, or you could come here and actually enjoy your food and the atmosphere. Also if £20 sounds too much, why not grab a huge slice for under a fiver and wander round in the summer sun (possibly a little optimistic).
Where: Homeslice - 13 Neal's Yard London WC2H 9DP. Tel: 020 7836 4604. Nearest Station: Covent Garden