Pizza in a Big Red London Bus

Posted by Colin

Where: Big Red Pizza, 30 Deptford Church Street, SE8
Cost: Pizzas between £6.50 and £10 per person, cocktails £6
Website: www.bigredpizza.co.uk
Twitter: @thebigredpizza
Rating:

Pizzerias are so ubiquitous these days that you’d think it would be hard to do it a little differently. Fortunately, the folks behind The Big Red in Deptford have managed just that – they’ve set themselves up in a old red London bus. The inside has been converted to provide tables around the retro brown and orange seating. The bus itself is surrounded by a modern and comfy looking terrace.

BigRed

On arrival we were shown to the front of the upstairs of the bus to seats gazing out the front window.

In a nice touch from the friendly staff, they double checked whether we were OK with these forward facing seats. We decided to start our meal off with a cocktail and plumped for a mojito each. Whilst they were tasty, they seemed to have been watered down a little to fill the glass and so ended up being a bit thin. Serving them in a smaller glass and not adding the water would have been a better move – a minor point though.

Our starter of garlic pizza bread was absolutely lovely. The pizza dough tasted fresh and perfectly cooked with a good hit of garlic. For mains we had the Flemenco (tomato, mozzarella, morcilla and chorizo) and Classic Marinara (tiger prawns, mussels, octopus, squid, cuttlefish, rocket and cherry tomatoes).

Despite loving seafood, I don’t normally go for it on a pizza – but then I don’t normally have dinner in a old London bus. I was warned by the waitress that the seafood toppings would be cold, but what I hadn’t counted on was that this would quickly cause the base and cheese to lose heat. But that was my fault and other than that the pizza was top notch.

Verdict:

Perhaps the quirkiest and most unique pizzeria in London. Delicious pizza dough that tasted wonderful and avoided the criminal offence of making the cheese on top too greasy. The staff were friendly and informative and the atmosphere inside the bus was really fun. It would be a great place to take a group of mates for either pre or post night out food. You can even hire the whole bus and it would make a cracking location for birthday celebrations.

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Vapiano Pizza Restaurant

Where: Great Portland Street, W1
When: 22/02/12 (open everyday)
Website: http://www.vapiano.de/frame.php?lang=uk
Price: £6 – £9 for a pizza.
Rating:

As you enter Vapiano it’s a busy, noisy, bustling space, not unlike nearby Oxford Street , and very befitting of its location. For confused newcomers a member of staff will quickly spot you and explain the unusual ordering process. You are given a card which you use to order your drinks and food and then pay for everything at the end on your way out. On placing your order at either the pasta or pizza bar, your meal is prepared fresh. You can either stay and wait or return to your table to be buzzed when the food is ready for you to collect. The lack of at table service may be off-putting for some, and those looking for a formal dining experience are unlikely to be wowed. However, the informality creates a fun atmosphere and rather than feeling like a gimmick it actually helps speed up the ordering process, leaving you to enjoy your meal.

The menu has a variety of interesting dishes, including my favourite- the parma ham, honey and fig pizza, with a thin, crisp base and high quality fresh ingredients. Each table has a middle section with chilli oil and basil and rosemary plants so you can customise your dish to your liking. These little touches are great, and contribute to a far superior experience than other generic pizza places. In fact, the pizzas are the best I’ve had in London, and so despite having visited a couple of times I’m still to try the pasta. The desserts are also delicious with rich chocolate cake, tiramisu and cheesecake to temp you. The house wine, at just £11.95 is surprisingly good.

Verdict:

If you are looking for an informal place to meet friends for lunch or dinner, after shopping or at the start of the night, Vapiano is perfect. Great food, a relaxed atmosphere and fantastic value for money; what’s not to like?

Fire and Stone Pizza Restaurant

Where: Covent Garden, WC2
When: 12/01/12
Website: http://www.fireandstone.com/pizza/coventgarden/index.asp
Price: £7 – £11 for a pizza.
Rating:

It is often a fruitless exercise to reinvent the wheel. Unless that wheel is made of dough and covered in curry that is. Fire & Stone in Covent Garden is a pizza place with a twist: conventional toppings are replaced with a wealth of different worldly ingredients to create a range of truly different pizzas.

The menu is divided between five of the seven world continents – South America has been combined with its northernly neighbour into simply “the Americas”; Antarctica was probably omitted as not even Londoners could stomach a penguin and walrus steak pizza with ice cube shavings.

What remains is a potential trip around the globe in 23 different pizzas, ranging from Jamaica and Jakarta to Melbourne and Marrakech. The cheapest destination on your culinary travels is Naples – the bog standard mozzarella, tomato sauce and basil at £6.95. The stop that will leave the biggest total on your bill (£10.55) is, unsurprisingly perhaps, Texas – BBQ sauce, mozzarella, BBQ rump steak, roasted red onions, roasted field mushrooms and sun-dried tomato salsa.

For starters we split a dish of grilled bruschetta with Parma ham, melted brie, caramelised onion jam and pesto. It was delicious and washed down with some of the tasty wine we shared at a not too pricey £14.85.

When it came to the pizzas, Ruth went East and I stayed a little closer to home….

Ruth: Jakarta – satay sauce, mozzarella, satay chicken, spinach, aubergine and red chilli, topped with slow-roasted tomato chutney, roasted peanuts and coriander.

If I had to pick a last meal it would probably be satay chicken. So while I’m not normally a fan of mixing cuisines I couldn’t resist the Jakarta pizza. The base was lovely and crispy, but unfortunately the topping didn’t quite meet my expectations. Without a tomato based sauce, the pizza was a little dry and the chutney was an odd addition. Overall it was good to try something different, and the satay sauce was perfect, but I think I’d stay closer to home next time.

Colin: San Sebastian – mozzarella, tomato sauce, spicy chorizo sausage, garlic and rosemary roast potatoes, roasted red peppers, topped with aioli and chives.

The pizza was nice but be warned the potatoes are deceptively filling – halfway through I was already getting full. The chorizo was gorgeous, and, instead of by diced up really small, was fanned out in half sausages across the pizza. A nice touch. My only complaint was the aioli, of which there was far too much and at times it came to rule the roost over the other subtler flavours.

Verdict:

The pizzas were good although a little overloaded with ingredients that didn’t always compliment each other as well as you might hope. At the same time, though, that is also the reason to go to Fire & Stone: to try a different sort of pizza. Roast dinners, curries, English breakfasts can all be found on top of pizza bases and the prices don’t break the bank. If it weren’t for the round-the-globe gimmick, it would clock up 3 stars. It gets an extra half for daring to be different.