Home to some of the finest chefs ever to have chopped something up really fast, London is a culinary capital of the world.
One dish Londoner's certainly don't scrimp on is pizza: a mainstay in takeaways and fine dining establishments alike, there's almost too much choice.
So, having recently finished a year-long search to find the finest pizza in the land, whether it's a slice on-the-go or something slightly more formal, we've listed the very best dough-topped delights you'll get in the capital.
Just click the gallery below to see the list.
Pizza of choice: Middle Eastern Lamb
Toppings: Tomato reduction base, mozzarella, spinach, marinated lamb mince, parmesan and pine nuts
The thin, crispy bases and inventive variety of toppings make Crate, a brewery-cum-pizzeria planted right next to the canal in Hackney Wick, a must-visit for any pizza connoisseur. With a menu that changes monthly, prepare to be delighted by pizzas loaded with Middle Eastern lamb or sweet potato, stilton and walnut. The former was our choice, and while pizza puritans may feel lamb atop of dough is lunacy, we found the perfectly seasoned and rich meat a sure-fire winner. Pine nuts added a sweet crunch the longer the marinated minced lamb melted in the mouth, making for an unexpectedly awesome combination, which we’ll be desperately trying to recreate. Another reason to visit the brewery? That's self-explanatory, with many home-brewed delights flowing from the tap. Be warned though, wait times can be up to 35 minutes and service can be laid back, so it might be wise to order two pints at a time.
The White Building, Unit 7, Queen’s Yard, E9 5EN
Pizza of choice: Carnivora
Toppings: Margherita, spicy salami, wurstel, Italian sausage, Parmacotto ham
A deluge of shimmering puffer jackets competing for space at the foot of the serving counter should have alerted us to the popularity of this Notting Hill pizzeria, attracting homesick Italian tourists by the busloads. One reason for this - aside from the great crusts doled out from the oven - is the sawn-in-half classic car greeting passers by in window display. And fittingly, you can do half-and-half servings: we went one half classic (Margherita), the other half silly (Carnivora), and it was actually the latter that shone through, coalescing juicy salami, fibrous ham, tangy Italian sausage and funnily enough German sausage to provide a dish of slobber worthy proportions. Even the slightly over-charred crust and base went down a treat. While not quite an almighty five stars, this isn't far off..
19 Pembridge Road, W11 3HG
8. MAYFAIR PIZZA CO.
Address: 4, Lancashire Court, New Bond St, W1S 1EY
Pizza of choice: Pulled Pork Shoulder
Toppings: Pork shoulder, onions, crackling, barbecue sauce
Blink and you’ll miss it. Keep your eyes peeled and, well, you'll probably miss it anyway. So is this plush Mayfair pizzeria firmly tucked down a windy lane just off Old Bond Street and up a flight of stairs worth the faffing about on Google Maps? You bet. It takes two days for the chefs to cook their pork, brasserie style, in a water bath with apples; and after bruising our appetites with a sterling crab and mac starter, we found out why his method yields results. A pizza of pupil-dilating proportions thanks to a barrage of onions meshed sweetly with a rich barbecue sauce on a freshly-soft-in-the-middle base, the Pork Shoulder contains some show-stopping meat, every single piece dripping in flavour as our tongue tried to decipher crackling (a nice touch) from less crunchy substances. More like this and we won’t need Google Maps, we’ll be following the queues.
7. The London Fields
Pizza of choice: Pulled pork
Toppings: Slow roasted pork, smoky tomato sauce, red onion, thyme
We’ve seen the future and it doesn’t involve hoverboards, self-tying laces and whatever film props Emmett Brown promised you. Sorry. It involves wood-fired pizza ovens and pubs, together in blissful union, as during our quest for the UK’s finest slice, we've spotted something of a rise in properly cooked dough being sold in those most informal venues. The latest being this laid-back Hackney boozer, firing out crusts that are crisp, clean and mouth-wateringly soft to the bite. That much we expected. What we didn’t consider upon ordering the pulled pork is the kitchen’s refreshingly minimalist approach to the BBQ sauce – there wasn’t any. Not having that usual sugary sauce slathered on the base made for a refreshing change, allowing for the smaller, more subtle flavours to pore through. No more so than the thyme, which worked perfectly with the meat and had us begging for seconds. You should make some time yourself...
137 Mare Street, E8 3RH
6. Franco Manca
Pizza of choice: #2
Toppings: Tomato, Mozzarella, Basil
Despite the fact you can’t actually book, we had reservations about Franco Manca. Now festooned across 12 London sites - including well-heeled South Kensington and Chiswick, which really do seem to have sprung up overnight - we were worried the super franchising of Franco Manca would have an adverse effect on the quality of its pizza; that a corporate mentality would stifle the authentic artisan taste. Over at the original Brixton site at least, we needn't have worried. Queues are longer than they ever have been and the pizza, baked using slow-rising sourdough in a wood-burning brick oven at a special blast rate to impound that sticky moisture, remains largely unmatched for flavour anywhere. The owners call the resulting crust ‘easily digestible’, which is a bit of an understatement - we near inhaled it. The base too is genuinely first-rate, with the venue's minimalist approach to toppings only serving to ensure that the dough becomes the focal point of the dish regardless of which one you plump for. Sure, the bubbles of cheese popping up in a tomato lava across the surface tasted sublime, we'll grant you that, but in the immortal words of Megan Trainor, it's all about that base. Oh and speaking of dough, it's still reassuringly well-priced.
Unit 4, Market Row, SW9 8LD (and other locations)
5. HARRODS PIZZERIA
Pizza of choice: Poached salmon (special)
Toppings: Poached salmon, dill crème fraiche, chives
Adept at holding court as naturally he can a base of dough, Giuseppe Silvestri, former chef to Princess Diana and affable master pizza maker who’s been drawing the great and the good to this Harrods hotspot for some time now, believes that good flour is sacrosanct. He told us this himself, as only a Neapolitan could (hand gestures aplenty), explaining how he uses only a small amount of yeast but high humidity to allow his wares to rise well in the wood-fired ovens. Seconds after our palate hit the high rim of the crust, its blistering softness at once apparent, its sweet texture not long after, we knew he was onto something, while the lip-glistening poached salmon (a dish which almost dissolved on the tongue) only served to bolster our opinion. Sure, the prices might be as steep as the postcode suggests, and additional toppings superfluous (an extra £22 for some Canadian lobster, anyone?), yet by your last bite you’ll be wondering why you’d never ventured here earlier.
Second floor, Harrods, 87-135 Brompton Rd, SW1X 7XL
4. SANTA MARIA
Pizza of choice: Santa Rosa
Toppings: Tomato sauce, smoked mozzarella, Neapolitan salame, fried aubergines, extra virgin olive oil, parmesan cheese, fresh basil
The closest you'll get to fiery Naples taste without grabbing your passport, this intimate pizzeria at the end of London’s Central Line remains a mecca for Italian authenticity. With all ingredients flown in from Italy, quality is never compromised here. Eager to sample such hype, we opted for the Santa Rosa. Not necessarily the most extravagant on their reasonably priced menu, less was definitely more with this pizza. Set on a stage of springy, thin dough, the humble marrying of flavorsome smoked mozzarella and melted parmesan with fresh tomato juices and oils, proved a master class in true pizza craftsmanship. This steadfast quality control has even led owner Pasquale to reject a million pound offer to expand, ensuring the establishment remains a beacon for those after the real deal. That is if you can get a seat, of course.
15 St. Mary’s Road, Ealing, W5 5RA
3. OLIVELLI, LONDON
Pizza of choice: Campagnola
Toppings: Chorizo, ‘nduja sausage, buffalo mozzarella, mascarpone, rocket and tomato sauce
The way they go on about it, you’d have thought the Italians had invented the pizza. While they didn’t (Wikipedia informs us the Sardinians, Greeks and Egyptians have pretty good claims), they’ve certainly perfected it - as Olivelli’s chefs can attest. There’s nothing to draw attention to the Campagnola on their menu, filled as it is with tempting Italian fare, but we’d underline it with a red Sharpie if they’d let us. Peppery chorizo and spicy ‘nudja sausage supply a satisfying kick, balanced out by impossibly fluffy buffalo mozzarella and mascarpone. The secret to the pizza’s success isn’t the rocket and tomato (fresh as they are) – it’s the flour, caputo. Shipped in from Napoli, it transforms an otherwise good pizza base into crispy perfection. Sloppy, rich and simple, this is the sort of pizza that gets you excited about food. Bellissimo.
61 The Cut, SE1 8LL
2. THE OAK
Pizza of choice: Bufala
Toppings: Tomato, mozzarella, cured buffalo carpaccio, wild rocket, fresh buffalo ricotta
"You haven’t had a proper Italian pizza in your search", they told us. "You don’t know anything about pizza", they insisted. They might have been right, but that’s all changed now we’ve been to The Oak. With a menu of Mediterranean fare, it’s the reputation of their wood-fired oven pizzas that brings many to this Notting Hill haunt. As far as the menu is concerned, the pizza’s looked pretty ordinary: we went the Bufala, topped with tomato, mozzarella, cured buffalo carpaccio, buffalo ricotta and rocket. You can tell something’s different as soon as the food arrives. It’s thin. Delicately thin. Only two grams of yeast is used in every 40 kilo batch of dough, resulting in a light-as-air, crisp base that doesn't leave you with that over-full feeling in the stomach. The result is that the base doesn't mask the flavours of the toppings, leaving you with a mix of cheese, meat and zinging rocket that smacks you in the mouth. If you haven't got the time for a round trip to the south of Italy, best head to the north of London instead. You won't regret it.
137 Westbourne Park, W2 5Ql
1. BRAVI RAGAZZI
Pizza of choice: Maradona
Toppings: Mozzarella, tomato, Italian sausages, sweet peppers, black olives, capers and extra virgin olive oil
A revolution is raging in South London. A pizza revolution, to be exact - so put down the pitchfork, disassemble your angry mob and get yourself down to the small and unassuming restaurant currently magnetising hip foodies and homesick Italians in their droves. Bravi Ragazzi, translating to 'good boys' or 'Goodfellas', and ran by a group of good natured young Neapolitans exhibiting more tattoo to skin ratio than a middling Premier League team, is exactly that - in fact the owner, Luca, splits his time between serving up wood oven sourdough treats here and his native Italy where he’s a fairly successful rapper. Keen to crack on, we started with the Saltimbocca flatbread sandwich which we were told would "jump in the mouth". Not far off in truth - we inhaled it. Next to wow us was the Maradona (everything is a love letter to Naples here, with the city's erstwhile footballing hero still held in high regard), our tongue barely getting chance to register the sweetly cooked dough such was its melt-in-the-mouth make-up. The sausage was far juicier than our napkin allowance had planned for, and the sweet peppers complimenting offering some real punchy flavour against the smoked cheese. Be it for us to say the owner should give up the rap game, but if we gave out platinum records for pizza reviews, this would go double. Outstanding.
2a Sunnyhill Rd, Streatham, SW16 2UH