East London (Various Locations)
What did you get up to over the weekend?
Oh you know, went on a Pizza Pilgrimage…
A what?! A Pizza Pilgrimage…!
Ok – by the look on your puzzled faces it seems like we are going to have to give you a quick crash course on what a pizza pilgrimage is all about.
Who: Six pizza-obsessed pilgrims who made it their mission to try as many pizza joints in East London as possible one Sunday afternoon (without making ourselves ill in the process).
I give you Mezze Platter, Coogs, The Sultan, Sam-U-L-Beavason, Don Letts (Pizza Extraordinaire) and myself – each and every one of us willing to put our bodies on the line all in the name of pizza.
Why: Why not?
What: After some incredibly thorough research from the Don (of Pizza) a shortlist of 6 independent pizza joints were drawn up along with the most time-efficient route possible making use of public transport and our own two feet. Strictly no Ubers.
When: Last weekend, keep up!
The starting time and location was revealed in the days running up, each of us preparing for the Pilgrimage in our own way, some made sure they were super hungover with a bottomless pit to fill whilst others hit the gym that morning to work up an appetite.
Voodoo Rays was first on our list.
Ok, Ok its not strictly independent as they’ve got two establishments but Pizza Buzz was shut (sob) and we needed to make up numbers – as we came together there was much excitement and the artistic scorecards were handed out…it was time to begin.
Pizza Type: American
Served by the slice we got to choose our toppings of choice – with the option of dips for dunkin’ and slush-puppy like cocktails we were chuffed with this last minute addition to the pilgrimage.
Comments: Crispy yet doughy, unique toppings with banging dipping sauces. Could have done with a bit more cheese, some didn’t rate the cheese overall – even though the slices are large you can still hold one easily in one hand – Structural integrity is strong! Shamaze…
Average Score: 8.2
Considering the amount people had enjoyed Voodoo Rays there were murmurs of concern that we’d started with the winner – but we had 5 more ahead of us so we couldn’t make that judgement just yet. Coogs however would probably disagree…
Boarding the Bus at Shoreditch High Street we headed East to London Fields, alighting near Richmond Road and continuing to Lardo. The outside area was packed due to the glorious sunshine so we settled for a table inside.
Lardo describes itself as a ‘hip, industrial-chic pizzeria with a ‘disco ball’ oven’ – the menu wasn’t incredibly pizza heavy with lots of other Italian small dishes on offer so we wondered whether their pizza would be up to scratch.
Pizza Type: Italian
Time was of the essence – considering the afternoon ahead of us – plus we knew that as every minute passed and with every slice that passed our lips we’d slowly be filling up. The ultimate faux-pas on a Pizza Pilgrimage!
It was decided that we would sample two pizzas where slices weren’t an option – with Mezze Platz dietary requirements needing to be adhered to (No pork please) she was allowed to choose one of the pizzas whilst the other would maybe not be so Mezze-friendly.
Having eaten at Lardo before Mezze-Platz bought things back to basics and opted for ‘Tomato, mozzarella and basil’ whilst the ‘Nduja, rocket pesto and fresh mozzarella’ tempted the table too.
Comments: Shits on Voodoo Rays, beautiful crunchy base – the way Italian pizza should be – fresh with great flavours (you could taste the high quality ingredients) but it was incredibly greasy. The N’duja didn’t have that much flavour.
Average Score: 7.2
So that was the 2nd place ticked off – The Sultan had gone to town on the surplus slices and I could see behind his eyes he’d just realised he may not have thought things through properly. We had a 10 minute walk ahead of us to our next destination so we set off, some more spritely than others.
Well Street Pizza was a new one for all of us, boasting a custom built oven all the way from Naples which gets to the dizzy heights of over 45o degrees. Claiming their pizzas have a slight Roman crisp in the base, making them firmer we needed to make this decision ourselves.
Pizza Type: Neapolitan style sourdough
We had the restaurant to ourselves but it was the twilight zone between lunch and supper plus the sun was blazing outside – again we were faced with which two pizzas to go for – unanimously we agreed on the Marg plus the Crudo Rucola (prosciutto, fior di latte, tomato, rocked and shaved parmesan).
Comments: Love the pizza cutter, soft doughy base but the crust was a bit dry. The cheese was plasticy and chewy plus the tomato didn’t really have much taste to it. Pizza for a wintery day apparently. Not sure could handle a whole pizza because of the dough consistency.
Average Score: 4.5
Another walk was ahead of us – Yard Sale was up next and we’d called ahead so our pizza would be ready for our arrival, thats right we don’t mess around!
Pizza Type: Wood Fired Sourdough
Serving pizzas out of their shop in Clapton we were all pretty excited for this stop however people’s appetites were beginning to dwindle. Fear of filling up started to set in…Yard Sale’s setup was more of a delivery or takeaway vibe – loved by many they were nominated and voted for by the public as Hackney’s best restaurant in the Time Out Love London Awards.
People were potentially hitting the wall so we just shared one pizza between us…
We decided to go for something more exotic at this stop – mix it up a bit if you get me – Tender stem broccoli, manchego cheese, pine nuts, garlic and oil.
Comments: Crispy base, could have done with a bit more manchego though! The dough was great and the olive oil in the sauce was legit. The broccoli worked well, seriously inventive toppings!
Average Score: 8.2
We were in and out of Yard Sale faster than you could say Pizza Pilgrimage, the staff looked bemused but also slightly confused when we told them what we were up to.
We took the bus to our next destination – a quick nap and a sit down was very much needed – The Sultan especially after going ‘ballistic at Lardo’.
Sourdough Saloon was next on our pilgrimage serving out of the kitchen of the boozer Lord Morpeth, not far from Victoria Park. Luckily a 2nd wind was on the card…we still had space for more pizza.
Pizza Type: Sourdough
Not wanting to tempt fate we kept it simple…so the trusty Marg reared its cheesy head again! You really can tell a lot about a pizza place by their Marg – no where to hide….
Comments: The pizza was light and crispy but there was not much to it – a good tomato sauce. Average and pretty bog standard but it wasn’t greasy, was it because we’d already sampled so much pizza that we weren’t massively blown away? Also was it actually sourdough?
Average Score: 4.8
We were on the home-straight now, just one more place to sample! Don Letts had spoken incredibly highly of the next one, we hoped he was right…whispers of how great the dip was circled the pilgrims, good enough to drink is what I heard.
So are you ready for the final slice? Or have we put you off pizza for life?
Paradise Slice on Brick Lane was the last port of call for the weary pilgrims. Nestled amongst the curry houses, they aim to bring a “slice” of the Big Apple to East London. It worked well as our final stop each choosing our own slice – of course not forgetting that dip.
Pizza type: New York Style
Comments: Massive, wowza – great crust with a great dip. Seriously crispy, maybe too crispy for some. Proper American Slice but someone was left with a funny after taste. Lovely Crust.
Average Score: 8.2
So there you have it – Pizza Pilgrimage 2016, done! We thought the pilgrimage may have extinguished the ever-burning flame of desire we have for Pizza, but it seems to have only fuelled our obsession! Writing this, surrounded by empty takeaway pizza boxes it seems that pizza really does have a slice of our heart.