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Pizza East Review

Nicole Dalamagas finds out what all the fuss is about at Pizza East

Written by . Published on July 7th 2011.


Pizza East Review

“I’M just in Shoreditch at a trendy, young joint”, bellowed the rough Irish accent at the table across from ours, “Yeah, Pizza East, that’s the one”. It needed no other introduction. When high-end members club owner, Nick Jones (of Soho and Shoreditch House fame) opened this now infamous Shoreditch pizza joint, he changed the East London restaurant scene altogether and created a space in which both hipsters and City workers could break bread together. 

A few smokes and after bumping into a few, old friends, we were kindly escorted to our table. This proved to be quite an odd situation; the restaurant is so huge, and so busy, that you can’t help but feel as though you’re eating in a prison canteen or that you’ve just fallen into Brave New World.

After weeks of hearing about nothing else, I could no longer resist the call of the slice, and there seemed no better opportunity to answer it, than at my best girlfriend’s (very belated) birthday dinner one Monday evening. Mondays are where Pizza East really takes centre stage, not only as pizza is the best cure for a weekend hangover, but also because, for members, Mondays are also a massive 50 percent off. If this isn’t incentive enough, the venue itself really does perform.

baby artichoke, lemon and almond dish 6.50baby artichoke, lemon and almond dish 6.50

I was at once struck by the interior. The building is enormous, housing up to 170 guests, and its unique design pays homage to its industrial roots (its located in the old TEA building), complete with concrete walls, exposed piping and beams, steel tables, leather seating and pillar blocks. We made our way to the deli counter area while waiting for our table, a small section of the restaurant where ingredients and accompaniments are available to purchase, including sauces, oils, salad dressings and special merchandise such as napkins and teapots. 

soft polenta, chicken livers, salsa rossa calabrese 5.00soft polenta, chicken livers, salsa rossa calabrese 5.00

As we took a seat on one of the rustic stools and ordered some drinks, it was almost as though we’d stumbled into some swanky artists warehouse space or underground industrial party, excepting of course, for the huge salami strung up above my head. We decided against starting off slow – when in East? – and went straight for two passion fruit caipirinhas (£8.50 each) with cachaça, passion fruit and lime. The birthday girl downed hers in a record score of 4.7 seconds, but luckily for this review, I’m more of a sipper, and actually managed to taste mine before it was consumed into the hydrochloric acid mass of my stomach. And yes, it tasted pretty damn great.

chilli cocktail 8.50chilli cocktail 8.50

A few smokes and after bumping into a few, old friends, we were kindly escorted to our table. This proved to be quite an odd situation; the restaurant is so huge, and so busy, that you can’t help but feel as though you’re eating in a prison canteen or that you’ve just fallen into Brave New World. However, the ridiculously loud music takes away from this, whether for better or for worse. I could hardly hear anything my dinner-date was saying (again, whether for better or for worse), let alone hear the waitress or the conversations on the next table (which I’m a huge fan of doing). The other ‘inmates’ seemed equally as annoyed about this, expressed by a series of arm foldings, frowns, head shakes and overly-obvious hand to ear actions.

Ambience aside, the food was excellent. The menu is divided into ‘cold’, ‘baked’ and ‘fried’ antipasti, pizzas, salads and a handful of other main dishes. For starters, we chose from the ‘fried’ section, continuing the theme of going all out. Soft polenta, chicken livers, salsa rossa calabrese (£5) was excitedly wolfed down by my date, whose nods and muffled “mmms’ showed signs of vast appreciation. I savoured a delicious and flavourful baby artichoke, lemon and almond dish (£6.50), which was presented beautifully and well-seasoned. The lemon complemented the artichoke perfectly and balanced out the oil, whilst a light mayo dip was a mean accompaniment to the sweetness of the artichoke.

courgette, tomato, taleggio and marjoram Pizza 10.00courgette, tomato, taleggio and marjoram Pizza 10.00

Having only eaten one Weetabix all day, I almost fell of my chair with excitement when the pizzas came out. The cooked cheese was seemingly flying through the air on direct course to my nostrils, like a little mozzarella army battling with my senses. The base was perfect; all smoky and billowy and just the right side of well-done. The sauce was rich and sweet and utterly divine. I had the courgette, tomato, taleggio and marjoram Pizza (£10) with extra broccoli (any of you who have read my earlier reviews will be aware of my penchant for the green veg), whilst my girl-date went for a full-on meat-fest, despite of my overt vegetarian scowls. She dug into the spicy sausage, mozzarella and sprouting broccoli pizza (£12.50) with a vigor that only Scousers can possess, tackling the crust with impressive skill. The crust was perhaps the only slight downfall of the pizzas; it was a little hard to chew and required the kind of determination I just didn’t feel like mustering after another few cocktails.

spicy sausage, mozzarella and sprouting broccoli pizza 12.50spicy sausage, mozzarella and sprouting broccoli pizza 12.50

When my date left for the toilet, I quickly took the opportunity to order her birthday cake with candles. Salted chocolate is everywhere at the moment so of course it was featured on the Pizza East menu in the form of a rich salted chocolate and caramel tart (£5). Just as she had taken her seat, the waitress reappeared with a decadent looking chocolatey slice, complete with a bright candle and huge grin. Even the guests on the next tables began singing and the birthday girl, albeit a little embarrassed and quietly pissed, was extremely appreciative. This also drew some attention form the aforementioned Irish duo on the next table. We immediately began an intense conversation, which covered everything from Freud to Burke (the fellow on my side of the table was a psychology lecturer) and turns out, that the chef, Nicolai, was one of their sons. Although he didn’t seem best pleased with us then-rowdy northerners (his first remark was that the two 50-something men had wives!), meeting the chef was a great end to a great meal.

rich salted chocolate and caramel tart 5.00rich salted chocolate and caramel tart 5.00

All in all, I’d strongly recommend Pizza East. With 50 per cent off, our bill only amounted to £41, a ridiculously small amount when considering the amount of drinks and food we’d ordered. The venue is a really cool place to meet with friends after work for drinks, although the loud music means talking is kind of off of the menu, and the pizzas are some of the best I’ve ever had, even in New York and Italy. Pizza East will also now be going west, with Nick Jones’ latest venture, Pizza East Portobello. The new restaurant’s menu features many of the existing Pizza East combos, with a few extras, including some extra veggie-pleasers such as portobello and tomato, shallot and egg. I’m already desperate to try these out and quite confident it will achieve the same success.


Rating:          17/20

Breakdown:   9/10 food

                    5/5 service

                     3/5 ambience

 

Pizza East
56 Shoreditch High Street
London, E1 6JJ


Follow @nicoledalamagas on Twitter

 

Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20: We get carried away.

 

 

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