Review: Pizza at Franco Manca, Brixton Market


Fancy a great pizza this weekend and can’t quite afford a trip to Naples? Try Brixton Market

They say that when you’re eating cuisine in a restaurant from a certain country, and you observe people from that country dining there too, that you’re on to a winner. If you’re eating a bowl of Pho in a restaurant on Kingsland Road sitting next to people from Vietnam, it must be good etc. (The exception to this rule is seeing Italians in Bella Italia, they’re just tourists and bless them, they don’t know any better…yet.)

And so I find myself in Franco Manca, one of the trendy micro restaurants in Brixton Market, surrounded by Italians. I didn’t stumble haplessly across this pizza joint as I did across many of the other Brixton market foodie gems. I knew.

I had boasted once among friends about having had the best pizza in London at a venue in east London. Instantly they all shot me down. Franco Manca, they said, was the undisputed king of pizza. How foolish of me to pledge allegiance to another without tasting the fruits of the Franco Manca.

So I found myself cycling to Brixton last Sunday in the pursuit of London’s finest pizza. I may well have found it.

The couple of Italian gentlemen sitting next to me and my fellow dinners thought so too. They felt compelled to tell us that they had been living in London for five years or so, and made it a tradition to meet each other there for what they described as “the best pizza in the UK”. And one of them was from Naples – the home of pizza – he knew what he was talking about.

What’s so special I hear you ask?

The market setting of Franco Manca

The market setting of Franco Manca

It could have been the dough. It’s made from slow-rising sourdough (matured for 20 hours) and baked in a wood burning brick oven. According to the experts these combined techniques lock in the flour’s natural aromas and create a soft, easily digestible crust.

I’m not sure about the science bit, but it tasted amazing. I certainly didn’t discard the edges. Their light crusty but springy texture sent me diving for the chilli oil as something to mop up. Delicious.

Of course, it could also have been the specially sourced tomatoes from Salerno, or the cheese from the award-winning Alham Wood buffalo farm in Somerset. Or even the meat supplied by one of the founders of The Rare Breed Survival Trust.

Whatever it was, it was brilliant.

The restaurant setting in the market complements the simplicity of the menu, there’s nothing fancy here, just bloody good pizza. There’s a choice of six pizzas and one salad. Two types of wine and one beer. Easy.

I had pizza number five – tomato, garlic, capers, olives, anchovies and mozzarella and a glass of Madregale Bianco. Perfect Sunday afternoon fare.

Should you happen to also find yourself in Brixton, and in the market for one of London’s finest (and cheapest) pizzas, keep in mind that the restaurant is only open for lunch and not for dinner from Sunday to Wednesday. (Franco Manca is open for dinner from Thursday to Saturday).

Or, of course, should you also find yourself in Chiswick or Westfield Stratford City you could visit one of the Franco Manca outposts.

Personally I think the pizza is best enjoyed at the original venue. There’s a fresh feeling about Brixton and its burgeoning foodie scene that encapsulates the pizzas perfectly. Unpretentious, exciting and great fun.

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Would pizza at Franco Manca….

  • Inspire a productive business meeting? Defintely. The food is easy, easy to order and easy to eat. More time to talk.
  • Impress the boss when everything else has failed? Unless they are Italian and long for a taste of home, no. It certainly ain’t posh.
  • Break the ice with those awkward clients? Well there’s the “Hasn’t Brixton changed!” ice-breaker that should keep you going.
  • Sufficiently blow your bonus and make you feel like a king? As I said, cheapest pizza in London. Not particulaly regal.
  • Provide the right setting for an all-important first date? Why not? You can impress with your working knowledge of the uber-cool Brixton markets.