London Pizza Round-Up, Vol 6

Homeslice, Old Street, Shoreditch, London

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Today’s review will be relatively short and sweet, as I did a full review last year, which you can find here. This is more of a quick recap, with a couple of relevant observations based on some trips since that review.

Last night I headed down with my old buddy ThePetebox to stuff my face with half of one of Homeslice’s 20″ wonders. Before I tackle this trip though, a quick mention of a meal I had in the week between Christmas and New Year.

I went with a vegetarian friend, which was no biggie as I actually am pretty much vegetarian in my diet at home, but in a restaurant obviously restricts our selections considerably. We went half & half – mushroom, ricotta, pumpkin seeds & chilli flakes on one side, and butternut pumpkin, broccoli, pecorino & crispy onions the other. The former did look spectacular when I’d seen others ordering on previous visits, and my dining companion enjoyed it, but I found it below average, with a strangely pungent scent. The latter combination I really didn’t like at all. And the pizza was, to my mind, underdone – Homeslice do tend to have their pizzas right on the line between flopping around and crispy, so a few times they’ve come out slightly underdone compared to how I like them, and when you are dealing with slice from a 20″ pizza, and no knives and forks, that can be a pain in the neck to handle.

That was the first time I’ve ever been disappointed by a trip to a Homeslice, and it shook me somewhat. But this was mitigated by the knowledge that I’d have happily chosen basically any of the topping combinations with meat over these two, so I am not going to condemn them too harshly for one bad experience.

With that out of the way, let’s rattle through this one. I met Pete, we asked for a table and were seated immediately. The servers were friendly and helpful. We went for a classic (salami, parmesan & rocket with tomato sauce) and then a new one I’ve not seen before, XO pig cheek, collard greens & crackling furikake with tomato sauce. A few minutes later it arrived at the table on their signature wooden board with pizza slicer, and we got to business.

I’m a big fan of the salami pizza they do, this was maybe the 4th time I’ve had it, and it was as good as ever. Pete reckoned that the parmesan was overpowering the other flavours, and I can see where he was coming from there, but I don’t care, I like it the way it is, therefore he must be wrong. Worth noting that the salami is great stuff, and cooked to perfection – not too crispy, but just enough crunch around the edges of each slice to add a little something.

However, the pig cheek pizza – wow. This was absolutely delicious – big, juicy blobs of what seemed to be a thick, rich, slow cooked pig cheek stew, which interacted with the tomato sauce in a delightful way. The little crunchy bits of crackling added a fantastic textural aspect to the slices, the cheese melted into the mix almost imperceptibly, and the collard greens added a touch of freshness and lightness. Really, really very good indeed. Maybe even my favourite toppings combination at Homeslice yet, which is saying something. My mouth absolutely luxuriated in the flavours on offer with this one, it knocked the salami into a cocked hat, which is saying something.

The base was done pretty much to perfection, right in my sweet spot between super floppy neapolitan style and mega crispy NY style slices. However, during the meal I kept thinking “something is different, something is missing”, but just couldn’t place what. When we retired to a nearby pub after the meal, I was midway through my pint when I suddenly exclaimed “SALT!” to a bemused Pete. It was his first visit to Homeslice, so he had no way of knowing, but they have this neat trick where I think they sprinkle sea salt flakes on the wooden serving board before the pizza goes on there, which means the base ends up lightly encrusted with little flavour bombs that explode periodically in your mouth. It wasn’t a deal-breaker, but that would have elevated this pizza even higher, and I’m curious to know if they just forgot or it was a deliberate choice for these toppings to exclude this, or what.

In conclusion, a triumphant return to form for my favourite pizza place after the Christmas aberration. I can’t recommend them highly enough, they do some amazing and unexpected toppings, including some really leftfield sauce bases (creamed corn, blitzed cauliflower cheese and so on), so you can go quite far off piste. This, as I found, carries some risk, but the rewards are so great when they get it right that I’ll happily forgive them. The total bill for the 20″ pizza, a pint of Camden Hells lager and a fruit juice was £30 including service, which is quite a bargain in London.

Salami half – 8.5/10

Pig cheek half – 9.5/10

Overall score – 9/10

My New Favourite Pizza Place

It took me a while to go and try it, and there’s still a laundry list of pizza joints that I need to sample, but for now, I feel comfortable saying this.

To the best of my knowledge, Homeslice make the finest pizza in London.

Oh yes. That’s a big statement, and not one I make lightly. But I’ve now been there maybe half a dozen times and tried different pizzas every time, and never once been disappointed. The competition is intense – there’s really very little to pick between the top dogs of the London pizza scene. But Homeslice stands tall amongst this landscape as a consistently outstanding purveyor of the finest food a pizza addict could hope for.

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Calabrian Peppers, Chervil & Lincolnshire Poacher cheese / Salami, Rocket & Parmesan

As you can see, they don’t mess about. You can buy their pizza by the slice if you are on the go, but the real joy to be had comes in the shape of this 20″ monster. It’s easily enough for two people with a normal appetite, and maybe 3 people who just need to fill a hole. You can have all one style, or split it half and half, which is what I’ve done every time I’ve been.

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To give you an idea of some of the menu options available, here’s some of my favourites. Salami, rocket & parmesan (as pictured to the right above); Chorizo, corn, coriander (the corn in the form of a creamed corn sauce which replaces the traditional tomato sauce – the delicate flavours of that and the coriander perfectly offsetting the salty, slightly spicy chorizo); aubergine, cauliflower cheese sauce base and spinach with harissa (although the time we ordered it they forgot the harissa, it was still lovely – would very much like to sample the full deal though, I suspect that would take it towards the heavens), and Calabrian peppers, chervil & Lincolnshire poacher – the left half of the above pizza.

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Aubergine, Cauliflower Cheese, Spinach & Harissa (Photo from here)

In the past I’ve been a relatively conservative pizza fan, often being a bit disappointed when I’ve ordered pizzas that came without the traditional tomato sauce, but the alternatives that I’ve sampled at Homeslice have been uniformly excellent. Occasionally it’s taken a slice or two to “acclimatise” to the difference from a regular pizza, but I’ve never left feeling disappointed. Even the one with sorrel cream (alongside Oxtail, watercress & radish) had me convinced by the end of my 2nd slice, a really unusual flavour but the combination of ingredients worked extremely well, and was unlike anything I’ve tried elsewhere.

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Oxtail, Watercress, Radish & Sorrel Cream / Chorizo, Corn & Coriander

One of the key factors that I’ve come to judge a pizza on, and in truth its strange that I didn’t used to pay too much attention to this, is the dough base. Franco Manca‘s incredible sourdough crusts were a real game-changer for me in that regard, and while this pizza doesn’t quite match the Franco Manca bread for taste, it is still very tasty, but also tends to be that little extra bit crisper; enough that you can slice the pizza and pick them up New York slice style as opposed to being stuck with a knife and fork, as is often the way with Neapolitan style pizzas.

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The pizza comes out on a wooden board, with a pizza slicer neatly tucked under for you to slice as you prefer (you can see it to the bottom left of the above pic) – I tend to go for 8 generous slices. One very neat trick they do which works very well is that they seem to sprinkle the wooden serving board with sea salt before laying the pizza down on there. These salt crystals then stick to the base, which really brings that savoury base to life on your tongue as you munch through each mouthful.

I’ve been to both the original Neal’s Yard venue, and the new joint on Old Street near Shoreditch Town Hall, and in both places the staff have been warm, welcoming and friendly. Drinks are at respectable prices by London standards  – a fiver for a pint of Camden Hells, with various craft beers by the bottle. The wine has always been decent to my unsophisticated palate, £14 for 500ml of red or white, or £18 for rosé. The open kitchens mean you can see them preparing the pizzas and blasting them in those fantastic pizza ovens (one day I will have a back garden with one of those in it!). I’ve not been during peak times (one of the aspects of being a DJ is you generally don’t get to eat out on Friday or Saturday nights with friends), so I can’t vouch for it being as good when its busier, but there’s no indication anywhere that I’ve seen to suggest that their standards drop at all.

To be honest, there’s not a whole lot more for me to say. Pizza is great. This is great pizza. What’s not to love about that?

9.5/10