The recession must have been hard on Domino's. Not only did they get looted during London’s re-enactment of 28 Days Later, but gone are the days when students would spend £15 on a layering of bread, tomato and cheese. As a failing food critic, however, this is exactly what I found myself doing at Pizza East in Shoreditch.
Many may scoff at the idea of a gourmet pizza, but that is what Pizza East claims to provide . As a converted warehouse, its rustic decor echoes the strong and simple flavours that dominate the menu. At least I think it did, but the lighting was so poor we were partially guessing how the menu read.
I chose the wood roasted garlic and fennel mussels to start. They were delicious: the fennel adding a more interesting tang than the traditional white wine. My friend seemed less impressed with her fried artichokes; the batter was light and fluffy but it was poorly seasoned.
Shortly after refilling our wine tumblers (yes, tumblers) the waitress delivered our pizzas. My topping of salami, chilli and red onion was well thought through. Pepperoni often overpowers pizza, so separating the meat from the spicy flavours was inspired.
But it was the tomato sauce that set the pizzas apart. It was distinctive, rich and perfectly seasoned. The base was crisp and slightly sweet, complementing the heavier sauce. It was a pizza from a different world to chains like Pizza Express or Ask.
For pudding I ordered the intriguing salted chocolate caramel tart. While the salt surprised the palette and brought out the caramel it was too powerful, and always the last taste to leave my mouth. On top of this, the base was so tough I had to put my full weight behind my fork, prompting bemused looks from our neighbours. My companion’s delicious fruit crustata, despite looking like an apple-filled Yorkshire pudding, made me envious.
Our meal was by no means flawless, but by giving the impression of offering something entirely new to the pizza chain cliche, Pizza East has a claim to making the best pizza in London.