Alan Yau does pizza
I’ve had mixed experiences at restaurants set up by fabled entrepreneur Alan Yau. I’ve enjoyed Hakkasan and Yauatcha, had reasonably good meals at Busaba Eatthai and utterly miserable food at Wagamama. Princi is an Italian bakery and pizzeria based in Milan, with its only foreign branch brought to London by Yau. It’s located on Soho’s Wardour Street and is perpetually busy.
Despite its glossy beige looks, Princi is effectively a gussied up cafeteria – pick what you want from the display cases, pay at the till and grab a table if you can. Although the place was packed on the weekday lunchtime when I visited with The Lensman and Veal Smasher, we only had to wait a minute or two before a table freed up – turnover is generally pretty quick unless you’re unfortunate enough to visit when the place is packed full of students nursing espressos.
The Lensman started off with arancini, a Sicilian dish of stuffed rice balls coated with bread crumbs and deep fried. Although the Lensman’s balls were a bit cold, they were crispy on the outside and moist and fluffy on the inside. The filling of beef, cheese and peas wasn’t especially remarkable though.
The pizzas at Princi are served in Roman-style rectangular pieces. I was greatly unimpressed by the thick, tough, doughy base used in all our pizzas – chewing my way through one was quite a task. Besides an initial hit of saltiness, my parma ham pizza didn’t leave much of an impression while the bland cheese was also a disappointment.
Runner beans and pesto is an unusual combination of pizza toppings. This pizza not only suffered from the same, tough, chewy base as the parma ham pizza, but the pesto was so tasteless it might as well not have been there. At least the runner beans weren’t too rubbery, unlike the cheese.
The Lensman had better luck with his blue cheese and salami pizza. Although there wasn’t much salami, what little there was had a gentle saltiness that went well with the pungent punchiness of the cheese. Shame about the base though.
Veal Smasher was more tolerant of the chewy pizza bases than either myself or The Lensman, although he still likened it more to eating a ciabatta than eating a pizza. He too had better luck with his pizza toppings – the saltiness of the ham was complimented well by the black olives and firm artichokes.
Our shared dessert of cannoli siciliani was an odd one. The crunchy pastry shell tasted a touch stale, as if it had gone past its use by date. The filling of wispy, fluffy, slightly sweet cream was pleasing in its own right, but it didn’t bear much resemblance to the ricotta or mascarpone usually found in cannoli siciliani. It’s an intriguing dessert though.
This was my first meal at Princi and it’s going to be my last. I see little reason to pay inflated prices for food that is mediocre at best, especially when Pizza Pilgrims serves up far superior pizza at weekday lunchtimes just around the corner at Berwick Street market.
Address: 135 Wardour Street, London W1F 0UT
Phone: 020 7478 8888
Opening Hours: Monday-Saturday 08.00-11.30 and noon-23.30. Sunday and Bank Holidays 11.00-16.30 and 17.00-22.00.
Reservations: not taken
Total cost for one person including soft drinks: £10-15 approx. (you’ll pay less if you’re less of a glutton than I am)