Sourdough pizzas, both take-away and eat-in
The trend for restaurants not taking reservations often means that you’ll have to queue. That’s definitely the case with Franco Manca, the immensely popular seven-branch chain of pizza restaurants. The Tottenham Court Road branch is one of the most central and therefore has long queues out of the door every night. There are two ways to avoid queuing – eat late in the evening or get a take away with the latter an increasingly attractive option as the weather gets warmer.
All of the pizzas from Franco Manca use a soft, fluffy, slightly sweet, mildly sour and comparatively thick base that’s a joy to eat. If you’re a Neapolitan purist though, then it’d be best to stay away – Franco Manca’s pizzas aren’t very traditional.
Franco Manca Tottenham Court Road take away
Take away from Franco Manca means collections rather than deliveries. Naturally, waiting times vary – ten and 20 minute waits are common, with 45 minute waits on especially busy nights not unheard of. It’d therefore be wise to phone your order ahead.
The meatiest option by far is the pizza topped with broccoli, mozzarella and Gloucester old spot sausage. Made without tomato sauce, this bianca pizza was remarkably unoily and not too chewy – something that can’t always be said for tomato-less pizzas. The chunky, thick-cut slices of sausage were coarse, meaty and flecked with boldly flavoursome bits of fennel. The sausage was complimented well by the slippery, earthy leaves of wild broccoli. Although the mozzarella wasn’t quite as viscous as I would’ve liked, it was still very creamy. A cracking pizza, although a more even distribution of toppings would’ve been welcome.
English ham is often dismissed as boring due to the dreadful reprocessed slices of dreck sold in the nation’s supermarkets, but it doesn’t have to be this way. The thin yet meaty slices of nutty ham used here are a joy and are complimented nicely by punchy basil and sweet, herby mushrooms. The mozzarella was once again not especially viscous, but its creaminess was enhanced by the presence of ricotta which also brought its own milkiness and mild tang to the mix. A few dollops of tomato sauce added a hint of fruity sweetness. A great pizza overall, although a slightly more generous helping of toppings, and a more even distribution of the toppings present, would have been preferable.
The only pescatarian option is a pizza topped with anchovies, tomato, garlic, oregano, capers, olives and mozzarella. The anchovies were small in size and number, but their rich, salty, tangy taste went far and was enhanced by the complimentary tastes of the sharp capers and juicy, tangy, mildly salty olives. The flavours of the punchy oregano, fruity tomato sauce and hints of garlic were stronger than that of the mozzarella, but this slight imbalance, along with the somewhat uneven placement of toppings, were the only flaws in this otherwise well-crafted pizza.
I once made the mistake of dismissing the very idea of chorizo as a pizza topping, but I should’ve known better. The meat toppings on this pizza alternated between thin slices of dried and semi dried chorizo – both were excellent. The thickly sliced, meaty chunks of semi dried chorizo added a gentle, but distinct and flavoursome smokiness to this pizza along with hints of fatty chewiness. The more thinly sliced pieces of lightly salty dried chorizo were moreish in their own right and contrasted nicely with the light fruitiness of the tomato sauce and the creamy viscousness of the mozzarella. The occasional sprig of punchy basil finished off a deeply satisfying pizza.
Franco Manca Tottenham Court Road weekend dinner
A take away isn’t for everyone, but it is possible to snag a table at Franco Manca with ease if you time it just right. Vicious Alabaster, Burrito Fiend, Templeton Peck and I waltzed in and plopped our fat arses down without any waiting at 23.00, just 30 minutes before closing time. Despite the late hour, there were no complaints from the staff and we weren’t rushed in any way.
Vicious Alabaster started off with a pot of nocerella olives. Having never tried them before, I was intrigued by their firmness and mild fruitiness. Alabaster was disappointed though, as they didn’t compare well to the best nocerella olives.
We were both disappointed with the relatively muted buffalo mozzarella, but the accompanying ham was pleasingly fatty and salty.
My cool, milky burrata was better and complimented very well by the crunchy almonds and the thin, yet dense slices of very salty ham.
Burrito Fiend opted for the anchovies and capers pizza which was identical to the one I had before. However, the Fiend sacrilegiously scraped off the basil – an egregious act that may seem him disavowed, at least for a while.
Templeton Peck’s ham, mushroom and ricotta pizza was almost identical to the one I had previously, but with slightly more mushrooms. He polished off every last crumb, as well he should.
I opted for the meat special of the day – pancetta, stilton, mozzarella and cavolo nero. The stilton’s distinctive tang was muted, but it did add some much needed creamy viscousness that the mozzarella was lacking. The smoky, fatty slices of pancetta were a delight and went down a treat with the mildly bitter and earthy cavolo nero.
Vicious Alabaster opted for the chorizo pizza with some added artichokes. While moist, tender and fleshy, the artichokes added little to this pizza. Although Alabaster enjoyed it, it didn’t compare well to the take away version above – there was very little of the semi dried chorizo, with small, muted slices of mildly fatty dried chorizo dominating. The mozzarella was at least suitably creamy and viscous though.
The Tottenham Court Road branch of Franco Manca isn’t quite perfect, but it’s still easily one of the best pizza places I’ve been to in London. Its popularity is very well-deserved – if you have any sense, its phone number will be on your speed dial and your best walking shoes prepped.
Name: Franco Manca Tottenham Court Road
Address: 98 Tottenham Court Road, London W1T 4TR
Phone: 020 7580 1913
Opening Hours: Monday-Thursday 11.30–23.00. Friday-Saturday 11.30-23.30 and Sunday noon-22.00.
Reservations: not taken.
Average cost per pizza: £7 approx.