The Shoreditch success story repeats the trick in its new Western home
When the achingly hip Soho House Group announced plans for a Shoreditch-based pizza restaurant back in 2010, we must confess to harbouring doubts. Creating a network of exclusive members’ clubs is all well and good, but how would that initiative translate to the fashioning of a competent pizza?
Happily, our fears were thoroughly confounded by Nick Jones and his team, as Pizza East proved itself well capable of serving up delicious, authentic pizzas to match the see-and-be-seen atmosphere of its trendy, East London setting.
Buoyed by their success, the group have now set up shop in a refurbished pub on Portobello Road – a “Pizza West” if you will. However, you could be forgiven for thinking you’ve stumbled into a rustic Italian trattoria rather than the sister restaurant of a sleek Shoreditch hangout. Taking its cues from the shabby-chic school of décor, the spacious dining room is a warm and cosy affair, filled with worn wooden tables and vintage furnishings. Affected maybe, but no less appealing for that.
Food-wise, there are a wide range of starters on offer, with the “counter” options the most inviting. For £12, you can choose three choices from a wide range of antipasti, including mouth-watering cured meats and cheeses. On this occasion we opted for a simple side-order of garlic bread – tasty, but rather bready for our liking. One portion was more than enough for two.
And so to the pizzas. While there are some flamboyant flavour combinations on the menu (a previous visit to the Shoreditch branch had taught us that pork belly can be quite overpowering as a topping), we erred towards the classics. The salame, tomato and mozzarella option was exceptional, thanks in no small part to the excellent quality of the ingredients. A plain, salame pizza can occasionally be one-note, but in this case, the flavours were unusually delicate.
We also sampled a combination of crushed tomatoes, olives and thyme, with a creamy burrata cheese taking the place of the conventional mozzarella – again, the balance of flavours was perfectly judged. In both cases, the wood-fired bases were pleasingly crisp, although crusts were a little doughy in places. That said, when the accompanying chilli oil is of this kind of quality, having a little extra to mop up with isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
For dessert, our lemon pot was both creamy and tart, but the strawberry gelato was a disappointment. Costing £4 per scoop, you’d expect something with a bit of punch, but ours tasted like the sort of thing you’d get in a tub at the theatre. Pleasant enough, but underwhelming in light of the quality found elsewhere. By way of comparison, Union Jacks’ homemade ice-cream costs £1.50 per scoop, and boasts a superior range of flavours.
All in all, the welcoming atmosphere and excellent pizzas are more than enough to please the crowd of well-heeled regulars (the restaurant doesn’t take bookings, so it’s worth arriving early if you want to be sure of a seat). And considering the area, the prices aren’t to be sniffed at either, with our bill proving comparable to the high street chains. Despite our visit falling on a Monday, business was brisk and it must surely be a matter of time before the Soho House Group add Pizza North and Pizza South to their portfolio. With pizzas this good, they’ll get no complaints from us…
1 Garlic Bread
1 Burrata Pizza
1 Salame Pizza
1 Lemon Pot
1 Scoop Strawberry Gelato
1 pint Peroni
1 glass Primitivo
Pizza East Portobello
310 Portobello Road