While visiting London recently, I had the opportunity to try the pizza at Franco Manca in Brixton. Here's a mini review:
Franco Manca (Brixton)
Small pizzeria tucked away in the middle of Brixton market offering wood-fired Neapolitan-style pizza.
Arriving about 20 minutes before the official noon opening time, I found several people already seated at the tables outside the restaurant along the main thoroughfare of Market Row. I ended up sitting inside the restaurant proper, close to the wood-fired oven. My order was taken (margherita: mozzarella, tomato, basil) and shortly thereafter the first pizzas of the day started flying out of the oven. Aside from the margherita, there were 5 other pizza choices on the menu. Non-pizza options were a salad and a small selection of beverages including an excellent organic lemonade. Further pizza 'specials' were detailed on a blackboard outside the restaurant from which my dining companion made their choice (roasted eggplant, parmigiano, tomato, basil).
In the Neapolitan tradition, the crust was tender and pliable with successful mouth delivery requiring the use of cutlery/folding. Ample char, and tang from the sourdough leavening dominated an otherwise bland cornicione. The tomato sauce tasted just like one might expect from uncooked, unadulterated canned tomatoes with no real sweetness but plenty of raw acidity. The basil was a token single leaf which added little to the overall flavour or balance of the pie. For an extra 90 pence, I had upgraded my order from the standard fior di latte to buffalo mozzarella. Sadly the cheese was the weakest point of the pizza. What I received had a slightly stringy texture (not creamy) despite the pizzas arriving nice and hot from the oven situated no more than 12 feet from where I was sitting. Tastewise, the cheese bore an unpleasant similarity to 'slightly off' mozzarella. Perhaps the bufala they were using was already past its best? Anyway, it was disappointing and left me wondering what the regular fior di latte is like. Based on the small sample I tried, the eggplant combination worked better than the margherita. The eggplant was well-seasoned and the basil marginally more generous but I suspect the pie mainly benefitted from the absence of mozzarella.
You'd be hard pushed to quibble with the bill (averaging around 6 GBP per pie). The prices seemed very reasonable for London and must surely be a key factor in the pizzeria's continuing success.
In summary, the pizza was competent; good even. It ticked all the right boxes for a Neapolitan-style pizza but the cheese was a letdown. Everything was well balanced and executed but not exceptional. Perhaps my expectations were a little too high, having read many of the threads on these forums about Marco Parente's work with Franco Manca (as stated on the menu itself). I can't say the special 'crisceto' imparted any flavour that I could call outstanding or unique. Tangy? yes but none of the complexity or depth that I normally associate with long fermentation. Would I go back? Yes, if I was in the area but while wood-fired Neapolitan pizza is still scarce in England, I wouldn't consider Franco Manca a 'destination pizzeria'.