Ask to anybody based in and around Fitzrovia or Tottenham Court Road where you can find the best pizzeria and you’re likely to be directed in the direction of Franco Manca.
I’ve been walking past this place for some time and have marveled at its undeniable popularity, with regular queues spilling out of the door for a table, coupled with a steady scurrying of office workers leaving with takeaway boxes thrust under their arm.
The obvious popularity, geared with the The Guardian‘s promise of the “best pizza in Britain”, led me down to Franco Manca with my team to try it out for ourselves. Would it really live up to the hype?
Franco Manca’s Sourdough London Pizza Review
As a lover of sourdough, I was pleased to see that all of Franco Manca’s pizzas are severed on fresh sourdough bases, cooked in a traditional wood-fired pizza oven. The slow-rising nature of sourdough and heat from the oven results in a light and airy consistency whilst the crust is crispy. Perfecto!
Franco Manca has an excellent specials board, although the Meat Special that I had my eye on wasn’t available; instead, I opted for one of the menu favourites, which included home cured ham, mozzarella, buffalo ricotta and tomato and fresh basil. In all the excitement I forgot to take a note of it’s a name, but here’s a handy photo…
What arrived at the table looked fantastic; the sourdough base was everything I hoped it would be, an appropriate balance of crispness and chewiness around the crust; this of course complemented the toppings which tasted great. The tomato base also had a lovely fresh tanginess to it, although this had allowed the base of the pizza to go a little soggy, which was a little disappointing.
Most disappointing however was that, upon delivery I found my pizza (at best) lukewarm and a couple of mouthfuls later, cold. Normally I would bring this to the attention of the waiter, however it was an in-between-meetings lunchtime visit and I’d already had a fair wait so I soldiered on through (…and it wasn’t half-bad cold in any regard).
It’s worth noting too that the service wasn’t electrifying – granted, it was a busy Friday lunchtime – but that’s no excuse for average service, and as my partner-in-crime RobsRibs would suggest, this is more than half of the overall experience. It was all just a bit… flat.
Franco Manca: the best pizza in Britain?
So. Is this really the *best* pizza in Britain? Or perhaps London? Unlikely. I’ve had better; see my recent write-up of Affamato in Milton Keynes as an indicator, although other worthy contenders exist. I’ve heard good things about but am yet to try Pizza Pilgrims in London.
By no means is Franco Manca average, but it just didn’t hit the dizzying heights of expectation that the long queues, almost cult-like status and favourable reviews had led me to believe.The service was disappointing. My pizza was lukewarm. It wasn’t particularly memorable on any account.
If you find yourself near a Franco Manca, with additional branches dotted about in locations such as Guildford, Wimbledon, Brixton (the original), Westfield Stratford and Soho, I’d suggest you head on in and give it a go for yourself – The Times, The Observer and Tatler can’t be wrong with their assessment, can they?
For sure, Franco Manca is a decent notch up on many of the UK’s chain pizza restaurants and half-hearted independents, but it wasn’t special enough, at least on my first visit, for me sit here and confidently tell you that Franco Manca is indeed the home of the UK’s best pizza.
*Edit*: a return visit to Franco Manca, Wednesday 29th June 2016
Ok, so I’m all about second chances – especially as I found myself this lunchtime on Tottenham Court Road with serious hunger to solve.
I’m pleased to say the service on my second Franco Manca visit was much improved; the restaurant was clearly extremely busy but our waiter was personable, attentive and the pizzas were quick to arrive, no more than about fifteen minutes. Sat near the pizza oven this time round, I was able to watch the chefs preparing each pizza before sliding into the pizza oven which made for impressive viewing.
The pizza was also significantly better on today’s visit; the sourdough base was even better than last time (doughy but crisp on the edges). However, the middle was still too soggy.
An improvement, but the conclusions drawn above about Franco Manca largely remain.
Don’t miss my review of Honest Burger, Tottenham Court Road, just a few meters down the road from Franco Manca.