NEW: Franco Manca Sourdough Pizza
Tonight I had the very exciting privilege of taking three guests for an evening of pizza trialling at the much anticipated Franco Manca, a Neapolitan style pizza restaurant opening on Regent Street in Brighton this Friday!
When I heard Franco Manca was the latest Neapolitan style pizza place to land in Brighton, I was pretty excited. Having heard great reviews from those familiar with the London branches (Franco Manca is a small, growing chain) and already being a huge fan of Fatto a Mano in London Road, my expectations were high.
To start with, the restaurant is huge and it is immaculate. Sleek marble and wooden benches cover two floors of the restaurant against stark white walls dotted with humorous sketches, creating an understated elegance and more importantly, the kind of simplicity that tells you they mean business.
The menu gets straight to the point: pizza and drinks. That’s what you’re here for, right? Six pizzas, a salad and the drinks list on one side of A4 paper, with notes on the ingredients on the back. Our server approached to take a drinks order, 3 beers and a glass of red wine, and proceeded to reel off the starters. There was a slight confusion here when the server gestured to the specials board to explain the starters and listed them to us, as we realised that they were not in fact on there and hadn’t heard the entire list. We latched onto garlic bread with mozzarella and ordered two, with a side of olives.
For a trial night I obviously wouldn’t expect perfection in the operation of the night, but there was some more confusion as our drinks did not surface and our starters were served with two dishes of olives; we took it in our stride and waited for an opportunity to chase up the drinks, which arrived soon after the mistake was realised. The starters arrived before we had ordered pizzas, which I guess is slightly unconventional but was a welcome surprise.
Look at the cornicione on that!! And also the size of those olives whilst I’m at it. This is probably some of the best garlic bread with mozzarella I’ve had; not so tomatoey that it might as well be a miniature margherita or dry and crispy, but soft and pillowy with a good amount of garlic and cheese – it seems a given, I know, but some places really don’t get that garlic bread should have ample garlic on top!
We ordered our pizzas as the first plates were cleared: No 3. (mine) Courgettes, basil, mozzarella, buffalo ricotta and grana padano with no tomato; No. 4. Gloucester old spot ham, mozzarella, buffalo ricotta and wild mushrooms with little tomato; No. 5 Tomato, garlic, oregano, capers, olives, anchovies and mozzarella; No 6. Tomato, cured organic chorizo and mozzarella. Now, if you haven’t tried a white pizza (no tomato) it might sound a little insane, but trust me on this as it’s fast becoming my go-to of Neapolitan pizzas. For me, it goes to show that the quality and texture of the dough and ingredients more than makes up for a lack of a sauce base.
There is something about pillowy, authentic Neapolitan pizza dough that makes it pretty much impossible to leave and needless to say, I am now writing this whilst clutching at a small food baby. Perhaps it was just a little too generous, but I tired of the courgette after a while and could happily have eaten this pizza as a glorious three cheese instead, but then I have always been a cheese pizza fangirl. But all in all we were very happy pizza tasters.
I’d also like to nod to the great ‘no logo’ lager on offer, for £3.35 a bottle which is pretty reasonable in the Brighton area and maybe a little too easy to drink!
After the pizzas, our server approached us and asked if we needed anything else, to which I feebly asked if they had a dessert menu… because not knowing or trying is far worse than this killer food baby I am suffering with. Again these weren’t on any menus but she was able to list all desserts which included: chocolate and hazelnut cake with ice cream; lemon and almond cake with cream and honey; a selection of ice cream and sorbet, as well as an affogato. We ordered two chocolate and hazelnut cakes and one lemon and almond. Both were tasty and arrived very quickly so I gather are chilled desserts that are ready to serve, but I definitely expected more almond from the lemon and almond cake. Dessert was finished with a round of traditional Italian Limoncello, which safely pushed me over the edge after two pre-dinner cocktails, two beers and three courses of food, but was a nice touch to end the experience.
As to be expected, Franco Manca Brighton has a little way to go until they find their way completely with service and operations, but the quality of the food, atmosphere and design of the restaurant is certainly impressive for something so new, and their knowledge of the menu is already extensive. Whilst we were there to trial the new restaurant, it was difficult to catch the eye of many of the staff and would have been nice to have a little more engagement. However, I have no doubt that it will become a firm favourite for lovers of authentic pizza and a third place hub for many in the centre of Brighton, made so much more difficult to turn down with its crazy low pricing – pizzas are under £7 and massive! I’m looking forward to seeing how they get on in their first few weeks and will no doubt be back again soon.
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