To misquote the bard, I came to bury Franco Manca, not to praise it. Well at least that was the intention. After I’d written so many good reviews, I felt the need for some balance, to really tear into somewhere. One quiet Sunday night myself and my friend the Ultimate Rugby Fan (URF) decided to have a quick bite at the Northcote road branch of Franco Manca and I thought I’d found my target, well it didn’t turn out quite like that.
So I think I can predict your question, why did I think that Franco Manca was going to be fair game? Well my thought processes, as far as you can call them that, went like this.
Franco Manca started as a local phenomenon in Brixton a few years back, offering well-made gourmet pizza at affordable prices in modishly decorated surroundings. Later on the chain started expanding out to more locations, though still close to its south west London roots, and it was a couple of years ago that they arrived where I was sitting on the Northcote Road, Battersea.
I remember being full of enthusiasm when the Battersea branch first opened with its promise of traditional pizza & organic wines all housed in nice clean modern surroundings. I remember queueing with the best of them for seats on Thursday and Friday nights, talking loudly about the delights of the XO flour made to make the pizza base, and how the organic wine gave you less of hangover. Back then with only a few branches it felt like you were someone who’d been let in on a well-kept secret, almost like Franco Manco was a private club only you and your friends had heard about. What a difference two years makes.
Between then and now Franco Mancas have sprung up around the capital like weeds through the paving stones. It now seems that they’re everywhere. Shopping centres, check, outer suburbs check, Covent Garden next to where the waiters from Rules have their sneaky mid service fag, check. When something becomes that ubiquitous, it’s usually then that whatever it was that made it stand out in the first place becomes devalued and I was ready to leap on this and write my first ever bad review.
That Sunday night though there was no queue, the Northcote road branch was one of the few eateries around that had anything approaching a buzz. They found us a table for two easily enough, but it was rather close to another table for two, really it was a table for few with a small crack in the middle. Going straight in we ordered a bottle of the organic red, this was as tasty as I remembered. At £14.95 it’s not cheap, not expensive, but it’s worth remembering it’s about the same cost as a pair of pizzas, so seems like perhaps less good value than it actually is.
Like the décor the menu is clean and simple with a choice of a couple of wines, 6 pizzas, a few starters and a dessert or two for those that are still hungry. It’s like a Gordon Ramsey maxim of keeping it simple brought to life and it undoubtedly makes life easy for both staff and customer alike.
Both me and the URF were rather hungry and so we decided to split a starter of the mozzarella special. OK, what can I say, it WAS disappointing, though seeming of good quality with a nice texture, it lacked flavour and had the misfortune of tasting more like congealed cottage cheese than anything else. The bread it was served on was the best bit, though as that is basically what the joint is known for, that perhaps should have been expected. It was served with plastic still covering the neck of the cheese. Next however came the pizzas. I went for the broccoli and mozzarella, whilst the URF had the chorizo in place of the absent pepperoni.
My pizza would have come white, that is with just cheese, but I had been talked into adding a tomato sauce to the base, this was as it turned out nice but I think unnecessary. The flavour combinations were great as they were with broccoli working nicely with the cheese and the Gloucester old spot sausage. The URF liked her pizza very much, feeling it was put together from good quality ingredients. She did have a criticism however, thinking that those great ingredients could have been spread out across the base a bit more.
What can’t be argued against is that with the cost of the pizza coming in at around £7 and the total bill of £34.5 before tip this is great value, and I think you’d be hard pressed to find as good value for such quality in many other places. Though not a destination for a night, more the sort of place you’ll whilst on a night out, it is still hard to fault Franco Manca. If you’re looking for quick cheap eats and like pizza it is basically a no brainer.