Pizza and cocktails. Not a bad place to start for a night of fun, and maybe, a degree of mayhem in the cauldron of the bars and restaurants of Soho. There are not many places to hide when the offering is so simple. If the pizzas aren’t up to the current high London standard with many recent openings, and your cocktails are limp wristed efforts served in warm glasses and shaken by a novice, you won’t return and will tell all your mates not to bother.
A two level space of a fair bit of exposed brick (it’s de rigeur in Soho, right?), with a few saucy and arty pictures on the walls showing the odd flash of bare female flesh (Soho again, of course) is headed with a pizza offering from Neapolitan chef Raffaele Medaglia who owns Dubai based pizzeria Rosso Vivo. The pizzas are cooked in a Forno Tradizionale Napolitano brick oven for ninety seconds at around 900c, as is the proper Neapolitan way, ensuring a thin and crispy base, and long proved dough that will deliver a perfect chewy crust. There are some fantastic Chesterfield style sofas and chairs that suck you into leathery depths – these are seats you’d be happy lounging in all evening.
We waded in straight away with the pizza, although they do have a small selection of items like Foccacias, lasagne a classic Parmigiana Melanzane made with aubergine, tomato and Mozzarella, and a selection of salads.
Don Vincenzo: Italian Sausage, Tender Steamed Broccoletti, Mozzarella
Don Vincenzo came with Italian sausage spiked with fennel seeds, steamed broccoli and mozzarella. Plenty of chunks of meaty sausage kept us happy, but what about that famed pizza base? It passed the test, thin enough to keep a Neapolitan chuffed, and with echoes of the quality of the pizza seen at Franco Manca, we instantly give the pizza kudos: proper pizza.
Don Rocca: Buffalo Mozzarella, Cherry Tomato, Rocket & Prosciutto Crudo
Don Rocca was next with Prosciutto Crudo, cherry tomato, Buffalo Mozzarella and rocket. Rocket. A lot of it. We’re advocates of healthy green living, but we had to dig through the foliage to find the very fine pizza beneath, passing the real test of any pizza: if you’re happy to chomp your way through every last bit of the crust even when you’re full, it’s a winner of a pizza.
So with the pizza shaking its stuff with the right moves, what about those cocktails? We chat to the supremely knowledgable bartender Gavin Forbes, who we soon find out has worked at some of the finest cocktail bars in London for many years, among them the bars of the Rushmore Group owned by Jonathan Downey, with Milk and Honey being the jewel in the crown just down the road on Poland Street.
So confident are we in Gavin’s skills, we go off piste and he asks us what spirit we like, what other ingredients we’re into, and he rustles up drinks to our specifications: the mark of a serious bartender.
He makes us classics like The Last Word, a Gin drinker’s favourite, laced with Maraschino cherry liquer, which goes down a treat. Next up, Gavin rustles up another creation with beetroot and yellow pepper, experimental but made with panache and no shortage of love. Attention to detail is in the right place, with frozen glasses and proper martini coupes. Their own list of signature cocktails reads pretty well too, with Neapolitans, a blend of Limoncello, grappa, gin, grapefruit and lemon.
Live music is a big part of the offering here too, headed by musical director Luca, lead singer of Eddie and the Robbers, a group created by Formula One guru Eddie Jordan.
Proper pizza, proper cocktails, music, Soho. That’s a killer combination.
21 Poland Street, London, W1F 6QG