Franco Manca

So the 2011 UK Michelin list is out tomorrow. This post is not in any way relevant to that.

Instead this is a quick note (because it was a very quick meal) on the South London super pizza institution, Franco Manca. Cheap, informal and slightly manic, it’s the antithesis of Michelin star eating. It’s also really blooming good.

The original branch of Franco Manca (there’s one in Chiswick – which must surely be entirely different in set-up and atmosphere?) is situated at one end of Brixton’s covered market. There are two sites opposite each other. That makes it sound big. It is not. In fact, it’s basically a few seats crammed into every space possible in two shallow shop fronts. Shabby chic is not the right word for the reclaimed furniture and plyboard partitions. But there’s bags of character.

Everything’s directed by the very good natured and very hairy backed owner (I assume – let’s call him Franco anyway).  Franco does a fine job of keeping order in the queues, whilst monitoring tables, taking orders, orchestrating service and delivering bills. It’s a kind of balletic chaos. In another life Franco could have been an air traffic controller.

If you go, you’ll spend longer queuing than you do sitting down – such is the popularity of the place, the speed at which your food arrives, and the speed that you will devour it (because you will both love the pizza and feel a minor pressure to eat quickly as the next customers hover over your shoulder).

Franco Manca is popular for two reasons.

The first (as it should be) is the pizza. There is a choice of 8, 2 of which are daily specials chalked up on a blackboard. Toppings include Gloucester Old Spot ham and wild mushrooms (I had that); cured dried chorizo; aubergine, roast tomatoes and pecorino (my mate had that) and other tempting combinations. But, to be honest, what’s on the pizza is largely irrelevant; it’s the base wot brings the punters.

Beautifully thin with the requisite puffy edges and all the lovely flavours that a wood burning brick oven gives a base. This kind of pizza cooking is very welcome, but also available elsewhere. The Franco Manca twist is that the base is made from sourdough. Rather than being brittle, the Franco Manca pizza is chewy and elastic and really more-ish. See the theory in the image above for more details.

The second reason people travel to Brixton from all across London, just for a pizza, is the pricing: £4.50 for the most basic tomato and garlic effort to about £6.50 for the more jazzy efforts. For the cost of a crappy Pret sandwich, bag of crisps and drink, you’ve got yourself a world class pizza. Nice one Franco.

Franco Manca opens for a whirlwind 5 hours service Monday to Friday. They could easily expand to fill a 60 cover restaurant and still have a queue. But maybe some of the joy would be lost. Do pay a visit. It’s proper food. Stars schmars.

Franco Manca in 3 words

Brick baked chewiness.

The Bill

You get change from a tenner for an excellent pizza and a tasty artisan drink. – Unit 4, Market Row, Brixton, SW9 8LD – 020 7738 3021