Taking a food concept from the streets to proper, grown up, bricks and mortar restaurant phase is gradually becoming a well walked path. Even if it becomes a totally standard way to enter the restaurant industry, I think there’ll always be something endearing about the route and those that are able to take it. It’s just reward for the traders who battle the elements, logistical nightmares and tiny profit margins. A victory for the little man.
Doesn’t stop there though, does it?
What might feel like the end game is really just the start of being involved in a notoriously difficult industry. That must be mighty daunting.
Homeslice are the latest of a growing line of street food traders to step up to the task of taking on a permanent site. A regular trader at Eat Street / KERB, I enjoyed a few slices of pizza from their mobile pizza oven last year. I remember, in particular, one tie-up they did with the Rib Man’s pulled pork and his notorious sauce; an early sign that Homeslice are not afraid to stray from the traditional interpretation of Neapolitan pizza.
They’ve taken down the tent and this month opened as a proper pizza restaurant in the brightly coloured and always bustling Neal’s Yard. It’s a good space – very casual, high ceilinged and light, big tables, relatively bare walls and a smart looking pizza oven tucked in the corner of their open kitchen. As a side note on the aesthetics, I think the only thing that didn’t seem right were the cold congealed looking examples of pizza next to the till. All a bit too Leicester Square for me.
The concept is simple: one slice of pizza costs £4; a whole pizza costs £20; you can get two different toppings on a the £20; and that £20 pizza is massive – i.e. enough for two to share. The drinks options further the casual and social tone that naturally follows pizza (or ought to): beer and prosecco on tap and house wine served in magnums, marked at a level when you start and when you finish. I reckon that’s a nice touch.
Those who are particularly strict with pizza toppings might flinch at the short 8 or so pizza menu. There’s a Margherita (obviously) and cured ham and rocket and so on. But other, less traditional options kind of dominate. Courgette and artichoke; smoked trout, beetroot and goat’s curd; pork belly and chimichurri stood out and (dare I say it) appealed.
The thing is, pizza is one of those simple looking dishes that needs to be absolutely nailed to stand out.
On a first visit I got a single slice to go. The topping was pleasant enough, but the base was underdone and doughy. It felt like the oven wasn’t hot enough. A day and a larger pizza later and I was more impressed, but certainly not blown away. The best pizzas come piping hot, crispy and puffed up at the edge, sloppy in the middle. Our table-sized beast wasn’t quite that. Less doughy than before, but still not perfect.
As mentioned, I quite like the idea of the non-traditional toppings, and a pizza bianco style half topped with courgette and artichoke was particularly good, but maybe needed a touch of salt and more/some basil. Pork belly and chimichurri didn’t quite hit the spot – it was pleasant, but just not enough flavour from any of the components. I’d have enjoyed more splashes of the herby sauce.
On the basis of those visits, if you’re in search of the perfect pizza, then there are better places dotted around London (I continue to favour Santa Maria, the Brixton branch of Franco Manca and the Pizza Pilgrim’s van). However, as somewhere to meet and eat in central London, there are few places that are cheaper and more sociable.
That oven will get hotter and flavours may get bigger. But the real USP of Homeslice seems to me to be the opportunity to get 5-10 people round some massive and inexpensive pizzas, and see how much wine and beer you can balance on the table at the same time. I say cheers to that and good luck to them.
Homeslice in 3 words
Social, massive pizza
£4 for 1/6 pizza. £20 for 1 whole. £4 beer / prosecco. House plonk.
homeslicepizza.co.uk – 13 Neal’s Yard, WC2H9DP – 02078364604