Pizza East, Shoreditch
Pizza East has an re-invention of pizza so creamy it borders the thin line between the erotic and the guiltily grotesque: something only a east side pizza company could have dizzily dreamt of.
The Philosopher is absolutely scathing about pizza. ‘It’s just cheese on toast, isn’t it? You can come to my house and have cheese on toast.’ I explained to him how fashionable this new restaurant was (exalted as the best pizza in East London), sited in the magnificent tea factory of Bethnal Green that for years has been home to nothing but horrible, fashionable music… and also, that it was my job. And I got him to the cavernous venue, but never quite shook from him the impression that I’d dragged him out of the house for something that was only one link up the food chain from a kebab.
Deciding to take a lassez-faire approach to the Pizza East menu, he started with the lamb meatballs in tomato sauce (£5), which I almost adored, but had the mildest quibble with: lamb is so fatty that if you mince it, as I suppose one must to turn it into a ball, and then serve it at room temperature, you can almost taste your arteries clogging up. However the flavour was good that I don’t want you to take that my petulant critique too seriously. I had the soft polenta with chicken liver and salsa rossa calabrese (£5), which was fantastic. I came away a changed person. Perhaps I am overdoing it. In the past I have always preferred fried polenta and been unable to see the point of soft. I now realise that it isn’t just cool man’s mashed potato; it is a wonderful, silky, quite idiosyncratic experience. The liver could have been cooked two or three seconds fewer (it was just, but only just, too springy), but was nevertheless delicious.
Now to the glorified cheese on toast. They stress the uniqueness of their dough, and I’ve got to give it to them – it is puffed up, golden, crispy to exactly the right degree, striking a perfect balance between squidgy and mustily dusted. I had the one with veal meatballs, cream, parsley and lemon (£12). ‘Doesn’t that look remarkably like my starter to you?’ The Philosopher said, prodding with all the impetuous edification of David Hume. ‘No, no, it’s veal. So it’s like your starter, with extra cruelty.’ (Although, reader, British veal actually isn’t cruel these days) The meatballs were delicious. Veal is a very rewarding experience – serious but subtle, seasoned so beautifully here they should really make their own sausages. Cream, lemon, parsley – what’s not to like? Well, all the cream, unfortunately… I don’t know if you’re familiar with The Joan Collins Beauty Book of 1981: she interviews all her beautiful friends about how they stay beautiful, and her Italian one says, ‘Always tomatoes, never cream.’ Well, sod beauty. Pizza doesn’t care about beauty. Write that on the tombstone of Pizza should it ever expire and it will have summed up its true, messy ethos. It’s delicious for a slice, thought-provoking for slice two, then too much. The Philosopher had the san daniele ham, artichoke and fontina cheese (£11). Again, it was delicious for a while, but the tomato influence was much missed.
I can imagine really enjoying these two pizzas, but mainly if you were on steroids, or incredibly stoned. Don’t get me wrong; there were plenty of opportunities to order a tomato based pizza if you were just prepared to concentrate on the menu.
Puds were freakishly delicious. The Philosopher had the doughnuts (£6) (an externalisation of himself: sweet on the outside, but hollow at the core) with a hot-chocolate-meets-chocolate-pud dipping sauce (quite thin but very chocolatey). The sweet little doughy cushions were lighter than air. I had an autumnal-looking fruit tart (£6), on a rustic, undainty, buttery pastry crust, which was just wonderful.
I genuinely think it reinvigorates the genre, and I wasn’t even anti the pizza genre in the first place. The Philosopher says he has a new respect for cheese on toast; it’s the cream on toast you have to watch out for.
Pizza East’s Shoreditch address: 56 Shoreditch High Street, London, E1 6JJ
Pizza East Opening Hours: Sundays-Wednesdays 12pm-12am; Thursdays 12pm-1am; Fridays-Saturdays 12pm-2am
Pizza East delivery can be easily organised via their pizza online website or by phone.