SW11 – Battersea – Sambrook’s – Challenge the brewer!

Armed with a bottle of red wine and a box of chocolates, I intrepidly set out last week to a good friend of mine’s birthday. But don’t worry – I arrived – and have since come home (doesn’t always happen).

What I am trying to convey to you is that I was armed with wine! Yes – that’s right – not my usual aperitif of choice which would normally be a six-pack of deliciously chilled Red Stripe. Knowing full well that this was to be a sophisticated birthday party (the kind with Kettle Chips), chardonnay (no, OK my friend definitely has better taste than that) and respectable chatter, I think I was appropriately bottled up. I don’t think my six pack would have gone down too well (my other one might have).

NB. The kind of parties I normally go to, usually involve me imposing martial law on the music system at the end of the night (as the Scouser and others will testify), and playing something that I’ve been listening to on loop that week.

But hey! Slow down. Enough. Where was I? Beer. Yes, I like beer. But recently, and thanks to my inaugural attendance at the Battersea Beer Festival, I have become a fan of ale (there may be hope for my burgeoning sophistication yet). I blogged about my experience on the Lavender Hill community site too. What has peaked my interest, and ultimately this post, is that Sambrook’s – makers of one of my favourite ales, Wandle, and coincidently Battersea’s very own brewery – have started brewing a new spring ale to add to their collection.

A proper pale ale, needs a proper name, and, at this moment in time it doesn’t have one! If you have ever fancied challenging a brewer to a drinking competition then I think you’re absolutely mental, but if you want to Challenge the Brewer to rename this latest addition to the Sambrook’s family, then I urge you to get involved. You can submit your entry in one of four ways:

Email: paleale@sambrooksbrewery.co.uk
Text message: Start a text with Ale then a space, then your name for the ale to 07786 205 227
Tweet them: @sambrookale
Facebook: Sambrook’s Brewery

You’ve got until midnight on April 6th. The astute ones among you will realise that is tomorrow night. So, get your thinking caps on. Get those juices flowing with something to assist the creative process and don’t forget to send in your entries. Duncan Sambrook himself and his wonderful minions will be judging entries. For more information see their blog.

So it is Thursday night, I have limited work to do tomorrow. Who would like to join me and ease into the bank holiday weekend with one of these?

Sambrook's Ale

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SW9 Brixton – Franco Manca – Restaurant review

There are rules to a dinner party. You don’t talk about politics or religion. It’s just not the done thing. Arguments do not make for a pleasant and sophisticated night, which is what most of the middle classes expect from such an occasion.

But when blogging, are there any rules? What is the protocol for new bloggers such as myself? Neither politics nor religion will touch the lips of the SW Food Blog, rest assured. But are there any restaurants which I cannot review? Are there any food establishments which are sacrosanct, save for a couple of notorious food critics, which grace the pages of the most well-established broad sheets?

Pizza is contentious. It’s contentious among the Italians. So when a pizza joint pops up claiming to be ‘the real deal’, that’s exactly what we foodie Brits expect: and nothing less. Once a pizza restaurant has been heralded as such, it’s difficult for people to eat there objectively, or at least being able to express their true thoughts without causing a commotion (see the comments which followed Mama Lan’s TimeOut review).

This was my thought train when the Welshman suggested I review the famed Franco Manca in Brixton Market. Its sourdough pizza bases are known throughout London to be the most moist and textured. I was frightened of reviewing it; I’ve had delicious pizza in Battersea when I lived there previously – Pizza Metro and Donna Magherita – and I admit, it was going to be a challenge for Franco Manca to match them.

In order to escape the wrath of my impatience (I hear the queues are long) the Welshman and the Scouser and I arrived at Brixton Market around 11.45am (it opens at 11.30am). Apart from one family who had just sat down, we were alone.

I am a creature of habit, and for me, anything which has anchovies has its own gravitational pull. I am helpless to the universal forces that be. I chose the Number Five; anchovies, capers, olives, oregano and mozzarella. If I was going to be clichéd, this is like my equivalent of an orgasm on sourdough.

The Number Five at Franco Manca

My Scouse comrade chose the same thing, while the Welshman seized his chance to eat pork in my company, selecting the home-cured Gloucester Old Spot ham, mozzarella, buffalo ricotta, and wild mushrooms.

The Number Four at Franco Manca

One has to tear the inch-worth of sourdough crust, which can barely be described as a crust, in order to get to the topping. Nibbling is a precursor to the main event. The sourdough, while never crunchy, has a toughened layer which sinks and then rips like a leathery skin when you bite into it. The centre is moist and doughy.

Now I’m into the middle. The sauce is light. This is good. I’ve had pizzas where there has been way too much reduction and way too much garlic, but this is not one of them. I must admit, I’m a bit perplexed by the inclusion of what looks to be Kalamata olives, but I’m certainly not put off. The quality of the mozzarella is superior to what I’ve had on top of a pizza before, and there are sufficient ingredients to avoid making the Number Five look like a barren circular wilderness of dough. The centre of the pizza is thin, which results in a wetted and top-heavy pointed corner of cheese that I have to scoop into my mouth quickly like a Neanderthal.

As the pizza disappears before my eyes my white plate is left with a carbonised smear – a good sign of stone-baked dough.

By the time we had finished, shortly after 12.30pm, the queue had started to snake out of the main entrance to the market. What you must understand about Franco Manca is that it is street dining. It is not a place to while away a Saturday afternoon, especially when the snake of people start staring at you, willing you to move on (we’ve all done it).

I will lend my voice of support to Franco Manca, I enjoyed it. However, it only just pips my favourite Battersea pizza haunt… by a smidge. I think it was the toppings that done it; definitely more flavoursome and better quality than I’ve experienced previously.

Anyway I’m struggling to finish this post in a witty or cheesy way, so all I am going to say is, bring on the Pizza Off: Franco Manco vs. Donna Margerita / Pizza Metro.

Only a review of the latter will truly settle this debate, unless you have your own thoughts?

 

 

Franco Manca on Urbanspoon

My food week in pictures – £5 for 5lbs – A lot of food

I will give you £5 if I’ve not put on five pounds this week. This week’s gastronomical extravaganza will be difficult to surpass.

Monday was the day of the trout; fresh from Brixton Village market, I left it whole and steamed it with ginger, garlic, bonnet chillis, spring onions and a dash of soy and lime zest. It wasn’t rainbow trout, but you can see from the spectrum of spices and colours, it might as well have been named as such.

Fresh trout, lime, soy, ginger, garlic, chilli

Although I have no pictures to show for it, I reviewed The BreadRoom in Brixton on Tuesday – check it out if you fancy a cheap lunch.

Wednesday heralded the mid-week beer (I’m trademarking that phrase), in celebration of my friend’s birthday. We may have enjoyed food from the voucher-friendly All Bar One (which I will not be reviewing), but the festivities were not complete without a quartet of cakes from the one and only vegan-friendly Ms Cupcake.

Chocolate chip

Saturday was a treat. Beating the queues at 11.30am, the Welshman and the Scouser and I sampled, what for pizza aficionados can be best be described as Mecca.  Franco Manca in Brixton Market has a reputation for its glorious sourdough bases. It has, whether you agree or disagree, been crowned as one of the best pizza joints in London. I made notes. There will be a review. Watch this space.

The number 5 at Franco Manca

On what was a very windy day post-pizza, our trio left Franco Manca and headed to the vintage market which had set up shop on Station Road. Catching my eye and nose, was not the rustle of a musty mink vintage fur coat*, but the fragrant waft of roasting coffee. This traditional Ethiopian coffee vendor, who I am assured comes down to the road opposite the Rec every Saturday, roasts whole Arabica beans in a small tin handled pot, before grinding them and brewing them in a beautiful Jebana (long necked coffee jug). You’re poured a lovely little cup; the actual coffee is thick and grainy with a comforting amount of  astringency (when unsweetened). There’s also a large reed basket full of popcorn to snack on while you sup. Please visit – it’s a real treat.

Ethiopian coffee

Just when I thought the week couldn’t get any better, the Sunday comfort club (me) decided to cook up, not a roast, but a hearty wholegrain smoked salmon tetrazzini (spaghetti bake) with lightly smoked salmon, cream, chestnut mushrooms with a parmegiana topping.

Smoked salmon tetrazzini with mushrooms, cream, and a parmigiana topping

Happy Sunday!

*I don’t wear fur. Please don’t e-attack me!