pizza east portobello
So, the ever popular Pizza East has opened a West London branch on Portobello Road, and like the original in Shoreditch, is open daily from 8am till late. Excellent, another brunch place within walking distance from our flat – we were excited.
Arriving just after noon on Sunday we managed to slip in ahead of another group to grab a pokey corner table – the last available in the bustling dining room. The place looked good – open kitchen with wood-fired oven, glossy white brick tiles, aluminium counter, cornflower blue metal chairs, industrial light fixture and wooden breakfast table piled high with sunday papers – but all I could focus on were the shrill cries eminating from the offspring of the well-heeled, mostly family-inclined clientele. This was clearly not going to be a chilled weekend lunch – at least I wasn’t hungover.
Trying to block out the playground around us, I sipped my Blackberry Bellini (delish!) and surveyed the menu – a varied mix of antipasti, pizzas, wood-fired meats, brunch items and simple salads. Our first pick, Langoustines with Chilli and Barbe de Frette (Monk’s Beard) wasn’t the best. The shellfish was devoid of taste and lacked the characteristic sweetness expected, making it a poor match for the salty chilli-specked Tuscan vegetable. The langoustine legs, left uncracked, were impossible to get at without breaking a tooth.
The Aubergine Fritti with Aioli was better… well the pieces that actually were aubergine that is. What we ordered off the menu had no mention of courgettes (I checked), yet more than half the plate consisted of the battered green vegetable. More annoyingly, they were limp and bland. The creamy aubergine batons were lovely though, and perfectly accented by the paprika-laced aioli.
We brushed off the disappointment of the starter, determined to judge the pizzeria by its specialty. The pizzas were big and billowy, with a thicker crust than we like but the dough did have good flavour and a nice elasticity. The thyme-dusted number piled with fresh Burrata, intensely sweet Roasted Tomatoes and briny Olives was tasty, but it did feel like I was eating bread with antipasti rather than an actual pizza.
The Veal Meatballs, Proscuitto, Cream and Sage was a little scruffy, but prepared in a more traditional manner – with all the toppings heaped on before baking. It tasted great but was a challenge to eat by hand – the luscious cream sauce dripped down my elbow when I tried to eat a wedge, folded New York-style. I also found myself picking off the proscuitto – the veal meatballs were plenty flavourful enough and the cured ham just added extra salt that it didn’t need.
A side salad of Rocket, Fennel, Almonds and Parmigiano Reggiano failed to arrive with our mains and only appeared 10 minutes later, after I made an enquiry with the waitress. It was missing the advertised fennel, but the leaves were deftly-dressed and provided much needed freshness between bites of pizza.
We had room for puds but I couldn’t bear another minute of my bench moving haphazardly every time the energetic 3-year-old next to me bounced up and down so we paid and made a quick exit, decamping to zen retreat Chaya Teahouse for tea and sweet treats.
Pizza East is destined to do well with it’s family-friendly menu and atmosphere – there was a queue snaking out the door when we left. We however won’t be returning – the pizzas were fine but the ones at nearby Portobello Ristorante Pizzeria are better, plus there we’ll be able to eat in peace, sans indulgent parents and their screeching kids.
Pizza East Portobello
310 Portobello Road
London W10 5TA
t. 020 8969 4500