You might have seen my recent post on Brixton Cornercopia in Brixton Village.
Well, today it’s a hop, skip and a jump across the road to the neighbouring Brixton Market, which contains what is, in my humble view, one of the jewels in the crown of the rapidly changing South London foodie scene. It’s Franco Manca, which most people around this part of town know as the “sourdough pizza place”.
The basics: it’s tucked away in a corner of the market (so seek it out and don’t give up) and is tiny. There is often a queue – which should be taken as a good sign – so don’t be surprised to find yourself up close and personal with other customers at a teeny tiny table.
But we’re here for the great pizza, so everyone seems to be happy to rub along together…and you never know, you might make new friends! At weekends, any idea of just popping in will be greeted with a mighty (if quick-moving) queue, but on a weekday you normally stand a pretty good chance of grabbing a table. Aim for one indoors and enjoy the heat of the pizza oven as the nights get cold and dark. It’s all a bit chaotic, but it just works, as whenever I’ve been, then staff have been super-friendly.
So the star: the pizza. The bases are what makes the place famous, made from sourdough that has been slow-raised for about 20 hours. So just think about this – someone was planning to make my pizza almost a whole day before I even knew that I would be eating it. The resulting base is very tasty, softer than the usual crisp bases that I crave but with a nice chewiness and a puffy edge. The choice of pizzas is kept mercifully short and sweet – there are six standard pizzas, which change with the season, and then two or three specials. And not a bit of pineapple in sight. So yes, you can choose from nine pizzas max. But frankly, that is not an issue – there is a good mixture of veggie, meaty and cheesy, so you won’t be feeling restricted.
The place is all in all a little mad, so just relax and go with the flow. I was famished and luckily my order appeared pretty swiftly (which, in my experience, is usually the case). A piping hot sourdough pizza appeared, flecked with black spots on the puffy crust, and topped with all manner of goodies. On this occasion, I opted for a pizza bianca with buffalo mozzarella, gorgonzola, spinach and caramelised onions, but plumped for a twist with a dash of tomato sauce on the base (so…eh…just a normal pizza really…). It was just heaven. The cheeses were creamy, the sauce was tangy, the onions sweet and juicy, and that base…tasty and just that little bit chewy. I scoffed it in the blink of an eye, but I reckon I could easily have polished off a second. It was that good.
What did strike me about Franco Manca is that this is very much an established joint. People know it and love it. While, no doubt, it really is an exciting time to go down to Brixton and see what is happening, clearly it’s also changing fast – you are basically guaranteed to find something new down there every week – but I do think it will be interesting to see what happens as time goes by. Some places will do well, some might look to move out to other premises, others will vanish as quickly as they came. But I think one thing is for sure – Franco Manca has been down in Brixton as long as I can remember, and it’s done well for a reason – it’s excellent. And you know what? I reckon it will still be there for a very, very long time.
So…would I go back? Do you really have to ask? If I move down here, we could be having weekly clandestine liaisons. I’d be sneaking in to get take-away too. And all that would be a very good thing indeed.
Franco Manca, Unit 4, Market Row, Brixton Market, London SW9 8LD. Tel: 0207 783 3021. Tube: Brixton.
LondonEats locations map here.