I had been wanting to try Franco Manca’s widely-praised, authentic Neapolitan style pizzas for AGES. Sheer laziness (probably) meant that I never made it down from North London to Brixton, where they first launched as a member of the now well-established and highly popular local food market. They were so well received that they started to expand, first with a branch in Chiswick (again, not so much with the handiness of the location) and other equally hard-to-get-to places such as Clapham, Balham and Westfield Stratford.

So you can imagine how I rejoiced at the news that they had opened a branch in Tottenham Court Road! How incredibly handy. For me. I got the chance to try it out a few days before Christmas with two lovely travel friends, H and V. H in particular is possibly as food obsessed as I am, and while V was initially unsure about pizza as the food of choice for our pre-Xmas get together, she left convinced.

But what did I think? Anyone who knows me, knows that possibly my favourite Neapolitan pizza in London hails from Rossopomodoro (the Covent Garden branch). The dough is always perfectly cooked in a matter of moments in their powerful wood fired oven, with those slightly charred edges that impart such flavour. And Pizza Pilgrims is fast becoming a favourite, too (see my review, here).

My first impressions of the restaurant were good; it’s got a tastefully lit, buzzy, modern interior, and the day’s specials, as well as starters, are posted on a blackboard. We went for a portion of salami and parmesan with rocket to start, which got the appetite nicely stirred, then waited in anticipation for our pizzas. H has eaten here a few times and ordered her favourite, no 6, the one with chorizo, with extra aubergine. V went for one of the specials, which featured, among other things, butternut squash and blue cheese, while I chose no 4, the one with Gloucester Old Spot ham, mozzarella and wild mushrooms, swapping the buffalo ricotta for some sundried tomatoes (I didn’t want the base to become soggy, as can sometimes happen with ricotta).

And it was….perfectly nice. The toppings were very tasty (they’re very proud of the provenance of their ingredients, and rightly so) but the base, for me, lacked the chewy chargrilled-ness that I love in a good pizza. I did enjoy it, and it is certainly good value for money (pizzas range from £4.50 to £6.95, more if you add extra toppings, and the very good organic wine is only £13.95 a bottle). I will probably go again, as it seems to be a reliably good place, and I’d like to see if I can capture the evasive charcoal-y taste next time. And you should go too. Especially if you live somewhere mental, like Chiswick. Or Balham.