Franco Manca - Muswell Hill
Franco Manca has a number of popular restaurants scattered across London, with the original located on Market Row in Brixton Village. We stopped by the Belsize Park restaurant, just a minute’s walk from the station. We pulled up a pew by the open-plan kitchen and watched the busy chefs working the famed sourdough that’s put Franco Manca on the culinary map. The slow-rising sourdough is made with a 200-year-old starter culture from Naples, which must be replenished every day. It takes 20-30 hours for the dough to rise and from our table we could see the dough stacked in bespoke wooden Franco Manca crates, ready to be kneaded and stretched, covered with delicious toppings and blasted in the custom-made wood-burning oven.
The result is astounding: a thin and light pizza base with a soft and chewy crust. While our toppings of smoked buffalo and Franco & Lloyd mozzarella, artichokes, wild boar salami with truffle and watercress were delicious, the dough itself was a treat on its own. My partner’s Franco & Lloyd mozzarella, caramelised red onion, Colston Bassett Stilton, watercress, roasted pine kernels and Gloucester Old Spot pancetta was equally delicious.
The chefs were as Italian as they come, singing Neapolitan ballads as they bustled about the kitchen, but the ham, pancetta, and cheeses that top the pizzas are sourced locally. The exception is perhaps the buffalo mozzarella, served as a dish in its own right, which comes from top producers in Campania.
I must confess I came to Franco Manca with a skeptical view on organic wines but I’m now a convert. The modest selection was both delicious and interesting. Like everything else, the team behind Franco Manca takes a personal approach to their wine, working directly with small organic wine producers in Italy. Craving more, we rounded off our wonderful feast with a lemon, rosemary and olive oil cake with yoghurt and a dash of honey. Franco Manca is an exceptional destination that can rival the best in Italy. What are you waiting for?