Where To Eat Pizza

Everyone knows that pizza is one of the most popular things to eat, now you can find out where the best pizza slingers can be found virtually anywhere in the world.

How?

Well, publishing group Phaidon have released a new book, aptly named Where To Eat Pizza, by author Daniel Young, the man responsible for the London Pizza Festival. Last year, I was kindly asked to contribute to the book with my recommendations for Leeds; I reckon it must’ve been my constant banging on about the great and good of the city that did the trick.

The book compiles the favourites of a whole host of food lovers from chefs, critics to bloggers like me. The result – a staggering 1700+ entries world-wide are listed, so pizza lovers out there will be hard-pressed to not find a decent slice or two!  For each city included there’s a map pinpointing each entry and a description of why it’s part of the list. 

  

To find out about my recommendations, or for the best places around the globe Where To Eat Pizza is available to buy now, both online and from all good book shops!! 

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White Hart, Witley

The White Hart is a 16th century pub found in Witley, a small village in Surrey for those of you, who like me, hadn’t heard of the place before and had no idea of where it was. Despite its age this pub’s definitely pushing the boat out and made the bold choice of veering off the tried and tested route of typical pub fare. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, I’m always up for a decent fish and chips or Sunday roast, but if you’re expecting classic pub grub you’ll be disappointed.

We were pointed in the direction of the White Hart by my brother in-law and I can see why, a few years ago the menu became focused around burgers, barbecue, whisky and beer – enlisting BBQ Whisky Beer, winners of Ribstock in 2013 to devise a menu. A number of cultural influences including North American, North African and Korean to name a few have been taken on board, making the menu and interesting read and it doesn’t disappoint. So much so we revisited a few weeks after our first! Not only have they revamped the food menu, the drinks menu causes a bit of a stir too – expect craft beers, flights of whisky and unusually named cocktails, such as Hard Knocks & Slut Drops and Yuzu Nikka. Miso Horny?!

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Our two visits came at different times of the day – our first was a Saturday evening and the second a late Sunday lunch, so I think it gave me a good overview of what goes on at the White Hart. Now in a culinary age where burgers and barbecue have virtually been done to death, the menu pushes the boundaries making what could be a standard burger and barbecue menu into something a bit different from the norm. Diners will find a selection of starters, burgers, barbecue including their award winning Jacobs Ladder beef rib, sides including slaw, salads, mac and cheese. There’s always smoked ribs, 3 ways a B.O.T.M (burger of the month) and a special on offer too.
Here’s a summary of some of the dishes we had from both visits:

Scallops with crispy pork – a popular combination done well. The surf and turf elements were spot on – it’s hard to fault plump, soft scallops, cooked till barely translucent paired with salty, crispy bacon.

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Scallops, crisp pork, Thai garnish

Stunning Iberico pork ribs, juicy and tender with enough charring to add a smokiness to meat that fell off the bone. The pickle on the side working well bringing a little acidity to the plate. They were so tasty, in hindsight I wish I’d ordered the bigger portion!

Iberico pork baby back ribs w/ house pickles 
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Chicken wings, hot sauce, blue cheese and celery
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Crab cocktail, charred gem, fried avocado and nduja aioli

Spot on beef royale burger; perfectly pink, juicy patty cooked as stated by the waitress on ordering, topped with beef short rib slices which brought incredible smoky flavour and meatiness, a neutral cheese and a pickle to help cut through the richness. For me, burgers need to juggle a balancing act of flavours, juiciness and enough hold so it doesn’t fall apart and make a big mess. There was just the right amount of mess and give in the burger, where you could hold it intact to the last bite.

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Beef Royale burger – classic burger, short rib and portobello mushroom

B.O.T.M – Chinese burns on the beach; a fusion of asian and scottish by all accounts. May sound odd and even read odd on paper, but by all accounts made for a great burger – a classic burger topped with a haggis and black pudding fritter, hoi sin shredded duck, and bunny and fosters cheese. Unlike mine, the burger was a really messy one and definitely needed a knife and fork to tackle the beast.

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B.O.T.M – Chinese burns on the beach

Chicken shawarma – so much meat, seemed like half a chicken was on my plate, sat on top of a cucumber salsa, smear of hummus and a flatbread. The meat itself was juicy and delicately spiced, my favourite pieces are always the wings, thighs and legs rather than the breast and this was reinforced here. It was a large plate and I couldn’t eat it all, it didn’t go to waste though as the other half was happy to finish it off for me. If I was to fault it, it would be the flatbread, I found it a bit thick and would’ve preferred it on the side with the accompaniments, rather than on the plate where it became soggy from the hummus. 

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Chicken Shawarma

As much as the burgers and shawarma had gone down a treat, I reckon the stars of the show were the beef short ribs, which happen to be winners of Ribstock in 2013. The ribs cooked in a wood smoker were sublime, producing beautifully flavoursome meat where a subtle smokiness allowed the beef’s innate meatiness to come through. All that remained on the plate were two clean bones!

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Coal roasted sweet potato w/  dill aioli, black garlic 

The White Hart’s a great pub and definitely worth travelling to, with its relaxed coach house feel, friendly service and stand out food! I’ll be looking in the diary for our 3rd visit! 

The White Hart

Petworth Road

Witley

Godalming

GU8 5PH

http://whitehartwitley.co.uk

Chinese New Year @ Naturally Chinese, Surbiton

Increasingly more places are getting to grips with catering for those with a gluten intolerance, however it can still be a challenge at times, in particular for those with a love of asian food. When Chinese New Year arrives the other half would usually have slim pickings, where dishes not containing the dreaded gluten would be few and far between. Luckily since moving down south, we’ve found Naturally Chinese – the first Chinese restaurant to be gluten free accredited. As you can imagine this is no mean feat, making it the obvious place for us to go for Chinese New Year. 

Having been last year we knew it was good, booking in advance to avoid disappointment, we turned up Friday evening. For me it was a bit of a triple whammy meal – Chinese New Year, end of half term and Valentine’s Day.

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Automatically my eyes head straight towards the starters to see if there’s any dim sum on the menu. My favourite ha gau dumplings were a given, juicy prawns wrapped in gelatinous translucent wrappers, followed by crispy belly pork (of course) with a good meat to fat ratio and decent crackling. Whilst gluten free goodies included crispy squid, spring rolls made with rice paper and a beef brisket hot pot. Service was friendly, not over-facing and like our previous visit were on hand for advice with the gluten free menu. Personally I can’t fault Naturally Chinese – it’s a popular restaurant, however still retains a relaxed ambience, the food is spot on and those with a gluten intolerance can rest easy in the knowledge that all the highest standards and guidelines have been followed to the nth degree.

Starters – ha gau, prawn toast, spring rolls and crispy squid
Crispy squid
Rice paper spring rolls
Sesame prawn toast
Roast pork belly, beef brisket hot pot
Beef brisket hot pot
Crispy pork belly

Naturally Chinese

59-63 Brighton Road

Surbiton

Surrey

KT6 5LR

http://www.naturallychineserestaurant.co.uk

Polpo – guest post by Lucy Reynolds

It’s been an exciting wait for Polpo to open in Leeds. The critically acclaimed London restaurant has branched forth into the glorious north and laid their hat in the luxurious surrounding of Harvey Nichols, blending Venetian style with an added touch of rustic charm. This really was the hottest opening in town so my friend and I got dressed up and hot-footed it to the top floor of the fancy shopping centre to see what Russell Norman’s latest bacaro has to offer. Thanks to Harvey Nichols for the free invitation!

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If you like the small plate style of eating, then Polpo is for you, offering up tapas style food with a distinctly Venetian flavour. We sat at our table and were welcomed by a complimentary cone of calamari and courgette which, whilst lacking seasoning, was a lovely way to start snacking whilst perusing the menu for what to indulge in. The surroundings were busy and created a cosy atmosphere with unique lighting which made it feel like you had walked into a family run Italian bistro, a move away from the slick glass and metal modernity of Harvey Nichols.

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The staff were very friendly, advising us to order quite a few dishes to enjoy between us and giving us personal favourites to help us order. In the end, after much deliberation over which type of meatball to order (yes, the struggle is real!), we plumped for a mix of seafood, meat and a couple of the staff favourites. First arrived our cicchetti (meaning very small), which were the stuffed fried olives and ham hock and mustard crostini. Along with this came our cocktails, elderflower martinis which came in daintily small glasses. They were delicious and the size was deceptive – I had three, thinking how something so small wouldn’t have much effect. My head didn’t agree the next day. Note to self: don’t be greedy! Anyway, enough of my lack of self control, more about the food! 

The fried olives, stuffed with anchovies, were worthy of the recommendation from our waitress – crispy, salty and moreish, a perfect partner with a crisp glass of white wine or a cold beer. The ham hock and mustard crostini looked delicious and was piled high with meat, but was slightly less successful than the olives in terms of taste. The pork was succulent but, similar to the calamari, lacked seasoning and a sense of piquancy – in fact, it was pretty difficult to pick up on any mustard on the crostini. Tasty, but slightly bland. Possibly a opening night oversight. 
Our pizzette – a light alternative to its doughy namesake was topped with spinach, parmesan and a soft baked egg. This was a surprising find, with a different texture from what we expected, with the spinach topping forming a soft mousse consistency, cradling the perfectly baked egg. With a generous sprinkling of parmesan, this was a light and satisfying dish which we thought would make a great lunch if you weren’t wanting a filling dish. From trying the spinach offering, I’d definitely go back for the other three pizzettes, with the prosciutto, scamorza and pickled radicchio flavour sounding very tempting.    

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Along with our pizzette came one of the Venetian classic dishes: meatballs and spaghettini. The choice of meatball at Polpo is pretty impressive, with a customer being able to choose the ‘classic’ beef and pork, lamb and mint, spicy pork and fennel or a chickpea, spinach and ricotta offering for the vegetarian diners. You also get the choice of tomato sauce and spaghettini or meatballs ‘alla vedova’, which means the meaty morsel is deep fried in a crispy crumb. We plumped for the classic sauce and pasta option and really enjoyed it, with the mixture of the beef and pork giving the ball a firm texture and a deftly balanced, savoury flavour. We inhaled them greedily, fighting the urge to play out a scene from Lady and the Tramp (I’d have been the tramp, just in case my friend is reading this!).

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Our last duo of dishes were the roast pork belly with braised apple and chilli and garlic prawns, which are always a great partnership in my opinion. The prawns were well seasoned and cooked (I could have eaten two dishes full of them) and the crackling on the pork was devilishly crispy and delicious. The actual pork belly and apple combination, a natural pairing, unfortunately followed suit with the previous dishes due to a lack of seasoning. It should have been a stand out dish but paled into the background with the soft apple adding little taste to the overall plate. 
But never fear, the desserts were here to save the day – and did they ever!
My friend and I would both own up to being massively sweet-toothed, so when we saw tiramisu on the menu, there was no debate – it had to happen! I also decided to try the flourless pistachio and almond cake, because those two flavours are personal favourites of mine. Now did I mention how greedy I was earlier? Yes…well, we saw chocolate salami on the menu and had our curiosity piqued. The waitress offered to bring some over as well and y’know, who were we to refuse? It would have been rude not to.
The tiramisu pot was sumptuously silky and boozy – everything that a tiramisu should be. However, the stand out dish was the pistachio and almond cake, coming with a HUGE dollop of mascarpone drizzled in honey (my pet peeve is when restaurants give you a meagre serving of cream – so thanks Polpo for your dairy generosity!). It was light, moist and one of the finest sponges I’ve eaten in a long time, The pistachio flavour shone through and was delicately accompanied by a wonderful almond essence which lingered in the mouth. It is worth returning just for this cake – a masterpiece!
And the chocolate salami, I hear you cry? Well it was very simply slices of chocolate, nut and fruit – we’d nearly eaten ourselves into a coma by then so didn’t finish them, but it was a lovely side dish and I could imagine children loving this accompaniment, or it going down a treat with a cup of coffee. 
The evening was really enjoyable and the food, on the whole, was tasty and definitely well worth the prices. Leeds is pretty jam packed with restaurants at the moment but I think the placing of Polpo in Harvey Nichols, along with its reputation, will see it thrive.     Hopefully small niggles like seasoning will be ironed out in the first few weeks of opening and if I was to recommend anything, go in for coffee and the flourless pistachio cake, or a pizzette and an elderflower martini (just don’t drink three on a work night – your liver won’t thank you, mark my words).   

Polpo 

Harvey Nichols

107-111 Briggate

Leeds

LS1 6AZ

http://www.harveynichols.com/restaurant/leeds-dining/polpo/

Disclaimer: this review was written following a free invitation to Polpo’s preview launch.

Photographs: courtesy of Harvey Nichols