It took me almost two weeks into the new year before I had my first slice of pizza; a lot longer than I had expected if I’m being honest. It was one of those DIY jobs with a Sainsbury’s pre-made base (we gasp, but in my defence I was in a state of hanger) and topped with our favourites like ham, chorizo, mozzarella, fresh tomatoes and basil, and pineapple for me. They were good, nothing at all wrong with them but the pizzas you cook in your home oven with an upper temperature of 250ish degrees will never ever compare to one cooked in a wood fired oven which can get as hot as 400ish degrees within minutes. It did satisfy my pizza cravings then and there, but the next meeting of Pizza Club couldn’t come soon enough!
The girls and I got together early in February at Firebrand Pizza, a recent addition to the Marylebone neighbourhood and convened the first Pizza Club of the year with a glass of prosecco – it feels customary now! If you’ve kept tabs on our first and second meetings, then you know that cheese is also a must; the more varieties, the better. On this night we had about five… the first was a buffalo mozzarella with parma ham, pear and rocket which was such a light and fresh dish, it was something you’d imagine consuming al fresco with a glass of wine in hand! London in February is not al fresco weather but at least the wine situation was easy to arrange…
As for the rest of the cheeses – taleggio, caciotta pappepata, Piedmonte blue, pecorino romano, pecorino sardo – these would be perfect in any kind of weather. I still love the safe choice of a camembert or brie with some bread, but recently I’ve come to really appreciate a good cheese board like this. The contrasting strengths, textures and flavours of all the varieties had me constantly going back for just another slither… hoping the other girls wouldn’t notice that I was probably eating more than my fair share! I would also recommend the bechamel stuffed champignon mushrooms to any fungi-lovers, these small shroomy-bites were delicious!
I must admit that I was quite tempted by some of the non-pizza options such as the linguine with cherry tomatoes and king prawns (one of my favourite pasta combinations) but I knew we were here for one thing and one thing alone – pizza! After a lot of discussion, we finally narrowed it down to our top four which we would of course be sharing, because at Pizza Club we’re all about maximising our options. We chose two vegetarian and two carnivorous combinations off the main menu, even though some of the specials such as a mixed seafood one sounded interesting, we wanted to put the Firebrand Pizza favourites to the test.
Of the meaty combinations, I thought the spicy salami, roasted pepper, rocket, tomatoes and mozzarella was a solid concoction of some of my favourite flavours. I liked the small spicy kick from the salami but found that a light drizzle of the chilli oil gave it the perfect boost to levels which are definitely more to the liking of my high chilli tolerance. The parma ham, roast potato, rosemary and mozzarella pizza was good too but definitely the least memorable of the four we had… the quality of the ingredients was unmistakable but it just lacked oomph compared to the others!
The goats cheese, caramelised onion, black olives and mozzarella pizza was something I definitely wouldn’t have chosen had I not been with the Pizza Club ladies. If you’ve been following my antics for even all of five minutes, you’ll know that I love my meat and that’s usually a requirement in some form on my pizzas. Here though I didn’t miss the meat at all and actually adored the sweetness from the caramelised onions and having no tomato base for a change; I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this one. However the biggest surprise of the evening was the pesto, roast potato, rosemary, pine nuts and mozzarella.
We named this our pizza of the night as we loved the incredibly zingy pesto and rosemary, the random crunch you’d got through the pine nuts, and the piece de resistance ingredient – the potato. Those paying attention would have noticed that we had two pizzas with potato on them and it was a winning inclusion, forget the fear of having double carbs and start slicing spuds onto all your pizzas! I almost needed to be rolled home at this point but still managed to fit in a couple of scoops of their gelato – the dulce de leche was decadent while the lemon was the perfect palate cleanser!
There were some obvious favourites from our evening but let’s be clear, these pizzas are fantastic. I have no doubt that this is due to the solid foundation of the sourdough base which they leave to prove for 48 hours, the incredible wood-fired oven that greets you as you walk in, and their fresh, top-notch toppings! Firebrand Pizza was definitely a worthy spot for our first Pizza Club meeting of the year and I’d absolutely recommend it for those looking for a fantastic slice of pizza in the heart of Marylebone!
What are your favourite pizza toppings? Have you ever had roast potatoes on a pizza?
Thanks to Firebrand Pizza for hosting the first Pizza Club of 2017, but as always, all opinions are mine and mine alone!