There is a lot of truth in the old cliche that ‘food brings people together’. Without food being involved, it is likely that I would never see half of my friends, nor would I have met half of the new ones I have made in London. Any food usually works, but I think it is the most familiar and comforting ones that do the ‘bringing together’ the best. My proof is in the pizza. I can think of nothing else that would bring four food-loving, photograph-taking, blog-writing ladies together more enthusiastically or religiously than the simple pleasure of a good pizza. Meeting for pizza has become such a ritual, we turned it into a club and happily hold our meetings anywhere a decent slice is served.
Our latest meeting took us all a little out of our ways (these are the extreme lengths we go to for Pizza Club) to a cosy corner of Fulham which has been transformed into a slice of the Italian south. Meridionale, which literally translates to mean ‘from the South’, aims to showcase the best of the Southern regions such as Naples, Sicily, Calabria and Sardinia so we were excited to discover some new dishes or curious tweaks to well-know favourites. But first, we had to pop the prosecco to adjourn the meeting… we don’t have too many rules at Pizza Club however that is definitely one of them!
Despite what some of a certain someone’s friends joke, the only thing that’s really changed about him since we got together are his dining habits. He came to me pre-loaded with those itchy feet for travel, a reasonably good dress sense, and some annoying quirks which I won’t get into now. I suspect he was always into fine dining and know he already loved a splash of wine, but back in the BC (before Connie) days, dining out was mainly about the meat and two veg, raucous Irish pubs, and grotty old-school boozers where everyone’s a regular and the staff know your order.
It’s something I imagined the Coach & Horses, a charming neighbourhood pub in Clapham, would have been before they gave it a facelift, brought in the craft beers by the barrel-load, and flung out made-to-order pizzas from the kitchen. Turns out, I was right. It was exactly that kind of pub; what I hadn’t anticipated was that a certain someone could confirm it from personal experience. It wasn’t just the sort of pub he used to go to a lot, it was actually a pub he did used to go to for a couple of pints and some football! Obviously, I had to drag him back for a compare and contrast exercise…
Ever the optimist, I am going to be bold and claim that spring has finally sprung in London! Our days are getting longer and lighter, and the temperatures are creeping up slowly… it won’t be too long before the winter coat gets officially relegated to the back of the wardrobe and it’s all about the summer dresses, sandals, and frolics in the sunshine. Wishful thinking on my behalf? I don’t think so, but if you think the weather gods are still messing with us and are less convinced about spring’s imminent arrival, I would suggest a cocktail from TwoRuba is just what you need to snap out of your gloomy winter mood!
TwoRuba is handily located in the Hilton London Tower Bridge, but trust me, it’s far from your usual stuffy and sterile hotel bar. This bar has personality, and their sense of fun is evident is their eclectic cocktail selection and the way they’ve transformed some of their bar space into a welcoming Spring Garden! There’s a luscious green lawn, couches, flowers, deck chairs… if one look at this doesn’t put a spring in your step, then the cocktails and snacks should at least put a smile on your face.
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…
A couple of months ago, I joined a club. I’ve mentioned it once or twice but in case you’ve forgotten, here are some hints: it’s got nothing to do with sports, secrets, or fights, and everything to do with dough, cheese, and ovens. Ring a bell now? Pizza. The club is all about pizza and a couple of girls who will travel all over London for a slice of the good stuff!
The last meeting of Pizza Club took us to Zia Lucia in Islington where we enjoyed a spritz with our wood-fired slices on one of the hottest days of the year… now the latest meeting saw us venture a little more central, but no less delicious – PizzaBuzz, a cool and casual pizzeria tucked down Worship Lane, somewhere between Old Street and Moorgate.
What’s so special about pizza? It’s nothing but a bit of dough topped with a handful of ingredients, sometimes even less, then baked in the oven. That’s it. No tricky cooking techniques, no fancy kitchen gadgets… when done right, a good pizza is oh so delicious… and satisfying… and addictive. Its simplicity makes it accessible; it’s food for the people – why else would it be so well known and well loved all over the world?
Italy does them the traditional way, New York has the huge $1 slices, Copenhagen like theirs organic, and there’s even no shortage of hole in the wall pizza vendors in Havana; pizza is everywhere. Here in London, pizza seems to be enjoying a moment in the limelight and as a result there are decent pizza restaurants popping up in every nook and cranny of the city. No complaints from this end because I bloody love pizza.
Mention Milan and I immediately think of fashion. My mind starts picturing designer bag toting, stiletto heel wearing fashionistas… sleek looking ladies… impossibly chic Italian women. I imagine myself joining their ranks for a few days as I pound the pavements, ducking in and out of boutiques… arms becoming laden down with shopping bags as the day goes on… The shopaholic in me is basically in heaven. But this is all just a daydream. Shopaholic Connie hasn’t hit her stride in quite some time, about the same time a certain someone showed up on the scene.
I could spend, and have spent, hours strolling the streets of a foreign city just window shopping, making the occasional purchase here and there. I truly enjoy wandering through new shops, looking at new things, pondering whether I want it enough to squeeze into my luggage, but a certain someone doesn’t and there’s nothing more awkward than trying to shop with someone who hates the looking part.