- Food & Drink
The Pizza Pilgrims' van photographed by The Faerietale Foodie
When I moved to London, back in the days when everything was powered by steam engines and there was a cheeky cockney urchin pickpocketing plutocrats on every corner, street food was limited to late night hot dog carts selling tubes of greasy, gristly sausage to drunks. They were one of the hazards new arrivals to the Capital learned to negotiate, along with the Northern Line and the packs of feral city traders that stalked the City’s champagne bars.
Since then, there has been something of a renaissance, and no market is complete without a bánh mè stall and someone selling foam-fluffed cups of coffee. The latest arrivals to this scene are The Pizza Pilgrims. Run by brothers Thom and James Elliot, they bake Neapolitan-style pizzas in the back of their van and sell them at Berwick Street market.
A few weeks ago I was invited to a pizza preview at The Endurance. First stop was the pub’s back yard and a chance to admire the Pizza Pilgrim’s van – an ape van into which they have bravely installed a pizza oven that gets up to 500°C.
Back inside, we started the evening with a tasting plate of pizza constituents. A fluffy baked doughball demonstrated the ovens’ capacity to turn out crisp-crusted bread, while the selection of cheeses meant we could ponder which one we’d prefer on our pizza.
There was an Italian mozzarella that, on the plate, seemed sweetly bland compared to the bouncy punch of the Laverstoke Park mozzarella. Fior de Latte (cows’ milk mozzarella) was delicately creamy if a bit boring, while saline Laverstoke Park ricotta and smoked scamorza kept our taste buds interested. A smear of nduja, the spicy sausage of the moment, and a shot of perky tomato sauce had us anticipating the main event – the pizzas.
First up were margherita pizzas (the best kind of pizza there is). The British mozzarella, so interesting uncooked, was lumpen and squeaky on the pizza, while the Italian mozzarella was transformed into a layer of silken loveliness. But it was the Fior de latte that triumphed. Robust without being overpowering, rich without being greasy, it was the perfect complement to the tomato sauce and chewy dough.
A series of delicious pizzas followed the margheritas. Pizzas topped with nduja and fennel salami, a marinara that showcased the base and sauce without the lovely distraction of the cheese, rolled strombolis with crisp shells and soft, sauce-soaked interiors and finally, to the greedy delight of the carb-loaded diners, a Nutella and ricotta calzone. There is always room for desert, especially when it involves Nutella.
Chockfull of bread and cheese, I rolled into the night. The following week I was back in Berwick Street for The Pizza Pilgrims’ first day of trading. A margherita folded in half and wrapped in a sheet of greaseproof paper was borne back to my office and eaten as slowly as I could bear to, mostly to prolong my colleagues’ envy as they contemplated first their sandwich and then my excellent, excellent pizza.
Pizzas start at £5 and you’ll find the Pizza Pilgrims on Berwick Street during the day (no nighttime pizzas yet). My thanks to Thom and James for a wonderful evening, and a very good lunch (I paid for that one, so the pizzas must be good to make me part with actual money) and also to The Faerietale Foodie who kindly let me use her photographs after my phone with all my pictures was stolen.