Nearing the top of my list of London’s best pizza is Homeslice. Like Pizza Pilgrims, Homeslice began life as a market stall, serving slices fired in a homebuilt wood-fired oven at street food markets across east London. Following two nomadic years, they brought their wood-fired pizza from the streets to their first permanent home in Covent Garden’s Neal Yard, next to the healthy food spot, the Wild Food Café and the enticing The Barbary.
Inside, everything feels on-trend (the odd distressed mirror, ex-factory lights, cute Polpo-esque Italian tiles) but none of it nauseatingly so. There are also iPad Minis for taking orders and a mood-boosting soundtrack made up of funk, soul and disco.
“Half and half” two flavoured pizzas are available at 20 inches (£20), which is plenty to feed two or three people, or by the slice (£4). The 20 inchers are giant – the equivalent of half a metre by half a metre. Served on giant wooden boards with blunt pizza wheels and paper plates wrapped up in brown paper pages, it’s a messy old affair. Indeed, Homeslice is cutlery free, forcing diners to feast by the hands – a joy for my companion who claims that pizzas taste best when eaten by hand.
The menu, which doesn’t feature any sides or salads, balances tradition with innovation, offering a taste of classic alongside more unique flavour combinations. My vegetarian favourites are definitely the Mushroom, ricotta, pumpkin seek and chilli pizza, and the simple but classic Caprese. Both are a brilliant blend of textures and flavours: the tangy and fluffy ricotta works wonderfully well with the earthy mushrooms and crunchy seeds, whilst the unmelted mozzarella on the Caprese is refreshing and provides welcome textural contrast. I’m also keen to try their Aubergine, cauliflower cheese, spinach and harissa pizza, as I’m very eager to sample an Italian take on spicy Middle Eastern-inspired cuisine.
On a return trip to Homeslice, during the soft launch of its Old Street branch, I was struck by the Middle Eastern and Asian spicing of the menu, such as sumac yoghurt, coriander, caramelised onions and even soya sauce on our mushroom pizza. Whilst some experimentation does work in Italian foods and drinks, including the ingenious Pumpkin, broccoli, pecorino and crispy onions pizza that we feasted on in Shoreditch, the Oriental flavours on the mushroom pizza was too overpowering.
Drinking here is also fun. Wine is brought over in a magnum bottle which stays on your table and you help yourself throughout your meal. The waiters then measure the bottle at the end to see how much you’ve drunk and charge you accordingly. Beware: you may end up drinking far more than you normally would. Unique to the Old Street branch is its basement cocktail bar, which I hope will start serving pizzas. The cocktails feature exciting herbs and flavours including vanilla chai, thyme, rosemary, black pepper and cardamom.
The most frustrating thing about Homeslice is the queues: as they don’t take reservations for parties of less than five, you have to wait a LONG while for a table, during which you can grab a drink or indulge in some Covent Garden shopping. To avoid the long queue, you can opt for a table in the Neal’s Yard courtyard outside. Despite these downsides, Homeslice is a social eating place, where you arrive hungry and leave happy. Having tried out the Covent Garden and the Old Street outposts, I’m keen on trying out their Fitzrovia branch.
Homeslice, 13 Neal’s Yard, London, WC2H 9DP
Just a quick update on Homeslice in the City, which is literally on the doorstep of my office, the best thing about this offshoot is probably its convenience. Whilst the pizzas are equally as light, inventive and ideal for sharing as the other slices of Home, its City location makes it very noisy, dark and more fast-food like. My companion and I could barely hear each other at our small table.
Our sharing pizza (£20) of mushroom, ricotta and pine nuts on one half, and aubergine, cauliflower cheese and harissa on the other arrived as lightning speed. Query whether they’re prioritising mass of service as opposed to quality?! The pizzas became cold very quickly though the mushroom topping is still a favourite of mine and I was surprised (in a good way) about the suspect combinations of the aubergine pizza. Moreover, this branch lacks a soul or any kind of Italianate vibe, probably because rather unsurprisingly, it’s full of City workers…and colleagues.
Though I’m pleased that the Bloomberg Arcade – which, on a side note, is an architectural triumph – features a top pizza joint, it wouldn’t be my choice of restaurant for authentic Italian (Neapolitan specifically) pizzas.