I’d been wanting to go on a jaunt to the foodie mecca that is Exmouth Market for some time and now that I worked a stone’s throw away, an after-work dinner with a friend was the perfect opportunity.
With so many restaurants on offer on this one street, we were spoilt for choice. Given our large appetites, we opted against Caravan which is more of a brunch destination and Morito’s tapas dishes, and instead chose Santoré, a traditional Italian trattoria specialising in wood-fired pizzas al metro.
The Italian waiters were charming and the service friendly. We hadn’t booked a table, but managed to bag one by the door. My companion had a great view of the wood-fired pizza oven at the back of the restaurant and I of Exmouth Market’s passers-by. The restaurant was packed on this Wednesday evening – full of a whole range of people from City workers to old friends catching-up. But it was the table of Italians sitting next to us and the unfussy furniture that reassured me that Santoré was an authentic Neapolitan trattoria at heart.
Santoré doesn’t just do pizza. Far from it, there is a range of antipasti, pastas, risottos etc. Even among the pizza, there is a huge selection, from the “I panouzzi” pizza, where the dough is first baked and then filled, to the calzones. Best of all, they do pizzas by the metre. Appropriate for larger parties (since they are only available for sizes of 500g upwards – that’s the pizza not the diner), this is how pizza is served in Italy’s many hole-in-the-wall metre pizza joints, effectively their equivalent of fast-food – perfect for a quick lunch. On this occasion, as there were only two of us and my companion wanted meat, we each had our own individual pizza accompanied by a glass of house white.
Neapolitan pizzas are much more doughy than their thin, crispy Roman counterparts. Whilst the former are an opportunity for chefs to display their dough handling-skills, the latter are a showcase for seasonal toppings and artisanal cheese. In this vein, the toppings on offer at Santoré were modest: as a vegetarian, I had a choice of funghi, Quattro fromaggi or Mediterranean vegetables. Being the fussy diner that I am, I asked for the mortadella on one of the meat pizzas – the Masaniello (£10.85) – to be swapped to funghi, which I enjoyed with rocket, ricotta and mozzarella. My companion had an Americano (£10.85).
The dough didn’t disappoint. It was chewy and perfectly baked with just the right amount of charcoal flavour to prove it was cooked in a sufficiently hot oven. The cheese was also excellent: the generous dollops of ricotta were creamy and the mozzarella fresh. But to my disappointment, the pizza didn’t have a tomato base which I assumed it would. A touch more herbs or seasoning would also have been welcome (I had to request chilli flakes). My companion enjoyed her Americano but couldn’t finish it – the pizzas were enormous and the metre ones stretched the length of the tables.
At around £10 per pizza the prices are steep compared to Brixton’s Franco Manca. But the food, like the service, is big-hearted. I’m determined to return in a larger group (this place would be ideal for a birthday celebration) to try their metre pizzas, if only to bring back memories of trips to Rome (I haven’t been to Naples…yet).
Santoré, 59-61 Exmouth Market, London, EC1R 4QL