Independent pub in Islington serving up some classic wood fire oven pizzas. Only recommended for cracker-thin pizza base fanatics.
The primary ingredients for pizza dough are flour, water, yeast and olive oil. To make your dough, you mix it all together and gently knead. After allowing some time for it to rest, it is ready to be rolled out. The recipe sounds simple enough, but getting the right consistency for a pizza base can take a lifetime to master. Flour type, use of fresh or dried yeast, kneading time and resting time can all have a critical impact on the end result.
To complicate matters further, foodie camps are split over what constitutes a good pizza base. Personally, I don’t enjoy the paper thin variety. Pizza dough contains yeast for a reason and I think it should be left to rise for at least five minutes. The dough formula is also a matter of contention amongst London pizzerias. The Sardinian chaps at Tenore get my approval for their slightly puffier pizza bases, which are browned and tough on the outside but satisfying chewy and elastic on the inside. The kitchen at Pizza East doesn’t rock my gondola with their wafer-thin pizzas, which taste more like Tarte flambée than pizza. If you don’t finish them off before they go cold, the bases harden and then they flake apart like a cracker. I decided to head over to the Regent in North London to find out where they stood on the matter.
The Regent is an independent pub on Liverpool Road in Islington which offers up wood fire oven pizzas. There is no table service or designated dining area so it feels more like a pub doing pizza for punter’s sustenance than a proper gastropub. We made our order at the bar and also ordered a couple of glasses of red wine. I went for the Malbec Santa Isabel (Mendoza, Argentina) and my 2 friends opted for the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (Convivale, Italy). We were all a little unhappy with the wines. They had a rough oxidised taste and slightly vinegary tones. Perhaps the bottles had been open for a while, we were not sure.
After waiting a short time, the starters were served. The pizza bread was thin and crispy and generously lacquered over with some garlic oil. It was not my cup of tea: the garlic oil did not have enough oomph and they skimped on the rosemary. We managed to eat half of the circular pizza bread before it cooled and hardened to a cracker like consistency. The bruschetta was also disappointing. The base of the baguette slices were not sufficiently toasted so the middles were soggy. The tomato and basil topping was overpowered by the salsa verde, which defied the general rule in Italian cooking that less is more.
The pizzas also got a luke warm reception. The tuna pizza scattered with capers, olives and cherry tomato was the favourite combination of topping. The spicy salami pizza with aubergine and chopped basil was a little bland. The salami was not piquant enough and the aubergine and basil was a little on the sparse side. Sentiment was also not strong for the cotta ham and chorizo pizza. As mentioned earlier, less is more in Italian cooking, so the few ingredients you use should be good quality produce, as they will be scrutinised to a higher degree. Unfortunately, neither the cotta ham or the chorizo excited us.
To finish up we ordered the lime and mascarpone cake. It had a satisfyingly creamy silk texture but there was something missing. It was as if your palate was lathered with a lime scented mascarpone cheese and little else. It could have done with a little brown sugar and perhaps a little saltiness.
The final bill came to a very reasonable £17 per person including tip and glass of red wine. Despite the reasonable pricing I don’t think I will be making a return trip here specifically for the pizzas. A few in my group did however enjoy the crispy thin pizza bases so if that’s your thing, you may take a shine to the pizzas at the Regent.
The Regent Pub, www.theregentpub.com, 201 Liverpool Road, London N1 1LX. 020 7700 2725.