Who makes the best pizza? – Artworks eateries Elephantastic and Lost Rivers square up
Michael Holland samples what's on offer at two food joints
It all began with some fun banter between pizza bakers operating just yards from each other, with one Tweeting, ‘We do the best pizzas in the Elephant & Castle’, which was quickly countered with, ‘No, you don’t!’
I then put my nose in telling them they should have a ‘bake off’, which they both agreed to.
Firstly, let me state there is no such thing as ‘the best’ in food as we all have different tastes.
My personal opinion of pizza, for example, is that it is basically jumped up cheese on toast, a snack, and not something to get excited about. Others, I understand, take pizza much more seriously.
For Round One I took along my pizza expert, Haydn, aged 10. Now this boy has a palate that ranges from sashimi to Slush Puppies, and from octopus to Oreos , so knows what he likes and is always prepared to give something a go to see if he likes it.
We arrived at Elephantastic Pizza to be welcomed with smiles and handshakes from owner Kyle, and with Gil Scott Heron putting the world to rights on the radio. A good start.
After scanning the menu my pizza partner went for the Olivia. It came with a topping of Olives, Capers, Anchovies – all strong, distinctive flavours – plus Cherry Tomatoes to balance it out.
I chose the Fiorella, which was topped with Napoli Salami, Chorizo and Ventricina, a pork-based meat.
Both pizzas, which we shared, had generous toppings and strong tastes. With the spice of the meats coming through, and the saltiness of the anchovies, they were not for wimps.
The thin base and crispy crust meant that we did not have to wade through mouthfuls of dough, which is a definite plus in my book – as was the white wine to help it all go down.
Elephantastic Pizza do the customary 12in pizza, plus a 9 inch version for light lunchers, which is the size we had and found they were the perfect size. I don’t think I would have wanted another 3 inches for lunch!
There was also a bottle of homemade chilli oil on each table that looked quite tempting, but our pizzas had all the bite we needed – the memory lingered on the tastebuds long after we’d left for home.
Kyle Shearer is a local who has worked in the food industry for many years, so when premises at Artworks became available for small business start ups he was one of the first ones to apply.
He tells me he has built a good customer base but cannot be resting on his laurels with all the competition around – You can eat from all corners of the world within a 500 yard radius of his bijou pizzeria so Kyle has to keep on top of the game.
He let slip that he could soon be providing pizza to new Bermondsey bar, Shortwave Cafe, which will be good for business and good for Shortwave Cafe.
Elephantastic Pizza has clearly demonstrated how the upcycled freight containers that make up Artworks are an ingenious way to create low rent premises that are ideal for the small businessperson.
The more recent addition to Artworks is Lost Rivers, which is not a small business by any stretch of the imagination and appears to have taken over several containers, erected a sturdy marquee for a bar and live music, and has access to ample space for al fresco dining and drinking.
This is most definitely a music bar but as much as the raw, knocked-together-with-bits-of-old-wood look is attractive to many people, Lost Rivers is as corporate as it gets.
Big money has been spent here, the website is a work of art, they even have a separate container for a box office to sell tickets for their live events that seem to be going on every day, and those extra overheads have gone onto the prices.
Haydn and me visited on a Friday afternoon to sample the pizzas of the company that has been brought in to cook them: Barrel & Stone.
They are thin base, though not as thin as Elephantastic, and there is just one size pizza here – 12in.
Haydn went for the Simply Salami (Napoli Salami, La Bella San Morazano Tomato, Fior di Latte Mozzarella). It was good; I love a stringy cheese that doesn’t want to let go when you lift a slice out.
I chose the Sweet ’n’ Tangy (Goat’s Cheese. Peppadew Papers, Pesto, La Bella San Morazano Tomato). Once again a good pizza. The cheese doesn’t cook as well as mozzarella, though, and mine went a bit ‘cottage-cheesey’ in taste and texture, but that’s what goat’s cheese does.
The pesto added another dimension of flavour to the experience, which worked. As did the pint of Neckinger, named after a river that runs beneath my home town of Bermondsey (Hence Lost Rivers).
The extra three inches meant we struggled to finish, although but we both made admirable attempts.
So who is best? Me and my pizza partner had different likes and dislikes: he preferred Lost Rivers’ Simply Salami, while my favourite was Elephantastic Pizza’s Olivia, so you need to get to Artworks and try for yourselves.
Elephantastic Pizza Unit 5, The Artworks, Elephant Rd, SE17 1AY Mon-Sat 12pm – 10pm 07530 410000 – @elephant_pizza
Lost Rivers Elephant, Elephant Road, Elephant & Castle, SE17 1LB Mon-Thus, 12pm – 11.30pm; Fri-Sat 12pm – 12.30am; Sun 12pm – 11pm 020 3102 1310