Fire & Stone, Spitalfields
Whatever one’s views about the gradual transformation of Spitalfields Market and its surrounding streets, there’s one indisputable upside. And that is the fact that, if you happen to find yourself around there at lunch-time, there’s an almost infinite variety of places to eat. As an indecisive sort however, the sheer number of options available is faintly intimidating – lucky then that I’ve already arranged to visit the latest instalment of small pizza group Fire & Stone. At least that’s one decision out of the way.
Fire & Stone’s schtick is that the pizza menu is arranged by global location – so there’s sections entitled Asia, Europe, Africa, Australasia and The Americas. Each section then has five or six cities available, each with a vast array of ingredients involved: like Koh Samui – which features Thai yellow coconut curry sauce, roast sweet potato, shallots, mozzarella, red chilli, mangetout, baby sweetcorn, basil and toasted sesame seeds – or Sydney, comprising smoked bacon, egg, ham, mozzarella, tomato sauce, basil and chives. Oh god, more decisions!
But before we even get there, it’s starter time. We opt for pitta bread with a selection of dips (feta and red pepper, black olive tapenade, tzatzki) and calamari. Both are really nice – light and zingy, and a good introduction to the lunch ahead. Other options include chorizo, bruschetta and the like, and with prices ranging from £2.95 for garlic pizza bread to £7.45 for a full sharing antipasti platter, it’s all perfectly reasonable.
On to the pizzas then, and at around the £8 mark these too are well priced. One minor criticism of the menu here is that, even though there are loads of options for vegetarians, a lack of distinctive mark (combined with quite lengthy descriptions for each pizza) makes things a tiny bit tricky. For those who don’t feel like pizza (what’s wrong with you!) there’s a decent selection of pasta and salad dishes (Caesar salad and Nicoise, bolognaise and that sort of thing). But we opt for pizza. My lunching companion pays a trip to Melbourne with one featuring butternut squash, red onions, brie, mozzarella and toasted pumpkin seeds, whilst I pop across to Athens with red pepper sauce, mozzarella, tomatoes, spinach, feta, pesto and pine nuts.
Both are delicious – crisp of base and loaded with fresh, tasty and innovatively combined ingredients. The Melbourne was a tad sweet for my tastes (but I’ve never been a fan of the vogue for caramelising everything) and the Athena a mite underseasoned, but really I’m nit-picking. These are great pizzas, and unlike I’ve had anywhere else. My companion, having worked in a Pizza Express for years and therefore something of an expert on such matters, declared herself an instant convert too.
Unfortunately by this stage we’re both far too full to sample dessert, although the people at the adjoining table had some kind of ice cream and waffle extravaganza, which looked pretty darned good. We sat outside in the market bit, where you can see the chefs doing their thing, but inside is nice too: modern, clean, quirky and comfortable – with pleasantly off-kilter lighting, and a calmly relaxing atmosphere. With a decent wine-list as well as cocktails and smoothies, this is actually somewhere you can imagine settling into for the afternoon.
There also seems to be a lunchtime offer taking place from Monday to Wednesday with pizzas for £4.95. This is ludicrous value for pizzas this nice – get down there before they see sense!