Franco Manca, London

food options along tottenham court road have just gotten more exciting with franco manca’s recent opening of a new branch there! excitedly paid it a visit a few days ago, and we were not disappointed at all.

i had heard it was good, but got even more excited when i saw some reviews they had selected to put on their menu – people were really singing praises about it! “if you only eat one pizza this year, make sure it’s franco manca” – tatler. they were also dubbed the “best in britain” by the observer! seeing all that really made me take my first bite of the pizza with high expectations, and i am pleased to say that they were certainly met 😀 also, i was actually pretty full that day having had a really big breakfast, so the fact that i still thought it tasted really good probably means it really did 😉

they only serve pizzas at franco manca (along with some simple sides), and what is special about them is that they are made from sourdough and baked in a special oven made in naples by a specialised artisan (all this info is found on their menu). the oven produces a heat of about 500 degrees celsius (wow), and the cooking process is supposed to lock in the flour’s natural aroma and moisture, giving a soft crust.

we went as a group of 7 which allowed us to order a range of pizzas to try – we ordered 1 of everything on the menu except the most basic tomato, garlic & oregano, which we replaced with the veggie special of the day. it was all very exciting 😉

here’s the menu:
20131121_131849 20131121_132615and the board of specials:20131121_134820

service was good and efficient despite the lunch crowd, and we soon had a SPREAD before us:
HAPPINESS, seriously.

in a clockwise direction starting from the bottom left pizza:

1. gloucester old spot ham (home cured), mozzarella, buffalo ricotta, wild mushrooms – £6.85 (bottom left)
this was my favourite of the lot! i loved how there was a little bit of tomato but not so much such that it became a tomato-based pizza; this made it different from what you normally get with most pizzas (either completely tomato-based or no tomato at all), especially those from pizza chains. the ingredients that topped it were also really yummy – the ham was delicious, as was the combination of cheeses. the mushrooms were just icing on the cake, because i really love mushrooms. admittedly the ingredients do look pretty sparse in the picture, but somehow it didn’t seem to be a problem when we were eating the pizza. i do think that everyone loves toppings though, so a little more would be highly optimal. but even without, it was really yummy. tasty and satisfying but still remaining light!

2. wild broccoli, mozzarella, gloucester old spot hand sliced sausage – £6.75
this pizza has no tomato at all, which is probably why i didn’t like it as much as the rest! it was still very good and tasty, but i do like the what tomatoes bring to pizza. without any tomato at all, i felt that it wasn’t as flavourful – just cheese on (very good) pizza crust with some (good) toppings. we were quite puzzled by the description of the veggie as “wild broccoli” – maybe we are ignorant but we thought it seemed more like something similar to watercress?! (mosdef asian kids hahaha) i liked the chunky texture of the sausage – good quality stuff; definitely not the processed kind. somehow it tasted quite like lamb though? oddly, this pizza reminded me a bit of an indian-inspired naan-type thing…?
without tomatoes, the taste of the delicious pizza crust really shone through!

3. veg special – tomato, mozzarella, baked mixed peppers, olives, topped with rocket and pecorino cheese – £7.50
i love it when pizza comes topped with rocket and cheese (and parma ham oooh yum) so i quite enjoyed this. loved the tomato base, and the baked peppers that topped it were yummy! not the usual crunchy raw-ish peppers that you get on most pizzas. definitely a good vegetarian option. wonder what veg specials they have to offer on other days; it’ll be interesting to see what other exciting veggie toppings they have in store.

4. tomato, mozzarella, basil (seasonal) – £5.90
this was simple but good! probably the best thing to order if you want to go back to basics. and because i really like their tomato, i thoroughly enjoyed this because that’s mainly what the pizza was about!

5. tomato, cured organic chorizo (dry & semi-dry) & mozzarella – £6.95
this was my second favourite pizza! i loved the chorizo which was moist and juicy – the perfect addition to a simple tomato and mozzarella base. so good.

6. tomato, garlic, oregano, capers, olives, anchovies & mozzarella – £6.70
i quite like anchovies and olives so i enjoyed this! but i can imagine that they are things that not everyone likes, so this might not be a hit for all. the anchovies added a nice saltiness and together with the capers and olives, i thought this was a pizza with very strong and satisfying flavours! my third favourite of the day.20131121_133158

ultimately, i think the highlight of the pizzas at franco manca is definitely the crust – it is light, tasty, and crisp on the outside but delightfully fluffy inside. thin and with just the right amount of bite (i hate it when crusts are super thin and you end up feeling like you’re having something close to flatbread), i think you can’t go very far wrong with your order since all the toppings end up on the same amazing base.

your choice of toppings is really a matter of personal preference, and they a good range of options 🙂 i definitely preferred the tomato-based ones though; thought they were tastier and hence more satisfying/hearty. all the toppings used are also top quality – most of them are sourced directly from italy, and i thought the difference is taste was definitely noticeable. all this at an extremely affordable price too!

franco manca occupies a very bright, pleasant and relatively big dining space (turnaround time is quite quick so even if you have to queue, you probably won’t have to wait too long!) that is perfect for a casual lunch along TCR. food is great and service is good too, so i will definitely be returning, especially given the very reasonable prices. its probably going to be quite a hit with all the ucl students in the area; it has certainly already won over my friends and i 😉

remnants of the lunch crowd

Franco Manca

98 Tottenham Court Road
London W1T 4TR



Patty & Bun, London

i think my quest to find my favourite burger in london may very well have ended with my visit to patty & bun two weeks ago. the only thing holding me back from using “the best” instead of “my favourite” is my acknowledgement of the fact that not everybody likes their burgers the same way and so what i think is the best may not be the best at all in someone else’s opinion!

this place is so popular and so consistently has a queue that there is a location tag for “the patty & bun queue” on instagram – is that not hilarious? hahaha i thought that was highly amusing/intriguing! headed there for lunch on a friday and we waited about 20-25 minutes to get in, which was shorter than i expected.20131031_125033
happy despite the queue

it felt shorter than it actually was too, since we spent a good portion of it staring at the menu and trying to pick something to order; everything sounded amazing!!!20131031_124231
the menu

very conveniently located off oxford street, patty & bun occupies a small, cosy and simply-decorated shop that i thought gave off a very casual/chill/relaxed vibe, just like a burger joint should! don’t expect anything fancy; its quite a no-frills place that is really all about the food on the tables.20131031_131205our one qualm was that the tables were pretty close to each other and the music and chatter were rather loud, making it quite hard to carry on a conversation without having to raise our voices or strain our ears. but this didn’t seem to matter much once the food came and we we were all too busy stuffing our faces to speak much 😛

it being my first time there, i decided to start from the basics and opted for the “ari gold” cheeseburger. without a doubt, one of the best cheeseburgers i have ever had.
just look at that –20131031_134305

20131031_133951the burger was big, amazingly tasty and seriously dripping with juice. i loved the sweet brioche bun which was perfectly toasted, and what it held within was even better!!! the beef patty was cooked to absolute perfection – wonderfully juicy and naturally sweet, and all the flavours from the cheese, onion, special mayo etc came together to give this HUGELY satisfying burger (one of the best i’ve had in a while) that sent me straight to food heaven. i forgot all about the wait to get in + for the food once i sunk my teeth into this seriously good stuff…

we also ordered some sides to share, a serving each of their chicken wings and rosemary chips:
i quite liked the chips, though i wouldn’t really rave about them as much as i raved about the burger above/will be raving about the wings below. i liked their thickness – not too thin and not too thick, and they were well-salted with a hint of rosemary which was a nice touch! they were really good with the ketchup/mustard/mayo/hot sauce (Y)

20131031_134003as for the wings, i have never had chicken wings like these before! they were drenched in a thick and sticky barbecue sauce which actually reminded me a bit of an asian-style dish (maybe it was the spring onions?). the sweet sauce was yummy, but it was the way the chicken was cooked that really impressed us all – the meat literally fell off the bone and was cooked to perfection! it was moist, sweet and wonderfully tender. finger lickin’ good stuff! 😉 definitely a must-try side if you’re at patty & bun, in my opinion.




they have choc ices available for dessert but we were unfortunately too stuffed to have any 😦 i will DEFINITELY be heading back to patty & bun soon for a burger fix. the thought of sinking my teeth into that amazingly moist and juicy burger again has never been far from my mind; i guess you could say it was love at first bite 😛 worth the queue in my opinion, and definitely in the running for best burger in london!

Patty & Bun

54 James Street
London W1U 1HE

PS. i MUCH (much much) prefer the burger here to what shake shack (see review here) offers – to me, it makes for a MUCH juicier and tastier (and hence more satisfying) meal. one of my friends felt that what we had here was rather heavy however, so if you prefer something more plain/light then this might not be for you. given the price and serving size however, i don’t think you can go far wrong with giving patty & bun a try! seriously good stuff.

L’eto Caffe, London

i have never once walked past this cafe along wardour street without stopping to admire the cakes on display in the shop window. i never ventured in however, until the queue at breakfast club (see review here) proved to be way too long on a sunday morning, and this seemed to be a decent substitute that was round the corner. it was busy when we visited but not overly so, enough to have a nice lively atmosphere but yet not too crowded and noisy. we were pleasantly surprised by the pretty good range of breakfast/brunch items that were all reasonably-priced.

there was a steady stream of customers the entire time we were there, and when we left slightly before noon, there was a crowd at the door waiting to be seated so its definitely quite a popular choice in soho for good food! here’s the menu:20131020_104228

having seen the amazing cakes in the window, we seriously contemplated just having a massive breakfast of sweet cake treats, but since we had woken up that morning with our minds set on breakfast club pancakes, we decided that we would not be happy if we didn’t get our pancake fix, and ended up ordering the pumpkin and honey pancakes, 3 poached eggs served with tomatoes and avocado, as well as l’etos famous honey cake:20131020_110208

the servings were actually pretty small (or maybe they just seemed small in comparison to what we would have gotten if we had braved the breakfast club queue) but given the price we were paying, we were satisfied. service was brisk and extremely attentive, so we were happy customers!

20131020_105801pumpkin and honey pancakes with fresh berries and honey buttery sauce – £7.90

the pancakes were good! we both loved how they were really rather pumpkin-y, both in terms of texture and taste. they were light but i thought they could have been a little fluffier (they seemed to be more of the dense type of pancakes, possibly because of the pumpkin?) and maybe prettier too if they were more regularly-shaped (but this of course, is rather irrelevant because taste is what is most important, right?) 😛 i would also have preferred a more generous serving of berries, but was satisfied otherwise with the yummy honey drizzled all over as well as the nutty bits sprinkled on top that really added bite to the otherwise rather “soft” dish. i would say our pancake craving was successfully satisfied after this, so thats’s a good sign!

20131020_1102483 poached eggs served on warm artisan bread toast with tomato and avocado – £7.90

on hindsight, this is actually a really simple dish that can be put together at home for a fraction of the price, but i can never resist perfectly poached eggs and some avocados of perfect ripeness! the star of this dish was definitely the toast – the artisan sourdough bread they used was really yummy that it made me consider buying home an entire loaf. the eggs were poached to perfection (just look at that golden yolk just dying to burst and ooze out onto the bread!!! sorry i know my yolk fanatic tendencies are emerging once again…) and though simple, it was a satisfying dish of a trusty combination of ingredients that can never really go far wrong.

20131020_105550honey cake (about £4 for the slice if i’m not wrong!)

this cake is something i will return to l’eto for. we were spoilt for choice when it came to picking something sweet to end off our meal and were very tempted by other fancier looking tarts and amazingly prettily decorated cakes (check out pics at the end of the post), but this was the one cake that was highly recommended by the staff as their specialty and one of their most popular. i can definitely see why! despite the alternating layers of cream and cake, it was amazingly light and had a lovely honey flavour without being overly sweet as one would imagine. in fact, it was rather subtle (there was actually a stronger taste of caramelised biscuits than honey, i thought? not sure why though!), the cream was wonderfully fresh and i thought the cake had an interesting texture which i cannot quite describe. its definitely something that is rather unique and won’t find often at other cafes, so i’d recommend ordering this if you pay l’eto a visit!

besides cakes and things on the menu, they also have a counter for you to pick from a good range of salads and quiches if that’s what you prefer:
20131020_104058i certainly wouldn’t mind returning to give these a try!

l’eto is a good place in soho to have a light and affordable meal, and it seems that those cakes do taste as good as they look. so the next time you stop in your tracks to admire the amazing display of cakes in the shop window, why not allow yourself to succumb to temptation and have a cup of tea and some cake? i highly doubt you’ll regret it 🙂


L’eto Caffe

155 Wardour St
London W1F 8WG