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 ūüėÄ 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 ūüėČ

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 ūüėČ
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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:
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HAPPINESS, seriously.

in a clockwise direction starting from the bottom left pizza:

1. gloucester old spot ham (home cured), mozzarella, buffalo ricotta, wild mushrooms Р£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!
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2. wild broccoli, mozzarella, gloucester old spot hand sliced sausage Р£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!
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3. veg special Рtomato, mozzarella, baked mixed peppers, olives, topped with rocket and pecorino cheese Р£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.
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4. tomato, mozzarella, basil (seasonal) Р£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!
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5. tomato, cured organic chorizo (dry & semi-dry) & mozzarella Р£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.
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6. tomato, garlic, oregano, capers, olives, anchovies & mozzarella Р£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 ūüôā 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 ūüėČ

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remnants of the lunch crowd

Franco Manca

98 Tottenham Court Road
London W1T 4TR

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Department of Caffeine, Singapore

despite the myriad of cafes in the duxton hill area, DOC has managed to stand out from the crowd instead of going unnoticed amidst the sea of eateries in the area. since its opening early this year, it has gleaned rave reviews and recommendations from many of its patrons for both its food and coffee offerings, and in my opinion, rightly so! a friend who was interning around tanjong pagar had the opportunity to try most of the cafes there during her lunch hours and DOC came out tops on her list of favourites. i can definitely see why after trying it for myself!

everything about¬†DOC exudes a cool vibe –¬†from the extremely¬†understated exterior (i nearly walked right past the shop and its¬†nondescript frosted glass windows with black frames) to the use of wood and black as the interior colour scheme to the young and seemingly hipster service staff. the shop, which is not big but seats a decent number of people at any one time, is¬†designed in a modern and stylish manner while managing to remain cosy and inviting. the atmosphere is casual and rather buzzing when it gets crowded, especially because it is the kind of cafe where you place your order and pay at the counter before the food gets brought to your table shortly after.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

the menu is simple and concise yet sufficiently extensive to get you excited about what you should pick:
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we didn’t have a very hard time making¬†our decision that day though, as we already had our minds (and stomachs) set on the waffles which looked too good to pass on.¬†moreover, we were planning on¬†heading¬†to tsujiri tea house after¬†for what i think is the best green tea soft serve ice cream in singapore (see here)¬†so we agreed to exercise some self-control and not overdo the ordering. we did pretty well on that, i must say, opting to share a waffle and a salad between us.
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first up, the waffle:
(omg, just look at that picture and salivate now please!!!)
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sundried tomato & herb waffles with bacon, scrambled eggs & maple bacon jam – $16.50

they have both sweet and savoury waffles at DOC, but it was the savoury one that we settled for, in anticipation of dessert after. this was definitely¬†the highlight of our meal (not that there was very stiff competition for the coveted title with only one other dish in the running hahaha)! we could not stop spazzing over how good it was; even when we were 3/4 done with it, we were still repeating “omg. this is soooooo. good.” over and over.¬†the waffle was amazingly crisp on the outside but fluffy on the inside, and the batter itself was infused with herbs which made it quite special. truly a savoury waffle through and through, and not just a waffle with savoury toppings! the scrambled eggs and bacon were also nicely done – the scrambled eggs were creamy and fluffy and the bacon would have been perfect if fried just a little crispier (but that’s a personal preference). topped with maple syrup, the waffles here at DOC are definitely one of the best buttermilk waffles ever (i hear wimbly lu ones put up a good fight)! my only complaint is that towards the end of our waffle-devouring adventure, the waffle soaked up some of the moisture from the scrambled eggs and became slightly soggy but i suppose that can’t be helped!

we also had a salad to share:
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regular salad – $13 (roasted butternut squash with semidried tomatoes, baby spinach & feta/chargrilled broccoli with chilli, garlic & lemon)

they have 3 different salads displayed at the counter daily for your picking pleasure, and i love how you can pick 2 salads to mix in a bowl, regardless of the salad size that you opt for!¬† we chose the spinach + butternut squash salad and the broccoli salad, and were pleasantly surprised that despite it being a small serving, the quantity was quite sufficient for us to share. the greens were extremely fresh and the butternut squash and spinach salad came with a lovely dressing which we couldn’t quite place but was very yummy nonetheless. as for the broccoli salad, the broccoli was perfectly cooked (ie not too soft, crunchy but not too hard) and cut (big, chunky pieces) for salads, and we loved how it was so nicely char-grilled, giving it a subtle smokey taste.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA¬†there was also some¬†lemon zest added to it which gave the salad a very refreshing lift. fyi, the menu also offers an option of combining the salads with a main – they had a choice¬†of either a¬†roasted chicken leg or some poached salmon for the main¬†while we were there.

i will definitely be back at DOC! this is the place to go if you’re looking for some great buttermilk waffles (another hot favourite is wimbly lu), and i’m looking forward to the next opportunity i get to return to try their sweet waffle with ice cream¬†offerings and possibly their churros with kahlua-spiked chocolate sauce! besides their sweet treats (they also have freshly baked goodies on a¬†daily basis), i hear their sandwiches are good too! the pulled pork one is especially popular.

another great thing about DOC is that they are happy to take reservations. this makes it the perfect place to visit on weekends especially after having a nice lie-in; no worries about long queues or waiting time that could ruin the pleasure of a relaxing weekend brunch!

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Department of Caffeine

15 Duxton Rd
Singapore 089481

ps. dessert was as mentioned earlier, a shiratama parfait at tsujiri:
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MATCHA HEAVEN IN A CUP!!!

pps. the domestic doyleys also got to work in the kitchen that afternoon, and successfully baked an earl grey chiffon cake! it was so yummy and we were pleased as punch heehee. a day full of fabulous food yay!
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