Pizza East

56 Shoreditch High Street, London, England, E1 6JJ, United Kingdom

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Pizza East is another venture from the Soho House group, who have the private members club Shoreditch house here, with this pizzeria open to non-members. The building décor could be described as post-industrial, and indeed the “post” bit may be superfluous in this description. I literally wandered past it initially, assuming it was some sort of abandoned warehouse, and only when you pop around the corner do you see anything resembling an entrance. This in itself looks like an entrance to the kind of place that would feature in one of the “Saw” horror film series, but if you press on through the stairwell then you make it to a welcome desk with some charming reception staff.

The main room still has the feeling of a warehouse with its exposed brickwork and pipes, and lighting seems to have been something else that the owners economised on. I have never eaten at “In the Dark” (where you are served by blind waiters in total darkness) but this is heading in that direction. One tiny night light was the only illumination anywhere near our table, and if I held the menu up to the candle I could read the top corner of the menu (just). I resorted to taking the menu over to a waiter’s station and holding it under a lamp, then ordering, as unless you have the ocular facilities of a bird of prey this is about the only way you can make out what is on offer. Perhaps I am just getting to be a bit of an old buffer (OK, maybe that boat has sailed), but I find this level of lighting absurd. Indeed our waitress confided that the staff struggle with it too, for example not being sure whether they have wiped the tables down properly.

The menu features over ten pizza choices (with toppings that feel like a Californian pizzeria rather than an Italian one e.g. “prawns, tomato, majoram, chill”), but also other Italian dishes, some starters and assorted main courses, as well as various antipasta. Starters are £5 - £7, pizzas £7 - £13, main courses £10 – 18, while desserts are £4 - £6. The one page wine list majors on Italy, starts at £17.50 and had selections such as the Sicilian Nero d’Avola Montalto 2008 at £21.50 for a wine that will set you back around £9 in the shops, while the Washington State Duck Pond Chardonnay 2007 was listed at £28.50 for a wine you can buy for around £11. At the upper end of the list, the lovely Tignanello 2006 was listed at £85, which is not bad for a wine that costs £51 retail.

Calamari were deep fried and were quite decent, generous in portion size, the squid not chewy and the batter reasonably light (13/20). The pizza itself had a nicely puffed-up base (cooked in gas-fired ovens), and toppings of acceptable quality, though as a pizza (12/20) this is a long way below the standards of Franco Manca (but at twice the price). Pork belly was dried out, with borlotti beans, somewhat soggy cavalo nero and a rather insipid salsa verde (barely 11/20). We didn’t make it to desserts. Coffee was adequate (12/20).

From a food perspective there is nothing particularly to recommend this; the pizzas are better than some high street chains, but a long way from the best you can find in London. Our waitress was very good, friendly and efficient, and in general the staff seemed well drilled and effective, which help produce a positive atmosphere and explain why the place was quite as full as it was. The Soho House group seem to be able to make just about anywhere successful, producing simple food but with above-average waiting staff in trendy settings, and Pizza East follows that pattern.

Sorry about the photos, but to be honest the only camera that would take a good picture here would be one of those night-vision ones that the military use.

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