Ruben’s Bakehouse combines a retail bakery and a pizzeria, and opened in November 2013. The wood-fired pizza oven is visible as you walk through to the dining room. This featured half a dozen communal wooden tables, together seating perhaps thirty customers in a pinch. Seating was a choice of a hard wooden stool or a plastic garden chair, neither of which were designed for lingering. When I got up at the end of the meal I felt as if I had been riding a horse for several hours.
There was a short wine list, with three white wines and three reds, plus a rose wine. Example labels were Canicatti Nero d’Avola from Sicily at £26.60 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £19, and Castella de Paneretta of unknown vintage at £41.50 compared to its retail price of £20. There were also several Italian bottled beers.
Bruschetta was rather disappointing, not properly toasted and topped with tasteless tomatoes and cheap-tasting, overly sweet balsamic vinegar, with limp salad leaves (10/20). The pizzas were better, but the base lacked the bubbles that you see in a top quality pizzeria, though the toppings were decent. Essentially the pizza oven was just not hot enough. According to the rules of the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletano a pizza should be cooked at a temperature of at least 485C for no more than 60-90 seconds. The pizza oven here was at 330C to 350C and the pizzas needed to be cooked for around five minutes.The pizzas we tried were better than those of the standard high street chains, but a long way off the best pizzas that you can get in London these days. The pepperoni used on one pizza also tasted rather low quality (maybe 11/20 for the pizzas). The little family-run Italian place around the corner from where I live produces better pizza, and they don’t even have a proper wood-fired oven. However they do use reasonable quality ingredients and take care about making and resting their dough.
A side salad had the same limp leaves and low quality balsamic as the bruschetta and so was no more appealing (10/20). We also tried a slice of orange cheesecake, which was decent enough, sufficiently moist and having reasonable texture. Indeed it was arguably the best thing we ate, though it was still hardly going to win any prizes (11/20). Coffee was an Italian brand called Mokarabia., whose local distributor is nearby in Twickenham but whose origins date back to the 1700s.
There was a single waitress, who appeared to be doubling as a kitchen porter, doing the washing up. There was also just a solitary pizza chef, so on this fairly busy night the waitress was fully occupied. She was friendly though the service was of the “who ordered what?” variety. However this is a simple local place, not a fine dining restaurant, and she was certainly doing her best to keep up with running both a busy dining room and washing up; I left her a tip on top of the already included service given the number of jobs she was holding down tonight.
The bill came to £25 a head with beer to drink, and sharing a starter and dessert. For three courses and modest wine a typical cost per head might be around £35 or so. The restaurant was pretty busy, with tables being turned, so this is clearly a place that appeals to its local customers. However based on what I had tonight it would be hard to recommend a detour there.