A Pizza, The Action
Once upon a time I used to work in Deptford. It’s always been an ‘edgy’ place, with a mixed population of different social classes and highly multicultural, it also has a strong arty flavour owing to nearby Goldsmiths College. I had good times there. But since I started working in town, I stopped visiting on market days and only visit occasionally to go to the local Vietnamese restaurants (Deptford High Street is like a mini “Pho Mile”). So I hadn’t noticed the double decker bus converted into a restaurant next to the Birds Nest public house.
Artist John Cierach, is the owner and brains behind The Big Red Pizza Bus (or BIG RED). He took on some disused land, bought an old double decker bus and set to work. In June 2011 The Big Red Pizza launched itself as a restaurant and bar.
John’s original concept has been developed further through the addition of a large covered patio and articulated lorry compartment converted into a theatre/cinema for Film Clubs and popular Open Mic Comedy nights. One wonderful idea is the Weekend Film Club where local children can watch a children’s film for free whilst mum and dad grab some lunch. There is a weekly (weeknight) Film Club for grown ups, so those who aren’t into the Pixar oevre don’t have to miss out. Given that the London Borough of Lewisham is one of only a couple of boroughs in London with no cinema at all, the Big Red is providing a great local public service.
The simplest pizza at Big Red costs a very reasonable £6.95 (the signature “Big Red”, with tomato, Mozzarella and basil), with prices rising, depending on the ingredients. The most expensive, is the very meaty and generously topped “Mighty Red” at £10.95. Big Red, despite being independent and sourcing toppings from specialist, high quality suppliers, is managing to undercut the big chains of Pizza Express and Ask.
Being keen on price is all very well and good, but what did the pizzas taste like, I hear you ask. Well, here goes…
All of the pizzas are made of homemade pizza dough which is thin rolled and cooked good and hot. The pizza achieves a few little brown patches dotted around the golded brown crust which is crisp and crunchy. It’s pizza how we like it these days, with all memory of greasy, doughy, deep pan of the 1980s erased.
The Mighty Red pizza is a glorious meat fest; pepperoni, salami, pancetta and ham with chilli and two cheeses (cheddar and mozzarella). A bold and hearty pizza which Him Indoors particularly enjoyed, as a confirmed meat eater. This would be a wonderful pizza to share on a Film Club night, I think. The meat was not skimped upon and neither was the chilli! Bellisimo!
Black olives, preserved anchovies, Mozzarella and tomato sauce came together in the “Puttanesca” inspired pizza. This is a pizza of joyous gutsy flavours, which I enjoyed a lot.
The grilled vegetable with Grano Padano cheese was topped with grilled courgette, red peppers, red onion and mushroom and finished with pitted black olives and fresh rocket. The contrast of the fresh leaf and cooked vegetables is a great touch, giving this pizza unique character. This was topped with a very unlikely ingredient: beetroot. However, the peppery rocket, and mellow sweetness of the beetroot were very pleasant contrasts to each other, marrying up with the tomato sauce and just melted Mozzarella extremely well.
I’m not myself a vegetarian, but would happily eat this myself and would recommend it with confidence to vegetarian dining companions. The pizza has a crispy outer crust and the bread was light and thin.
BIG RED also does a nice line in accompaniment dishes and we tried thee Grilled baby chorizo with bread (£3.95) Cute little dough balls, best eaten warm with crispy skinned chorizos full of chilli punch. Lovely with a glass of wine and good conversation.
We also sampled the ‘House’ platter of cured meats, cheese, olives and bruschetta for 2 (£9.50). The bruschetta were topped with yielding and still-juicy slightly dried tomatoes. Exceedingly sweet with a hint of chewiness which was just right, the texture of the tomatoes complimented the toasted bread in a manner befitting good bruschetta. It is amazing how often this simple starter misfires in other establishments, but The Big Red’s bruschetta was accomplished. The other anti-pastis were enjoyable, going down a treat.
Toasted sourdough bread toasties with pan fried mushrooms and a creamy spinach sauce was another delightful small plate, and a welcome change from the usual dull starter options available to our vegetarian friends.
BIG RED have worked hard to reach out to the local community and imaginative options for those with dietary requirements is a part of that thinking. I was impressed to find there was even a vegan pizza with no cheese and dough made with olive oil.
The service was friendly and efficient and the food a cut above the vast majority of pizza restaurants in London. All in all, BIG RED have made a great first impression, and I’m sure we’ll be back.
Big Red Pizza Bus
30 Deptford Church Street, London SE8 4RZ
www.bigredpizza.co.uk / 0203 4908346
This feature is also published in edition#13 of Flush Magazine, download our free iPad App here