The anarchic idea at this recently opened city centre pizzeria is that diners don’t have to pay extra for additional toppings – instead they are invited to add as many as they like. I’m presuming that the individual quantities reduce as the number of toppings goes up, otherwise you could end up with a foot-high Scooby snack, but the concept lends itself to experimentation.
The décor of the place is definitely post-recession hipster rather than punk – exposed brickwork, check, neon sign, check, open kitchen, check, industrial pipes… you get the picture.
We walked in to hear the Sex Pistols’ God Save The Queen – but it is the only song all night that fitted with the punk theme; the playlist deteriorated through a limp 80s mix, reaching a nadir with Stevie Wonder’s second-worst song ever, which is, of course, Part Time Lover.
Pizza Punks is definitely set up for groups – any party numbering over ten can opt for a shared tasting menu, which would be fun. There don’t really seem to be individual starters or salads on offer either; apart from pizza there is a meat board, a cheese board, a couple of salads and focaccia.
Not realising this we ordered a meat board (£9) with salami, bresaola, and cured ham, focaccia (£3) and marinated olives (£2.50) to kick off, but couldn’t work out who these portions would be aimed at. Does anyone need half a pound of olives or a huge platter of meat? The portions were biblical, but certainly good value.
I also plumped for the punkiest of the extensive cocktail list, a Deadly Nightshade (£6.50). This was a concoction of aubergine, white rum, pineapple and honey where the bitterness of the vegetable purée was offset perfectly by a fruity sweetness and garnished with a delicious aubergine crisp. It is, I suppose, quite punk to drink aubergine cocktails. I can see Johnny Rotten paying for one of these with his latest butter advertising cheque.
And so to the pizzas. There is a dizzying array of ingredients to top off the sourdough base so you can “punk it up” – create your own – or go with the house recommendations, which are all are priced at £9.
We opted for Nduja and chorizo sausage, scorched red peppers and caramelised red onion, and a San Daniele ham, rocket and Parmesan, both house standards. We “punked it up” with a third, this time vegetarian, as we had already consumed our own body weight of meat.
The bases are pleasingly thin, crunchy and chewy with all the flavour you would expect when you see them being put into the wood-fired oven. The toppings worked really well together too – a revelation for this salami-and-black-olive-only girl.
But there was a problem with the vegetarian pizza, in that it wasn’t.
Our artichoke, Gorgonzola and roast cauliflower, which I’d imagined as a set of toppings which would have the house chefs gasping at its innovative flavour combination, had added chicken – the second worst thing you can ever put on a pizza.
Fortunately no-one at the table was a veggie, but I can imagine the reaction of friends who are had they not spotted it before biting in – we certainly hadn’t.
Mistakes are made in restaurants – although this is a biggie – but a place can only be judged on how they deal with them.
Thinking the member of the waiting staff would be mortified, I very gently pointed out the offending poultry. Perhaps I was too gentle. The reply: “Oh, that might have been my fault, I’ll check,” was lacklustre, but it was all we were to get. Nothing more was said. No management rushing over with profuse apologies, no hurried replacement with the correct order, no scoring out on the bill or complimentary drinks.
I suspect the staff member, who I don’t want to identify as I’m sure they are just trying to pay their rent, didn’t tell the kitchen or the management what had happened. They were young, new to the job and probably thought the nice people at the table wouldn’t make a fuss. And we didn’t.
Puds are those Instagrammable shakes and ice-creams with all sorts of frills and furbelows stuck on. The salted caramel shake was monumental and delicious enough to be dangerously addictive to those of a weak disposition.
Pizza Punks is a great idea, well executed, with good value and tasty food. Their staff need more training in the importance of not serving meat in a vegetarian dish and in dealing with mistakes, although perhaps our wait-person’s insouciant stance was the most punk thing of the night.
Incidentally, for those left wondering: I Just Called To Say I Love You and pineapple.