DO we really need another pizza place? Whatever, still they spring up. The wood burning ovens are firing up brightly across our great land, the Fior di Latte and San Marzano tomato toppings show no sign of losing their grip on our tastebuds.
Every serious contender in the city has its champions – from Honest Crust to Rudy’s Neapolitan Pizza; from 00 to Proove, while we eagerly await the arrival of the second outlet for Rudy’s under new ownership, in Peter Street and the much-delayed San Carlo’s Pizza Madre in King Street West.
The most interesting pizza project, though, is a West Didsbury rival to Proove. While that Burton Road offshoot of the Sheffield original makes great play of its Italian chef team the Great British Pizza Company, which opens on Lapwing Lane next week, trumpets its use of British ingredients, its moderate prices – oh and, as a rebuff to Old Napoli – its thin crusts.
ToM dropped in on co-owner Grant Ashdown at the work in progress premises opposite West Didsbury Metrolink station and asked him straight how he has made the leap from the London fashion industry to a topped dough franchise.
“We all fancy a change of direction, a new challenge,” said the serial clothing label entrepreneur who started out at Camden Market in the Eighties. On a chance trip to Margate, he and his partner Kally Shukla visited a cult pizza restaurant recommended by style guide Sheer Luxe.
They were smitten by the quality of the food at the Great British Pizza Co, which, graduating from a street food van to permanent premises, had contributed towards the regeneration of the seafront (along with the Turner Gallery) an garnered widespread critical acclaim.
“We couldn’t get it out of our mind even months after; we sought out GB Pizza-style pizza, but just couldn’t find it,’’ added Grant, who had moved up to live in Didsbury with Kalla (ex-Jigsaw, Whistles, Miss Sixty), who runs a womenswear agency with offices in both Manchester and London.
“Finally we wrote to the women who ran GBP Co, chef Rachel Seed (pictured with Grant and Kally below) and journalist Lisa Richards, and asked if we could could open one in Manchester. When we met we hit it off really well and they agreed we could do it, following the same formula.”
That formula involves sourcing quality raw materials locally wherever possible, to top the signature dough, so that means local cheeses plus British mozzarella and cured meats (the Bath Pig chorizo comes from near Bradford, ethically reared ham from Littlewood’s of Heaton Chapel). On the drinks side apple juice comes from Dunham Massey, coffee from Salford roasters Heart & Graft, wines from Reserve in West Didsbury and beers curated by the award-winning Heaton Hops microbar. Ice cream is from Northern Bloc in Leeds. For a full list of suppliers, visit their website.
The most encouraging news is the moderate pricing, starting at £5 for a pizza simply topped with their home-made tomato sauce, garlic and oregano, a quid more for a Margherita (or, ouch down, there a Margate-rita ), the most expensive and anchovy, oregano, chilli flakes and parmesan at £9.25. ToM fancies the sound of a pear and British blue cheese topping on a ricotta base for £8.50. All of them with no frills attached.
Grant enthuses: “Pizza is food you eat from your hands with a tumbler of wine from our draught selection, perhaps out in our lovely garden with your friends when the weather is right.”
Inside, when it's ready, expect the kind of stylish fit-out you'd expect with Grant and Kally's backgrounds. As life changes go we think the fashionistas has made the right tasty choice. Review coming soon.
Great British Pizza Co, 113 Lapwing Lane, West Didsbury, M20 6UR.