Baked in Brick

September 17, 2018

Those of you who are regulars at Leicester’s streetfood event Canteen* will be familiar with Baked in Brick. Their street food cooked out of ovens in a Mini Cooper have always proved popular and recently they have been acclaimed as the Best of the Best at the European Streetfood Awards for 2017.

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Building on that success they’ve now opened a restaurant, based at Birmingham’s cultural industries hub The Custard Factory in Digbeth. If you’re ever in Brum and in the market for lunch it’s definitely worth the walk out to Digbeth (maybe 12 minutes from New Street, 2 from the bus station). The design might be a bit edgy, with one of those minis careering out of the walls, but on my visit we found the atmosphere is pleasingly cheerful and unpretentious.

The menu focuses on pizzas from the brick oven in the open kitchen. There’s big bags of 00 flour around the place and mountains of tins of san marzano tomatoes – they take their ingredients seriously and you’ll also find local produce such as Lincolnshire Poacher and Colston Bassett Stilton involved. I had their award winning dish of a calzone stuffed with deeply flavoursome beef shin ragu, wild mushrooms, cheese and basil – it was fantastic, right down to the stilton dip for the crust. A fresh salad with mildly smoked burrata and heritage tomatoes was great too, while salty padron peppers, pan-roasted in the pizza oven were the best I’ve encountered.

As you might imagine there’s a good selection of craft beers – I had the Cannonball hop bomb from Magic Rock (I wouldn’t try going back to work after that one) – and a small but good-looking choice of wines. With such quality at around £10 a pizza, it all adds up to a compelling offer.

 

* Not sure exactly what’s gone down here but Canteen has announced it will be moving to a new venue, while previous host LCB Depot has launched its own event Last Friday to replace it. It starts on 28 September and will run along similar lines to Canteen – streetfood, cocktails and live comedy. Canteen has been promising details of its relocated plans but I’ve not seen them yet.

Update 23/9/18:  The new venue for Canteen is to be The Morningside Arena – home of the Leicester Riders and just off Belgrave Gate. The event seems to be going head-to-head with Last Friday and promises more space and less queueing. Will be interesting to see if the audience can grow to support both events.  Here’s a link to a short  promotional film: Canteen

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You may remember a few months back my enthusiastic review of Loughborough pizzeria “Peter and that’s enough” (and I’ve heard plenty of excellent feedback since).  At the time it seemed they were close to getting premises for a Leicester branch in Clarendon Park. While access and other problems scuppered that, it seems that they have now secured premises in Leicester – and it’s the magnificent Welford Place.

Herb forests adorn the communal table at Peter and that's enough

Herb forests adorn the communal table at Peter and that’s enough

This former Gentlemen’s Club (from a time before the phrase had seedy connotations) was home  in 1990s to a lovely restaurant run by Sarah and Lino Poli. It was a great loss to the city when they retreated out to Kibworth to open Firenze (now seafood restaurant The Lighthouse) and later Boboli.   I have particularly fond memories of the venue and being best man at my pal’s wedding there. We serenaded the happy couple with a version of Cotton Eye Joe, led by Leicester music legend Kevin Hewick.

I digress. But I reckon the restaurant has every chance of being more successful than the marriage turned out to be. It may be four or five months before they open,  but if they stick to the formula that has made Loughbrough such a success – simplicity, authenticity, quality, fun, value – it will be worth the wait.

 

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Pizza is, supposedly, fast food.

But sadly too many people think that means fast food of the megachain variety to placate boisterous kids or calm the late-night munchies. But it’s really just fast in that done right it’s simple – dough with two or three quality ingredients cooked in under two minutes at an ultra-high temperature. The Italians know this and it’s the Americans who by and large have fed us the ersatz cheez’n’herb stuffed crust, ham and pineapple abominations.

IMG_0735 IMG_0734 IMG_0731Which brings us to the pizzeria Peter and that’s enough in Loughborough (I haven’t grasped the significance of the name, but no matter). This team of Neapolitans have made it their mission to “cure” the injured image of pizza. And after last night’s visit I’d say the patient is well on the way to recovery.

Sited in what was the old Crown and Cushion pub in Ashby Square, it’s a lovely place with cured meats hanging from the ceiling, herb plants adorning a huge communal slate table (from which we could tear a few bits of basil), an open kitchen, wafts of truffle oil and a happy buzz. It was a bit grim to have pass through some of the staff having a fag on the doorstep, but once inside not a foot was put wrong.

The pizzas were just heavenly.  And here there is a qualification to the fast food thing  – because Italy is also home to the Slow Food movement and these pizzas qualify as slow food too as they are made from sourdough which has been left to breathe, rise and develop flavour for at least 28 hours. The bases are thin enough to bubble and scorch as they cook, but with a beautiful textured crust giving a little more bulk and flavour.

The menu is encouragingly short and focused, with eight pizzas. I had tomato, mozzarella and spicy Italian sausage and each element was superb.  The tomato paste was the best I’ve encountered – intense flavour from San Marzano tomatoes – while the mozzarella (which we also had with a cherry tomato salad) was encouragingly British. An extensive search for the best lead them to Laverstock Farm in Hampshire apparently. The sausage was high quality, genuinely spicy and very moreish.

Rob had tomato, mozzarella, chorizo and gorgonzola and again each element stood out well. Quick simple, gorgeous food at £6 or £7 a pop – it’s a real winner.  I had a desert too, a hugely enjoyable chocolate  and pistachio semi-freddo, more of a chocolate mousse in my book,  but rich and tasty and served in a sweet little jam jar.

You can tell I enjoyed this place, and now to the best news of all.  I have some inside knowledge that another branch should open next year near Victoria Park in Leicester – in fact about 5 minute walk from my house. If you are based in Leicester, I wouldn’t wait though, go and give it a try in Loughborough.

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