So, to keep the ball rolling on the review side of things I thought I’d do another while the iron is still hot. In contrast to my last review this one brings me little joy. I also must admit that it goes against many of the rules of “Food journalism”. Namely that I cannot give you a full view of the restaurant as my experience was very select so I will instead endeavour to give you my experience with the adage that this may not reflect the establishment as a whole. I will also forewarn you all that I cannot supply any picture evidence of our meal as it wasn’t until the day after eating here that I decided a review had to be written about our experience.
To give you a little context of this review I’m currently taking a short break with my girlfriend/carer on the beautiful shores of Hunstanton for a couple of weeks away in a cottage. Our days here are mainly spent lazing around the house, taking long walks down the beach with the dog and, for me at least, sampling the areas eateries.
So, it was to our delight on our second night that we spotted that the local chain pub had recently opened a wood fired pizza oven, on closer inspection they had a two for one offer on all their pizza. “Our lucks in we thought” (ohh how wrong we were). So along we popped with Annie’s Beaglier, Stark, in tow to sample some pizza. Now as I’ve hammered on in my previous posts I am Italian (well a bit) so Pizza is a source of pride for me. My family installed a pizza oven in our back garden a few years back and the pizza we’ve pulled out of it in the past have been nothing short of home-cooked bliss.
So, in I went with expectations high. When we arrived, we were confused as where to sit. We had to sit outside due to our canine companion, but there was little indication as to what was “eating” seating and what was more for casual drinkers. Eventually we landed at our table and perused the menus. What we were greeted with was a mish-mash hack job of a menu. Instead of your standard “Pepperoni, Margherita, Quattro Stagioni (Four Seasons to the uninitiated) it was instead awash with attempts at humour such as the god-awful “hamma-mia” and the deplorable “BBQ Bonanza” the latter of which used BBQ sauce which as far as I’m concerned is a hangable offense. Not to be discouraged I ordered a Parma-Rama, which seemed the least offensive and Annie, out of sheer curiosity, ordered the BBQ Bonanza and as sides we ordered stilton-stuffed doughballs (to satisfy Annie’s blue cheese fetish) and a garlic bread pizza for myself.
When I arrived back at the table from placing our order my senses were accosted by the sounds of the adjacent playground. Now I understand that many pubs in order to stay afloat are becoming more family-orientated and maybe it’s the premature old-git in me, but this was awful. We sat for a while waiting for what seemed an age with the sound of screaming and crying ringing in our ears. It was at this point I perused the area around us to see that it was awash with cigarette butts, dirt and dead leaves. Again, this was an outside area so maybe this was to be expected, but this was a chain pub which I assume are run to strict measures when it comes to this sort of thing and it appeared to me that these basic rules were being ignored. All-in-all it was not the most pleasant of places to sit on hard metal chairs of the kind one only finds in a cheap pub garden. It didn’t really take many words before we decided that our meal would possibly be better enjoyed in the comfort of the cottage in our pyjamas and the barman I placed the order with, to his credit, was very understanding and our (by now late) pizzas were boxed up to take-away.
Wiping our brows and breathing a sigh of relief we left. When we arrived home 5 minutes later the pizza boxes were placed upon the table and lids were ripped off quickly. Now this is where it gets REALLY bad. as sophisticated human beings, we embarked upon the starters first. My garlic bread pizza was the first to be tested and the first few bites proved bog-standard, just that, nothing special, I was disappointed, but I suppose not surprised. After a few bites, it became apparent that something was wrong. I quickly realised what it was. On inspecting the lower side of my slice, I saw it, still caked in flour. Now this is a problem with wood-fired ovens, as in order to slide the pizza in the oven, flour, or more usually semolina is used to make it a little easier. However, I would have assumed that any kind of professional would have found a way around this without leaving the finished pizza with a ‘dusty’ quality that spoiled the taste and texture of something that really is impossible to get wrong.
Next sampled was Annie’s doughballs, when they were first sighted hopes were high because, put simply, they were MASSIVE. A taste however revealed that it was not an abundance of delicious filling that gave these doughballs their admirable proportions but instead around 2 inches of dough with a dollop of what we assumed was not actual stilton but instead some kind of anaemic substitute in the middle. I repeat my amazement that a professional chef could fail so terribly. This stuff is easy, pizzas on a wood fired oven is a simple and beautiful pleasure that amateurs can use to fantastic aplomb, but alas it seems that this is yet another beautiful thing that chain companies have adopted in an effort to appear hip and trendy but have instead ground any sense of quality and passion in their produce into a pulp and then taken a steaming hot dump on top of it.
Next came the ‘main event’. The first look at my pizza was again, hopeful, while the crust was woefully beige rather than a nice crisp brown but the Parma ham on-top appeared to be nicely arranged at least. Any thoughts of salvation disappeared within the first bite however. The toppings of the pizza were Parma ham and asparagus a pairing that was unusual on pizza, but usually shines in other forms, however I’d like to use this platform to announce that on a pizza it bombs. The Parma ham had been cooked to such an extent that its consistency more closely resembled (I can only imagine) one of those pig-ear dog treats, and all essence of flavour had completely disappeared. The asparagus instead of crisp and al-dente was floppy and leaking water onto the mozzarella underneath it. The asparagus had also been cut into strips and small pieces, an unnecessary provision and would have been better served by being grilled nicely in butter then layered on top at the last minute in order for it to retain some semblance of consistency or flavour. And now to the crusts, OH the crusts. Now I LOVE pizza crusts. I would go as far to say that a well-done pizza crust is my favourite part of a pizza. Therefore, it was with shock that my girlfriend saw me leave my crusts for the first time since I was a child. I simply couldn’t hack it, they were stodgy, inedible pieces of dough (I daren’t even refer to them in their cooked form).
Annie was nice enough to pass over a slice of her pizza for me to sample (although part of me wishes she hadn’t). as I said previously, BBQ sauce on pizza while to some might be a nice twist instead to me stinks of laziness and a vain attempt to mimic takeaway pizza places that use it as a base. The worst part of the experience, however was that it did not even taste of BBQ but instead some kind of representation of someone who had once had the flavour of BBQ explained to them, by someone who had themselves never tasted BBQ. Disappointed and broken-hearted the pizza boxes were thrown away and with uncomfortable bellies we thought on what we had just experienced.
Now I know it was cheap and I know we have grown to expect little more from chains but what really irritated me was how far off the mark all of this was. With such a great recipe, it instead turned to disaster and I feel comfortable labelling this the worst pizza I have ever tasted.
Now comes the difficult task of scoring the experience. The food was at least hot so I suppose I can’t justify giving it below a point of one and besides I haven’t sampled the pubs other food other than that supplied by its pizza oven. For atmosphere, I feel again unjustified on being too harsh here as I’m sure if we had kids with us a playground would have been a useful tool to get some peace and quiet but the untidiness and lack of any atmosphere means I cannot really rank this above a 2. Now for service I really cannot fault them too much simply, because there was so little chance for it to be present so purely for the congeniality and helpfulness of the single barman who served me (I like to think his name was Steve, yeah Steve was nice) I give them a three. So overall a score of six out of fifteen I suppose is not too terrible. I really do hope that my experience was a freak occurrence I really do as having a pub serving great wood-fired pizzas is always a good thing however I could not let this lie and simply had to have a little rant just to get this all out of my system.
Before we finish up I’d love to cheer you up just a little, because it’s not all doom and gloom around here, and there’s no way of doing that better than with Ice-cream. Nearly every day since we arrived we have made a daily pilgrimage to “The Hunstanton Ice-cream company”. Previously known as the pavilion ice cream parlour this place really is something special. Unlike the many other ice cream parlours along the coast in Hunstanton it serves fresh home-made ice-cream (rather than lukewarm Mr whippy). The flavours are constantly changing and favourites of ours are Crème brûlée, Raspberry Donut and Marmalade. Nothing beats strolling down the beach with a couple of scoops, so I make no bones about blowing this place’s trumpet so please if you find yourself in Hunstanton please skip the pizza and go straight for dessert at this place.
Thanks for reading guys and please give me a shout in the comments if, you’ve been to either of these laces and feel I’ve been unfair or just to say hi. and if you want to see more posts like this give me a follow and while you’re at it head over to my Instagram to check out any upcoming posts.