Yes, Pizza is fast food. Well, more accurately it’s fast-ish food. A good pizza has a freshly-made base and an exceptional one has that cooked in a real pizza oven. It’s fast food with a pedigree.
The first pizzas were simple affairs sold by the slice on the streets of Naples. It wasn’t available much outside the environs of that city and didn’t become widely known till after the Second World War when the returning GIs spread the word. As usual the UK followed suit and now there are pizza restaurants and kiosks all over the world.
Heritage meets history with the latest Fire and Stone Pizza restaurant in Old Spitalfields Market. There has been a market on this site since 1638 when Charles I licensed the sale of meat and veg. It was then a rural area near London rather than being in the centre of it. The existing structure was built in 1887 to service a wholesale market. It was subsequently extended and now has new office buildings added to the complex, although it still holds much of its traditional Victorian charm.
Fire and Stone opened on 1st August at this famous site, and has seating for 190 people. It has an airy ambiance as it is separated only by glass walls from the vibrancy of the market. It’s a contemporary restaurant with copper-clad oven on view to the expectant diners. Plenty of dark wood to complement the glowing metal. It’s already a popular spot after only a couple of weeks of trading. A good start when one considers the close proximity of other casual dining restaurants.
Lunchtime finds Fire and Stone filled with office workers and tourists visiting the market. The evening sees groups of friends looking for decent food before an evening of bar-hopping and cinema-going. Its location a stone’s throw from Aldgate East makes it ideal for convivial and surprisingly economic dining.
We started our meal with the Mediterranean Sharing Platter. This was a generous plate of Parma ham, salami, smoked ham, homous, taramasalata, black and green olives, cornichons (small pickled gherkins) and triangles of fresh pita bread. This was a substantial plateful and a bargain at less than £4.00 per person. You’ll need these nibbles while you scan the diverse and lengthy menu.
Fire and Stone is a small chain that offers quality pizza. There is a raft of pizza restaurants around but the goods on offer here are outstanding. There is a long list of exotic toppings but they have not forgotten the classics. You can have the basic Margherita with the three-colour garnish of tomato, basil and mozzarella (said to represent the Italian flag) and then add extras of your choice.
Napoli pizza tempted me. It’s a traditional one, but a simple dish reflects the confidence of the establishment, and there was nothing wrong with this one. Tomato sauce covered with spicy sliced pepperoni, mozzarella cheese and anchovies. The thin base was cooked to perfection – slight crunch around the edge with a firm rather than soggy centre. The topping was authentically Italian, and a sprinkle of semolina still remained under the bottom crust.
Marrakech pizza appealed to my guest. Cumin perfumed the minced lamb, while mozzarella, mint and yoghurt sauce, green olives, raisins and thinly sliced red onion drizzled with chilli oil were the flavourful toppings. This is well worth trying. OK, so it’s not a classic pizza – Fire and Stone offers many that are not, but let us not be food snobs. This restaurant does indeed have a list of the usual suspects, but consider trying some of the more exotic offerings. The aforementioned Marrakech is similar to a traditional Middle Eastern pizza-style dish, lahem bil ajine, but one of the most popular pizzas here is the Peking, with Hoi Sin sauce, shredded aromatic duck, mozzarella and spring onions. Another highly recommended is the London pizza with its nod to the English fried breakfast: tomato sauce, bacon, mozzarella, Cumberland sausage, black pudding and free-range eggs as its crowning glory.
Fire and Stone have reached a compromise between tradition and modernity. They present well-executed pizza made from the best of ingredients. They take pride in their products and that will appeal to the pizza purist. Others will say that the masterfully baked crust should be considered a worthy vehicle for other delicious foods, and those people will be well content with the globe-trotting menu of pizzas inspired by every continent.
Your friends might not be able to agree which topping is the best in house, but all will agree that Fire and Stone do a very fine pizza. I’ll be back for the Peking, or perhaps the New York, or perhaps I’ll make that American Hot.
Fire and Stone
4 Horner Square, Old Spitalfields Market, London E1 6EW
Phone: 0844 371 2554
Monday to Saturday 11am – 11pm
Sunday 11am – 8pm
Restaurant review by Chrissie Walker © 2018