Pizza is a long-time staple in my diet and although there are no shortages of places in London serving up the doughy stuff, as soon as I heard about one combining meter-long pizzas accompanied by creative-looking cocktails, I headed over to Old Street to sample such a delightful pairing.
The laid-back restaurant is located on City Road and as it’s lacking in any form of recognisable branding or signage from the street, it could easily missed. In fact my sister Jessica and I walked past several times before we even realised where it was and we’re generally quite knowledgeable about this area of London.
It’s fair to say Old Street has never been particularly attractive and the towering grey concrete blocks are a real eyesore. However, after a bit of perseverance you’ll be rewarded as nestled among the oppressive building structures you’ll find some tempting venues, such as NightJar or The Golden Bee, where you can experience just how much the East End has
evolved from a concrete slum to a quirky neighbourhood with a sprinkling of high-end dining establishments.
The design of Meter, the brain child of local DJ James Priestley, is very East London and fits in well with the low-key, trendy ethos of the area. As you might expect, the place has a very minimalist décor made up of effortless unfinished wooden floors and stone brick walls akin to the likes of The Book Club down the road.
However, despite the exterior, Priestley has managed to introduce a place which caters to both lovers of thick-rimmed glasses and pain-inducing skinny jeans and those which don’t live in the area but are coming in search of appealing, good-quality Italian dishes.
Starting off the cocktails are a must. I tried the Sultry Nectar, a fruity burst of rum, mango, basil and chilli, sweetened with sugar and lime. Basil in a cocktail I hear you cry? Yes, the waitress informed me it worked and I blindly followed and she wasn’t wrong.
Jessica went for the Fashioned 1976 – a new twist on the classic Old Fashioned with treacle, caramelized apple and brown sugar (£12) which Don Draper would be rolling in his grave to try. Both were simply served in jam jars (again with the East London theme) but impeccably executed setting the evening off on a high mark.
Many people in the bar were there just for the cocktails but it’s a real test not to give into the wooden boards piled high with fresh cheeses and meats which cleverly floated past our table several times before we picked our meals.
As I have no will power I immediately went for some deep-fried smoked provola balls with a hint of honey and also a board of antipasti with a healthy serving of salami and prosciutto with foccacia to mop up the olives and sweetened tomatoes. The food is fresh, colourful and a perfect mix of everything you want to wet your Italian appetite before the main course.
Next, it’s onto the pizzas and a word of warning, unless you’re really hungry don’t go for a starter as well as the pizzas are big enough for even the most enthusiastic fans of the Italian classic dish and are really suited for sharers.
Chef Valentino Fontana from Naples has managed to create some simple yet seriously delicious pizzas and we shared a creamy mix of sausage, broccoli and chilli in the Broccoli e Salsiccia and a Cotto e Patate, another creamy one topped with prosciutto and potatoes (there was a lot left over for breakfast the next day).
There are also tomato-based pizzas such as the Melanzane smothered in aubergines, ricotta, tomato and basil or classics like the Fiorentina and Napoli.
In reality you’re probably not going to be able to tackle a meter-long pizza on your own so bring some friends along. After the dough-challenge if you’ve not passed into a food coma at this stage there are a few puddings on offer such as the Affogato which is basically a steaming espresso poured over ice cream or a slice of Tiramisu, to finish off the night.
Or, like Jessica and I, you could just head back to the cocktails again.