I’ve long had a fondness for Pizza East. For me, it’s an east London institution and one of my safe havens on cold, winter nights. Reliably buzzy, reassuringly consistent; a homey, moody cave with an industrial edge. I always know it’s there when I can’t face my own oven.
It’s warm and informal, tumblers of deep red wine flow, cute Italians serve with style and friends gather to share hearty Mediterranean tucker, making everything right with the world after a long day at the office.
Pizza East Portobello on the other hand, is a very different affair. From the get-go, as I approach its Mediterranean inspired blue and white striped awning, I get a very clear signal ‘we ain’t in Shoreditch anymore’. It sits proudly under flapping Union Jacks and the Portobello Road signs, postcard perfect west London positioning and has an inviting welcoming feel of a neighbourhood restaurant.
The interior, unlike its big sister space in Shoreditch, has height and light with the white, shiny tiles framing the stone ovens firing on full. It instantly feels much more intimate and almost like we’re stepping into some old Italian family farmhouse kitchen. Laid out on the counter, I’m drawn to two delicious looking roast pork bellies sitting on Mediterranean veg in a beaten up stainless steel roasting dishes just out of the oven, definitely the sort of welcome I want from any establishment promising to feed me.
This beautifully renovated Victorian pub now feels like the summer house in Sardinia compared to the winter house mainstay of the Shoreditch original. The usual reclaimed industrial low lighting hover over the bar and battered up wooden panels frame the windows, but the space is entirely its own and commands its own vibe.
We were escorted up to the leafy terrace, a delightful bright room on the second floor, with plenty of soft-furnishings and foliage as well as a fold back roof for sunny summer days.
I started with a delightful aperitif, an Aperol Twist, a refreshing take on the once again trending orange classic with a dash of limoncello and Prosecco replaced with a little vodka for good measure. Nibbling on the Marcona almonds and Sicilian green olives, we were there to taste the new summer additions to the menu and size-up Pizza East ‘west’ on a beautiful July afternoon, definitely an ideal time to make use of their terrace on the second floor.
The most memorable dish was the sea bass carpaccio with baby fennel and red jewels of chilli dotted around. It was everything a carpaccio should be; fresh, delicate and clean and right on the money for a summer appetiser. The garlic bread oozed an emerald green pesto in the midst of a rustically, yet perfectly torn focaccia, the ideal accompaniment to the lighter options on the menu. You don’t get better looking garlic bread than this.
The crispy pork belly looked even more mouth-watering. Drizzled in salsa verde, it certainly delivered on the crackling and was even more succulent than it looked. Had I not been in company, I wouldn’t have hesitated to inhale the entire portion, a definite crowd pleaser for pork lovers.
We also tried the pea and fontina croquettes as well as the aubergine, tomato, oregano and pine nuts to mix it up and try some of the more vegetable based options. The smoked trout, pea shoots, mint and mixed grains dish is certainly the option for the super health conscious and was surprisingly moreish. It also worked nicely as an antidote to the mix of the usual antipasti of various charcuterie and creamy burrata from the deli.
Needless to say, when it was time to order from their stellar range of pizzas that the now five strong chain has made its name on, we shared the lot. I went for a slice of yet another veg option, the courgette, caprino and marjoram on the stone baked sourdough we know and love.
I could have stayed in the terrace all day sipping on Prosecco and soaking up the Mediterranean vibe with our group of fooderati, but alas, it was a Tuesday lunchtime and our Mediterranean mini-break had to come to an end.
Without sounding like an advertorial, Pizza East Portobello do seasonal options to suit everyone. If like me, you don’t always want a pizza, however great it may be, there’s plenty of fresh, tasty, summer treats here to delight the taste buds.
Pizza East Portobello, 310 Portobello Rd, London W10 5TA
Tel: 020 8969 4500