In the heart of Marylebone lay a pizzeria named Firebrand , the scent of wood fired pizza’s wafting underneath our noses.We yearned to wrap our lips around sourdough crusts and dribble tomato sauce down our chins, as linguine curled round our mouths not so elegantly and the wine caressed our raspy tongues. Goats cheese oozing sensually onto spinach would juxtapose herbed foccaccia while gnocchi submerged itself in a glorious four cheese sauce. And who could forget the tart notes of blueberry that wibble wobbled in fresh panna cotta, washed down with Montalto Nero d’Avola, sweet and spicy? Firebrand Pizza was a restaurant whose nickname was surely worthy of an ‘Italian Stallion’ status, a monochromatic tiled, brick rustic ‘gaffe’ that oozed Napoleon charm. At first seemingly unassuming on a quiet London street, the lull is gradually replaced by a large ‘party table’ who tuck into gloriously christened Italian fare, with homemade fare alongside us, their laughter signalling the start of a good evening indeed. But what would we eat to start, that would be indicative of Firebrand Pizza’s culinary prowess? We would share our food as friends do, procuring a selection of mouthwatering starters, mains and desserts while we drank our sweet and spicy wine with contentment in our eyes? Did you wonder what we ate at first, what we plunged our mouths into so hungrily, famished after a cold, freezing shoot?
Pan Fried Goats Cheese would vellicate across a bed of spinach that you doused in olive oil and balsamic vinegar, adorned with caramelized red onion that you fed to Savannah, while you tore off sizeable amounts of rosemary and mozzarella focaccia as you stuffed it into your mouth hungrily. The goats cheese was the best part of the starter, that was a fact that you both agreed on, licking your lips as the tart, yet earthy, soft and moist cheese cradled your insides with joy, accentuated by the mild mozzarella, sprinkled with rosemary herbs. The rosemary at first was aromatic, with a warm and slightly bitter taste, but when infused with a olive oil offered smooth, herbal notes, dancing on a throne of mozzarella, whose lactic creamy al fresco aftertaste was nothing short of delectable sapidity. We took our time with languorous attention, as we slowly ate, feeling every morsel enter our ravenous bellies with triumphant glee, it was almost a victory call. And who could forget the organic Italian bottle of Montalto Nero d’Avola (2017 Sicilia IGT, Italy) with notes of ripe red fruits, sweet spices and liquorice, finished off with a round, generous palate? Montalto was an intense red wine with heart and promise, each measured sip a theatrical immersion of taste and pleasure that traced its roots oh so delightfully. In fact, translated, Nero d’Avola means “Black of Avola”, a reference to the grape’s distinctive dark colouring, while it also happens to be the most important and widely planted red wine grape variety in Sicily, making it a wine to be reckoned with.
Our mains crawled into our hearts next, Tomato, Basil, Mozzarella Pizza juxtaposed with Spicy Arrabiata Linguine and Gnocchi with Creamy Four Cheese Sauce, we wanted to try them all. The wood fired tomato, basil and mozzarella pizza was cooked in under 90 seconds at 400°C in a fight of passion, as we folded the crisp crust and took a leap of faith. The pizza was simple, but nevertheless delicious, having used sourdough made from caputo flour from Naples and left to prove for 72 hours. The result was sublime, tenderly wood fired crust juxtaposed with pulpy marina sauce, highly fragrant basil leaves torn liberally over milky mozzarella. With its bright, pungent and peppery taste, the basil had an almost anise quality, which offset the sweet spices of our glorious wine companion ever so delightfully. But it was the gnocchi with creamy four cheese sauce that stole the show for me-although my friend preferred the wood fired pizza- notes of vegetarian friendly Parmigiano, Gruyere, Edam, and mozzarella cascading in my mouth. The result of the four cheese explosion was a rich, warming sensual sauce that bordered on obsession, I couldn’t get enough. Each morsel brought wave upon wave of delight-orientated pleasure, a foodgasm edging on glory each time we ate. And the Spicy Arrabiata Linguine, while al-dente, was just as pleasing, made with garlic, olive oil and red pepper flakes that teased us with each bite. Not too spicy, but not plain either, the arrabiata was a welcome main from Firebrand Pizza, who proved that unlike its name might suggest, pizza’s weren’t the only dish that would prowl its menu ever so invitingly.
Our bellies were sated by our mains and starters but our evening was not over just yet, oh no. Desserts were a necessity, we craved something sweet, a Blueberry Panna Cotta for me and a Tiramisu for Savannah, two desserts that would take centre stage. The blueberry was sour as it should be with a less tart mellower, but not necessarily sweeter, flavor closer to concentrated apple or pear than citrus, that burst nonchalantly on the tip of my tongue, while the smooth melt-in-the-mouth texture of the panna cotta with its sweet, mild taste created a dessert that was not too forceful in its flavour pairings. The blueberries with berry coulis felt right on the wibbly wobbly panna cotta, while Savannah enjoyed scooping the creamy Tiramisu out of a small mason jar, consisting of layers of sponge cake soaked in coffee and brandy with powdered chocolate and mascarpone cheese. Stating that it was rich and dark in flavour, the mason jar was quickly emptied of its cake heaven home, and together we bowed into the night, leaving behind the wondrous delights of Firebrand Pizza, as we closed our eyes and fell into sated slumber.
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Please note we were invited as guests of Firebrand Pizza through Love Pop Ups London but all thoughts are my own and are not affected by complimentary services.