Taaake Awaaaaay. The only two words to cure a hangover, a hangover that had been cooking for three nights to be honest. The Wastemen were really the icing on the cake.
A week prior to the events of last weekend, I was more than a little excited to discover that a long-shut shop across the traffic lights at Limehouse Station, on Commercial Road, had metamorphosed into Basilico, a very â€˜Londonâ€™ kind of pizza delivery chain. Basilico has outlets in all the usual places; Finchley Road, Islington, Lavender Hill, Fulham etc….
…and here they are in Limehouse. I might blush with pride.
A week or so of walking past Basilico on the way back from work intrigued me long before I saw the menu, an extensive affair offering a world of speck (patronisingly explained as â€˜the finest smoked Italian hamâ€™), rocket, truffle oil and everything else that is unbearably alla moda about Italian cuisine these days. A far cry from the cat meatballs and cock-fried bacon of delicious Dominos. Basilicoâ€™s premises, on the other hand, seemed to be rather miserable, full of people who are a little too hipstery to take seriously, shuffling around a largely vacant-looking space with a few metal work benches dotted around. The pizza boxes flying out the door are plain and brown. Bike upon bike upon bike line up outside. Basilica gives off the impression of a factory – geared for volume.
The only interesting thing about their manufacturing plant is the thumpingly-large wood-fired oven that provides a focal point, even if you are at the far side of Commercial Road, waiting to cross at the lights. Its vastness is partly due to the largest pizza Basilico offers; no less than eighteen inches.
Piqued by the brights lights of the oven, like a suited and booted moth, I grabbed a menu one evening as I walked past. Alongside gourmet pizzas (delivered using a â€œpatented hot bag systemâ€ which means that the â€œhandcrafted artisanal pizzas reach you in perfect conditionâ€), the discerning couch potato can order wine, delivered to the door, perhaps in accompaniment to a Nutella and strawberry pizzetta and niche ice cream in such flavours as rhubarb and ginger or â€˜Brazilian super-fruitâ€™. And forget the starters offered by Dominos, such as chicken (dog) kickers – Basilico gives you proper Italian antipasti.
Faced with a lazy afternoon with the Formula One and a rumbly tummy caused by excessive rum and gin, I decided to make the plunge and immerse myself in eighteen inches of Pollo Tricolore, a white pizza made with double cream (lushness defined) topped with smoked chicken, spinach, feta cheese, smoked mozzarella and roasted red peppers. I also ordered a tub of hazelnut and chocolate stracciatella. They had run out.
The pizza arrived in a timely manner, just as Eddie Jordan was bursting onto my telly, rocking out his tried-and-tested pink polka-dot number and a matching pink jacket, making Suzi Perry swoon and giving our Irish friend an aura of coolness that even puts the Ã¼ber-contemporary Cookie Thumper to shame. Sadly, even by the time that the first tyre blow-out had cost Hamilton a home victory, I was beginning to realise that Basilicoâ€™s â€˜hot bag systemâ€™ hadnâ€™t really worked.
The Pollo Tricolore base – despite oozing cream – was desperately dry, and although the toppings were actually well-executed and generous, I think the pizza was actually too big to be cooked perfectly – and for me to say that food is over-ambitiously large is rarer than rocking-horse shit.
Nevertheless, all in all, it was a zealous attempt at gourmet take-away with a wow-factor but I donâ€™t know, for me a pizza takeaway is a bit like Eddie Jordanâ€™s shirts – colourful, excessive and addictive but also a little bit sickly and over-priced. And for that, my friends, Dominos is the only place to call.
18 inches costs Â£eighteen – Dominos prices (for a large). Bigger but somehow slightly worse for the same money? Only you can make that call…