The hipster revolution is upon us. No food is safe. The humble burger has been embellished with a bright green avocado bun. If you haven’t tried kale or quinoa (pronounced “keen-wah”, trust me, I have been corrected multiple times), frankly, where have you been? Although the occasional twists on traditional dishes are welcome, food fads are often the products of bored people with well-groomed beards and usually die out in a matter of months. Many try too hard to be alternative and lose sight of the practicalities of eating. “Deconstructed” spaghetti bolognese out of mason jars anyone? And let’s face it, bread served in hats is simply unhygienic.
However, some food fads catch on and become mainstream. The earliest known variation of modern pizza originated in Naples. Since then this world-wide delicacy has adapted to a variety of taste buds, which has resulted in long running feuds over which type is best. In the USA alone the famous Chicago deep-dish is in competition with the New York-style thin slice. Across London the Franco Manca pizza chain, popular with Imperial students, is known for its delicious and surprisingly affordable sourdough pizzas. As the daughter of a baker who has grown up with the smell of homemade sourdough bread wafting through the house, these pizzas are a particular favourite of mine. In my own kitchen I have heard far too many arguments about pizza, you wouldn’t think it could be a controversial topic, and yet whether a Hawaiian is a monstrosity or not is an ongoing debate. So naturally when it comes to pizza trends any deviations from the norm are essentially marmite – you’re either going to love them or hate them.
A few months ago while aimlessly wandering around Soho with rumbling stomachs, a friend and I stumbled across a place called Flat Planet. Upon inspection we had found a hipster gem. But in a good way. Now this place is littered with hipster décor, featuring classic exposed Edison light bulbs, thoroughly doodled walls and a rather endearing piano named Tom with a “play me” sign. If Flat Planet was all style and no substance then it would have been a disappointment. But luckily the food was great too. Their speciality is flat breads if you didn’t guess from the name. What struck me most was that the menu included some topping combinations that are different to the classic pizza choices. I found my Moroccan flatbread with houmous, labneh (a type of yogurt), tomatoes, olives, basil, mint and rose harissa to be a refreshing alternative to my usual pepperoni pizza. The flatbreads are also lighter than most pizzas, which make them a perfect light-ish lunch.
Pizzas that could definitely never be considered light are the 20˝ giants served at Homeslice. The use of paper plates and the fact that these wonderful creations barely fit on the table, meaning I was essentially eating off my lap, made for a more casual family-style eating experience, where ordering more if you’re hungry is encouraged and perfectly feasible considering how quickly the pizzas arrive after ordering. But what if you don’t all want the same topping? Not a problem. There is the option to have half one type of pizza and a different one on the other half! Although this does make the pizzas incredibly artsy looking, a plus for any avid instagrammers and snapchatters out there, it essentially means that you have combined two regular sized ones into a more impractical 20˝. But hey, this is definitely more fun and a nice change for people looking for something out of the ordinary.
The choice of toppings are great too. For once, vegetarians are not subjected to only two choices, a boring margherita or vegetarian option that no matter where you order it from always seems to include the same 5 vegetables and overdoes it on the sweetcorn. There has been a gap in the market for more exciting vegetarian pizzas for a while and I believe Homeslice may be the answer. Some of the vegetarian options include innovative toppings such as cauliflower cheese, butternut pumpkin and broccoli, ingredients you wouldn’t normally associate with pizza. Homeslice also switch things up in another way. Their pizzas come with a range of sauce favours instead of just the classic tomato. This includes the rich red wine sauce lined base used with their venison and kale pizza. To put it simply, it was divine. Naturally drinking wine to accompany pizza tastes great, possibly a match made in heaven in fact, but who would think to put the alcohol on the pizza instead? For the people who aren’t in love with the flavour of red wine, Homeslice also offer other interesting tomato sauce alternatives, such as sweetcorn purée and garlic.
The archetypal standard round pizza with cheese and tomato sauce is irreplaceable and will always hold a place in my heart. But sourdough, flatbread and unusually large pizzas are variations I can get on board with. Someone had to come up with a crazy spark of genius for all the foods we enjoy today to be invented in the first place. But equally if you chose to stick to Domino’s, then fair enough, I won’t judge (much).