Franco Manca – Balham


Holding the title of ‘best pizza in London’ by many people is probably quite daunting for some. However, Franco Manca absolutely deliver every single time I have visited (and I have visited it a lot), consistently producing amazing pizzas. The menu is very small, only 6 regular pizzas with one meat special and one veg special a day. I pretty much go for the same pizza every time because it is so divine!

The Balham restaurant has been around for about 6 months, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t queues out the door most nights. Don’t let the queues put you off though, the restaurant has a pretty quick turnaround so you wont be waiting too long. If you really don’t do queuing then there is a pizza express exactly opposite, but do you really want to turn down visiting the best pizza in London for a chain restaurant?!

Luckily the last time we went it was pretty late so we were seated straight away. Tap water arrived and pizzas were ordered. I went for my usual no.6 which is topped with both dry & semi-dry chorizo. I am an absolute sucker for anything containing chorizo so this naturally is my choice most of the time. The sourdough pizza is blast cooked in a wood-burning “Tuff” brick oven that is actually made in Naples, and so it arrives at our table very quickly indeed! I’m sure I have never had to wait longer than 5 minutes max. between ordering and eating. You will notice (and hopefully you can see from the picture) that the pizza isn’t quite like your normal pizza. Many people have likened it to a naan bread due to it’s soft and doughy texture, even the crusts are lovely and soft so please do not discard these if you usually do that! It is very easy to eat and usually has disappeared within about 5 minutes, leaving me one full and happy girly. The no.6 has a tomato base, some come with only a little bit of tomato and others none at all. I found the ones with only a little tomato (no.4) were less easy to eat because it is more dry due to having less sauce. It does have ricotta but it just personally isn’t enough. If ever I decide to venture away from my usual I always make sure to add extra tomato sauce to it (at an extra cost though, boo…). However I will always keep coming back to Franco Manca because it has a special place in my heart, and just looking at the above picture makes me drool.

The Balham restaurant is relatively small but feels like a real restaurant. For this reason I prefer the Brixton branch – It has bigger queues but it has a great atmosphere and a rustic feel. Franco Manca also has a branch in Chiswick, Tottenham court road, Northcote road, Stratford’s Westfield and Broadway market.

The Bill? A bank-breaking £6.95 for the ‘best pizza in London’… Bloody bargain!

53 Bedford Hill, London, SW12 9EZ

Franco Manca on Urbanspoon


Flying Saucer Cupcakes

flying saucer cupcake
(Please excuse the absolute mess of my kitchen in the background, I was in a rush…)

Here it goes, my first recipe post! Bear with me…

Our office has semi-regular bake off’s and so far I have won both the best taste award and the best looking award in the last two, so my winning streak was at stake here! This time around the theme for the bake off was “Absolutely Fabulous”, so you could take it literally and bake a wine bottle shaped cake with fags ends coming out of it, or go all OTT on the decoration. I decided to go for latter…

Having scoured the net for inspiration, I stumbled upon a blog called raspberri cupcakes. Oh my. I implore you to go and check it out! Amazing recipes with amazing photograph, serious food porn! So after perusing her recipes I was inspired by a particular post and decided to make it my own.

flying saucer cupcakes

Flying Saucer Cupcakes (Orange Cupcake, sherbet icing and a hidden chocolate ganache centre)
(makes around 14 well filled cupcakes, recipe adapted from Raspberri Cupcakes blog)

For the cupcakes: 
165g baking spread (I used stork)
100g of caster sugar
100g of soft light brown sugar
1 large orange, zest and juice
3 large eggs
300g self-raising flour, sieved

For the icing:
165g salted butter, softened
200g icing sugar, sieved
a splash of single cream (I probably used about 15-20ml)
3-4 tubes of refreshers sweets

chocolate ganache filling:
50g of dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa)
150ml of single cream
small knob of butter
pinch of sugar

to decorate:
flying saucers
sprinkle of crushed refreshers
sugar stars

Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F (fan-assisted use 170°C/340°F). Place butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat on high with an electric mixer for several minutes. Add one egg at a time and beat into the mixture until all combined. Zest and juice an orange. Add the juice, zest and flour and quickly mix until combined. Line a cupcake tray with paper cases and spoon the mixture in, i filled mine up to about 3/4 full. Let the cake, see the oven! Bake them for about 10-15 minutes and check on them with a skewer, if it comes out clean then they are done. If they still have some cake mix on them then put them in for a bit longer. Mine took about 18 minutes but they did have quite a bit of batter in them! Cool them in the tin and remove them and place on a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the ganache I placed a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of boiling water, making sure the bowl doesn’t actually touch the water (you want the steam, not the water, to heat up the bowl). Break up the chocolate and place in the bowl along with the cream, butter and pinch of salt and allow to melt, stirring continuously until completely combined and smooth. Take off the heat and leave to completely cool. The ganache should then be a lot stiffer than before, more like truffle texture (like the inside of a ferrero rocher!). Using a small knife cut a small circle out of the middle of your cooled cupcake, then fill up the hole with chocolate ganache. Apologies for not having a picture of the chocolate centre, I was in a mega rush getting these ready in time for work!

To make the icing beat butter in a mixing bowl with an electric mixer until smooth and light. Gradually add icing sugar a bit at a time, mixing with each addition until all icing sugar has been added. I found that my icing was a bit stiff so I added a bit of single cream into it to smooth it out a bit more! You many not need this though. Crush up the tubes of refreshers (I poured them into a bowl and crushed with the end of a rolling pin until I had small pieces) and then add them to the mix. Overall I used about 3 1/2 tubes but you may want more or less, its completely up to you! Place mixture in a piping bag and pipe over cupcakes. Decorate with sprinkles of crushed refreshers. I also added a flying saucer to each to follow on with the sherbet theme, and a couple of sugar stars. Et voila!

Don’t forget that because you have fresh cream in the ganache and in the icing, if you aren’t going to be serving these immediately you should keep them in the fridge.

My cupcakes at the far end

I’m going to be honest with you, I did not win the bake off… My winning streak is over!! The chocolate thing on the right and the colourful macarons on the left won. But in actual fact, I am not happy with how the cakes turned out because they ended up quite dense. I had to use plain flour and add baking powder which never seems to work well for me, so I am just going to blame that! I will be attempting this cake again at some point and hopefully sort myself out on the ingredient front! However, the icing – awesome! So please don’t let my slightly dense cake put you off giving these a go, they do taste pretty wicked regardless!

Hope my first attempt at a recipe post was OK, hopefully there will be more to follow!

Sen Nin Japanese Teppanyaki & Sushi Restaurant – Islington

I have a weakness for sushi. I also have a weakness for 50% off deals, and thankfully Sen Nin in Islington has both said things on a Tuesday. Absolute winner! Slightly incorrect name for this branch as they no longer do Teppanyaki! However the Camden branch does.

To celebrate my friend passing her driving theory test we decided to take a trip there yesterday, we have been a couple of times before on a Tuesday but then they took away the 50% off deal so stopped going. Happiness was restored when my friend snapchatted me a picture of the sign saying it was back, so another visit was on the cards! (don’t judge, the sushi is pretty expensive and we are relatively poor… plus who can resist a 50% off deal!) Slightly incorrect name for this branch as they no longer do Teppanyaki! However the Camden branch does.

When we arrived at about 6.30pm there were several tables already occupied, and for some reason we were all seated in the same section of the restaurant which was a bit odd. But we were sat down quickly and drinks orders taken promptly. The waitress was very attentive (possibly too attentive?) and came back to us several times to see if we were ready to order. I am terrible at deciding what to eat so I took my time. We ordered several different sushi and entree dishes and said that we would have them whenever they were ready. First out was the vegetable gyoza which were OK, slightly slimy but I can cope with that. Next we got the prawn tempura, chicken nanbanzuke, salmon nigiri, california roll and tebasaki.


So my thoughts:
– prawn tempura had a nice light batter but not too much flavour, however we did get a cheeky batter baby sweetcorn too which was a nice surprise!
– The california rolls were nice and big and you got 6 per portion. They were slightly too big and when trying to bit them in half most of the stuff fell out, so you either had to have a huge mouthful of the whole roll and end up looking like a chipmunk, or catch all the fallings out if you bite it! It’s fair to say we tried out both techniques with entertaining results!
– The tebasaki are basically chicken wings that were deep fried (i think) with some spice and some teriyaki sauce. I could take or leave these, they were very small and had some spice but for the price they definitely are not worth it. To be honest i have had better chicken wings in KFC…
– Salmon nigiri was very tasty, you only got 2 pieces which for the price isn’t great. But the salmon was smooth and very easy to eat and not too thin a slice, but I am a sucker for sushi so I will pretty much like anything! If only you got more per plate.
– The chicken nanbanzuke was several chunks of chicken along with leeks (bit random) on a skewer and marinated in a sweet spicy citrus sauce. Nice but not remember-able unfortunately.

So after all of that we still fancied some more… so we ordered more salmon nigiri and volcano rolls. The volcano roll was a salmon roll which was then covered in a light tempura batter. This meant that the outside of the roll was crispy and warm from the batter and the inside was cold with a generous amount of yummy salmon. This is topped with tobiko (flying fish roe) and a mayonnaise-y sauce. I have never had one of these before so I cannot comment on what it should taste like, but to me it was delicious!

IMG_20140303_153747volcano roll

We have never ordered any of the main meals here so I’m afraid I cannot comment on what they are like! I did spot a Pad Thai and a Penang curry which are Thai rather than Japanese… and lamb chops too! I think we will just stick to the sushi and starters. Also, on a Sunday they have an unlimited sushi buffet at £9.95 so I might have to give that a try too if ever I am in the area.

Overall the bill came to about £69.26, but take off 50% and it came to £34.63! Bloody bargain when you consider we had 4 beers and 8 dishes.

206 Upper Street, Islington, N1 1RQ

Sen Nin Japanese Teppanyaki on Urbanspoon