Would you believe me if I said the tastiest pizza in London was...within (literal) spitting distance of the Olympic Park? Or surrounded by desolate streets and light industrial warehouses? And the nearest shop is probably Screwfix?
Tastiest pizza in London is a bold claim. So, a caveat: tastiest, not most authentic.
So where? At the Crate Brewery in Hackney Wick. At the edge of all things. I have an emerging theory that the best places in London are the places which are hardest to reach. That's where the vibe is the most laid back, away from the hustle and bustle of back-to-back diaries enabled by rapid mass-transport systems.
Crate Brewery is at a quiet bit of the Lea Valley, right by the water - only a few joggers or walkers go past on the other side, and you've entered from the other side through a maze of industrial streets and then a car park. The perimeter of the Olympic park is right there - complete with at least nine security cameras that we could see.
Picture the scene: it's a sunny September evening, a mixture of families, older singles and young arty types are set on communal picnic benches by the canal. Lots of interesting, deep colours of beer from their onsite microbrewery are being brought out, every now and then a couple of big pizzas are artfully presented, wafting delicious smells through the air.
Between us we ordered three pizzas - but I basically had a whole one to myself. And it was the tastiest pizza I've had in London. It was topped with griddled courgette, red onion, feta cheese and gremolata. The base was great - thin, but not too crispy, robust enough to hold the dense topping. The flavour combination on the topping was king - the courgette, red onion and feta are natural partners, but the inclusion of the gremolata was what really elevated the pizza - so fresh and zesty and complementing the other ingredients perfectly.
Our other pizzas included a Margherita - simple, but done well with a smattering of halved cherry tomatoes on top, and a more exciting one topped with thinly sliced potato, truffle oil and sage. It was another great combination - much subtler, but absolutely luxurious.
I've barely even mentioned the beer, which is another big selling point about Crate Brewery. As the name suggests, there is an onsite microbrewery, making a range of ales and lagers, which were smooth and delicious. A decent selection of other interesting ales and lagers were on tap, and a yet wider selection were in bottles.
Crate Brewery is all in all a great find for a laid back beer and pizza, away from the madding crowd. For those not in the East, I'd say it's worth the journey. Otherwise, get on your bike and get stuck in.