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Franco Manca in Chiswick – A Dining Experience

September 12, 2010

The pizza from Franco Manca’s Brixton establishment has been getting rave reviews ever since it opened, with it’s 20 hour sour dough base being described as better than the Napolese can make themselves. Extending the same formula to their Chiswick eatery has been getting mixed reviews, so I decided to check it out myself.

The location of the restaurant is not as well positioned as many eateries along the high road of Chiswick. It is slightly out the way, a few doors up from High Road Brasserie. Myself and a friend went on a Saturday night and the restaurant was not full at all which was not a great sign.

We’re shown to a table of two which is uncomfortably positioned far too close to the next table, with pairs positioned so they take up the same amount of space as a table for four. This meant that the next table was not more than a two-inch gap away. This of course made room for personal space limited and any thought of personal conversation not an option. We thankfully lead the waitress to an empty corner.

turpentine 2008 served in water tumbler glass

Sitting down to the paper menu already being on the table, I was hoping to get some sort of introduction and instruction on how the menu works having not been there previously. Unfortuantely the waitress turned away quite quickly and we were left to look amongst ourselves. I had just put my head down to read the menu when the waitress came back and asked for our order. A puzzled look was given back when we said that we did need a few minutes, and ordered some drinks. My friend started by ordering a lemonade and a beer, and before I could order mine she quickly walked away. I gave her the benefit of the doubt as she must have assumed one of those drinks was mine. By then I could tell that we were just a distraction to her night.

The ordered drinks came in a timely fashion without glasses, with the lemonade at room temperature. The disappearing act was done once more before we could ask for glasses and ice, so we ended up getting the glasses off the table next to us and putting up with warm lemonade.

When I finally got the opportunity to order wine, I chose the mid-priced San Vito white. When delivered, the already-opened bottle of wine was plonked on the table with two very warm water glasses that I correctly assumed were going to act as the wine glasses for the night. Firstly, I do not think that you can ever have an authentic experience drinking wine out of tumblers so give me a proper wine glass any day. Secondly, having been stung in the past by the cheaper bottle of wine being placed in the more expensive bottle of wine trick before, I am immediately suspicious of any bottle that’s not opened at the table. A tasting was also not offered, and a request for a wine cooler was just another disruption to the waitress’ night.

I pour myself a glass, take two sips and think OK – this may be better when it breathes a bit. I leave this for a moment whilst I order my pizza, and try to take a few more sips. This doesn’t improve things, so I decide to order some soda water to water down the taste. I call over the waitress and ask for some soda water. “Still or sparkling” she says, in which I reply “no, sorry – soda water, not normal water”. “Yes, still or sparkling” she asks once more. I could tell I wasn’t going to get anywhere with this, so I gave up on my original plan and reply back with “fine, sparkling water then”. She does the quick turnaround once more and a few moments later a bottle of sparkling water was placed on the table with no glasses, and no sight of the deliverer. So another field trip was taken for us to steal the bounty of another empty table’s glasses.

I fill about a third of my wine glass with the sparkling water to try to disguise the awful turpentine-esque taste, although unfortunately this does not do the trick and I place the wine glass and wine bottle on the table next to me. After some explanation to the manager when I get his attention, the wine is then swapped with another not-opened-at-the-table bottle, with the same turpentine-esque results. I leave the wine as it is now giving me a headache after not even 4 sips. This cannot be good – a hangover already starting to happen.

baked Gloucester old spot sausage served on a burnt serving dish

The starter arrives – a shared baked Gloucester old spot sausage with tomato. It is served in a dish which has burnt debris on the outside, making the dish taste burnt as well. I eat half a bite before giving up. My friend says that it was quite nice, and finishes the dish so at least one of us enjoyed it.

number 4 salt pizza

The pizza is next to arrive, which looks lovely so I hope that this is where things finally pick up and where I think the restaurant’s strengths lay. I ordered the number 4, which was the tomato, garlic, oregano, capers, olives, anchovies and mozzarella pizza. Unfortunately this was like eating a salt pizza, so I’m quite disappointed that even this is not good. There seemed no ingredient (apart from the pizza base itself) which cancelled out the salt of the capers and anchovies. It also tasted like there was an extra layer of salt sprinkled on the pizza for extra measure. I thought that there was a burnt taste throughout as well, although I could see no evidence. Although the underside of my companion’s pizza was quite charred, which made most of it inedible.

We quickly ask for the bill to get this experience over with. We explain to the manager, who is now aware of our non-wine drinking non-pizza eating troubles, and he takes the burnt pizza and wine off the bill. This was far more than we were expecting, as we were quite prepared to pay for everything and cut our losses. So at least there was some glimmer of above-average service for the night.

So that was my experience of Franco Manca. I was thinking it through, and really wanted it to be put down to the fact that they may of just been having an off night. But the problems seemed more ingrained than that. My dining parter summed it up quite well by saying it was as though everybody working there was on their first night.

turpentine
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2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 1, 2010 19:01

    I’ve only just found the one located in Brixton Market (didn’t realise they had another opened) and I’ve been back two times in the last 10 days – in fact my wife and I went for lunch today and we both ordered the No 4 – you’re right, this one is much too salty.

    However the couple on our right had the mushroom pizza which smelt and looked fantastic – the pizza contained several different types of mushrooms which I admit to being quite impressed by.

  2. David permalink
    September 13, 2010 11:46

    Thanks, I don’t know how these small places can exist will such bad service. I know it’s a large chain but never had a bad experience in Pizza Express in 15 years. Let’s hope Manco Frankly learn from this as Chiswickians will vote with their feet!

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