Restaurant review: Belfast Wood Fired Pizza Co
699 Lisburn Rd, Belfast
Of the 40 or so pizza restaurants and takeaways in Belfast, almost half of them are on or near the Lisburn Road. We just can't seem to get enough of them. As a result of the intense competition, pizzas are becoming ever more diverse. Little Wing does a vast American style pizza the size of a tractor wheel while Green's offers up a chicken madras pizza.
Whatever people do to pizzas and the more varieties appear, consumers have come to identify their favourites. In our house PizzaExpress is the go-to refuge when stressful times require time out. (I did a job recently for PizzaExpress so please consider this as my declaration of interest).
This is because pizza is the ultimate comfort food. The dough base has the warm and reassuring weight and volume for the hungry, the tomato paste is either sweet or bitter enough for those who like it whichever way and the cheese and then the additional components (I'm an olives and anchovies man) provide the sparkle.
Now the city has a new pizzeria in the Belfast Wood Fired Pizza Co on the Lisburn Road.
It's a cute, homey, rustic, corrugated tin ceiling affair with rough-hewn benches and tables and a huge and handsome bearded lumberjack at the counter to take your order.
It feels right for anyone who wants a warm and informal sit-down with friends and bring-your-own convenience.
Not only this but the pizzas are of a quality which I would position among the top three in Belfast. BWFP enters the market at a time of enormous competition.
But more significantly, it has kicked over the furniture, slammed a few doors and swept the crystal and crockery off the table with a choice of pizzas which could shock the traditionalists and challenge the knowledgeable aficionado.
I mean, seriously: a 12" pizza with malt and Guinness braised brisket, caramelised white onion, Young Buck blue cheese and watercress? Charcoal pork shoulder, Korean BBQ sauce, pickled radish and chilli, straw smoked mozzarella and that watercress again? Yep. This is the new pizza dawn.
There is a balance to be struck between making a name for yourself for innovation and not ending up with a reputation for being weird. There is also an obligation to combine the components, no matter how fantastic, exciting and surprising, in a way which does not encroach on the original pizza concept as a comfort food with some sparkle as mentioned earlier.
This is exactly what BWFP has achieved. The charcoal pork shoulder is tender and its dark, savoury barbecued flavour heightened by the straw smoked mozzarella.
Straw smoking anything is different to the more conventional wood chip method because it's faster and leaves a heavy hint of smokiness on the surface of the cheese leaving its original flavours within untouched. The method works well in the hand of the expert who can time it well enough so that it amplifies the cheese's natural tones without changing it into something else or indeed destroying it entirely.
For good measure and benchmarking purposes a plain margarita was also ordered just to gauge the quality of the basics. The tomato sauce is made from Northern Ireland vine ripened tomatoes and the generous dose of mozzarella is Fior di Latte. The three components work beautifully.
There are other bits and pieces on the specials blackboard such as a sharing platter of sliced cured meats and pickled vegetables.
This was an unusual offering in that the veg included pickled cauliflower and carrots which actually work as well with the salami and parma ham as cornichons. It came with a sliced up crispy garlic butter pizza base.
There are desserts including popcorn and honeycomb ice cream, Nutella pizza with mini marshmallows and an Armagh apple and cinnamon calzone with vanilla bean ice cream.
I am full of admiration of the calzone as it recalls the apple turnovers of my very distant youth in the orchard county.
Pizza is the most democratic of foods. Nobody has a problem with pizzas. Now we are entering a new world where Korean kimchi and pizza fuse very merrily.
And Belfast Wood Fired Pizza is where this transformation is now visibly being accelerated.
Charcoal pork shoulder pizza......£11.50
Cured meats & pickles:...................£9.00