Founders Ollie Jones and Gus Haughton and executive chef Kady Yon chat to Caroline Baldwin about the Portobello Road site's recent redesign, which has created a family-friendly venue in the heart of West London.
Tell us a bit about the redesign of your Notting Hill restaurant
GH: Its been 10 years since Pizza East opened in Shoreditch. We wanted Portobello Road to have continuity with the industrial Shoreditch branch in terms of decor, but Portobello lends itself to families and it's more intimate.
OJ: What gets us up in the morning is working with our new suppliers. We've got an amazing new veg supplier who runs a market stall in Covent Garden and has a farm in Naples – he gets the best produce you can get in London and it comes in every morning. We have a coffee and a laugh with him.
How does being part of a wider group help the Pizza East brand?
GH: We're running it like an independent-style restaurant within Soho House. When it comes to finance, HR and health and safety, we have the best support we can possibly have. This has alleviated a little bit of [Covid] stress, thanks to the incredible support.
How has Covid-19 impacted the business?
OJ: When we started the job in April we were 75% down from last year and it's been tough closing, opening, closing, opening, but we've learned a lot about efficiency from the pandemic.
It's been tough closing, opening, closing, opening, but we've learned a lot about efficiency from the pandemic
GH: Costs and overheads are something you have to go through with a fine-tooth comb. It's very intense because there's a lot going on and you have to make sure everyone is OK and happy. It's a challenge and I sympathise with everyone in a restaurant at the moment.
What makes your pizzas stand out in a crowded market?
OJ: The recipe goes back 10 years and the dough takes 36 hours to make. Our ovens are set at a low heat and we cook the pizzas for longer, so the dough is lighter in the middle like a ciabatta. No other pizzeria in London serves this style of dough.
KY: We also have an à la carte and a frequently changing Sunday menu, and brunch with dishes that we change seasonally, from avocado on toast to full Italian breakfast and scrambled eggs with cannellini beans. We also have tiramisù-stuffed doughnuts every Saturday.
OJ: These doughnuts are the size of your face and there are queues around the block – we wanted to do something fun. Portobello Road is really busy on the weekend and we sell them on a table out the front.
Do you plan to incorporate takeaway as part of the business post-pandemic?
GH: Over the summer our dream would be takeaway coffees, doughnuts, pizza in a cone and slushy cocktails. We have loads of ideas but it's about finding the right time to implement them.
Why did you diversify the menu to offer meals other than pizza?
KY: The name is synonymous with pizza, but we want people to come two or three times a week if they can, and not everyone would eat pizza three nights a week. What's important here, which is more so than in our Shoreditch branch, is that people can come and feel like they don't always have to eat pizza.
Is there a science behind the perfect pizza?
OJ: We're not a Neapolitan pizza, we're not trying to be Pizza Pilgrims or Franco Manca. That's not the pizza we want to make.
KY: And taste is also subjective, sometimes we create random pizzas in our spare time.
GH: But we do say that the only fish that can go on a pizza is an anchovy.
OJ: And we're split 50/50 about pineapple as a topping…
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