Pizza…. But Not Quite as we Know it…
The pizza at Purezza is so good that you can forget about the vegan labelling and just enjoy it for what it is; delicious food
Review by Martin Stickley
I’m not going to lie, I used to be quite naïve when it came to vegan food. I was convinced that the average vegan diet must be pretty soulless and bland; I mean for goodness sake, how on earth can you get through life without eggs and cheese?! I could understand the temptation for vegetarianism what with animal welfare concerns and the obvious health benefits, but veganism always seemed, well, a little extreme. This was before I met one of my current good friends and former work colleagues who happened to be a vegan. Aside from being one of the few ardent cricket fans at my workplace (therefore guaranteeing I was going to talk to him) he always seemed to have pretty good lunches and despite my previous reservations, when he let me try some of his food I found it very good. The one thing I simply could not contemplate however, was a vegan pizza. Surely, I thought, cheese made from nuts or soy is never going to be as good as the real thing? Thankfully I was yet again proven completely wrong. Not by my Antipodean friend this time but by the UKs first vegan pizzeria chain; Purezza who have recently opened the doors to their second restaurant in Camden, London.
Purezza first opened in Brighton in 2015 and has been a huge hit with the locals there ever since. Not only is the menu wholly vegan but it also caters for other dietary requirements such as gluten intolerance and soy/nut allergies. This is a huge plus point and one which frankly should be heralded more than it currently is. Living with an allergy or gluten intolerance must be incredibly frustrating as at many restaurants the options are often uninspired and predictable so to see a pizza restaurant embracing what would normally be considered culinary specialism is incredibly refreshing. One of the other key selling points for Purezza is that they have created vegan alternatives for popular cheeses. An example of this would be their famous house-blend brown rice mozzarella which comes as standard on most of their pizzas. In conjunction to this they also offer replacements to meat such as plant protein versions of sausage and minced-meat.
This may sound good on paper, and is definitely a welcome change to those who struggle in mainstream restaurants, but can a vegan pizza ever match up to its meat and/or dairy cousin? Well at Purezza the answer is a firm yes and because of this I am now an unashamed convert.
Ingredients aside, Purezza have stuck to the basics offering just enough choices to make things interesting, without bamboozling you with selections. Firstly, there are three choices of base; wholegrain sourdough, hemp sourdough and gluten free sourdough. You pick one, then choose which topping style to go with it. My personal favourites were the “Parmigiana Party” and the “Season 4, Pizza 1”. The Parmigiana comes with smoked mozzarella, aubergine, tofu sausage and basil. The Season 4 features artichoke, kalamata olives, mushrooms and smoked beetroot carpaccio. My usual rule for pizza is “thou shalt eat the one with artichoke” but I am also a sucker for aubergine, and thankfully neither disappointed. I almost had to pinch myself as I just could not believe how delicious the vegan cheese actually was. To the casual eater it really is hard to tell it apart from dairy mozzarella. The rest of the pizza ingredients are just as good as well as being incredibly well balanced. The bases are wonderfully fluffy, airy and flavoured with an authentic wood-fired smokiness. There will be none of that “leaving the crust” malarkey here, I can guarantee that you’ll want to eat every last crumb. If you want more than just pizza, I can also recommend the dough balls. Whilst you frustratingly only get three (why do restaurants always provide these sides in trios? People rarely eat out in groups of three or six!) they are ridiculously scrumptious, being filled with yet more delicious vegan mozzarella.
To accompany the food there is a decent selection of soft drinks, wine and beer as well as a humble, yet interesting cocktail menu. The elderflower and basil G&T was particularly refreshing when I visited in July. After all the pizza and sides, I could barely eat another morsel, but if you do have room, Purezza also offer some eye-popping desserts such as raw tiramisu and gelato. All vegan friendly of course!
It’s probably clear by now that I am genuinely impressed by the food at Purezza and this isn’t just because I recognise the need for restaurants to start catering for a greater diversity of dietary requirements. Instead it’s because the pizza at Purezza is so good that you can forget about the vegan labelling and just enjoy it for what it is; delicious food which deserves a return visit.
Enquiries: Purezza, 43 Parkway, Camden, London NW1 7NP / 0203 8840078 / other branch in Brighton / http://purezza.co.uk/