Vegan food reviewer Gem Stokes reviews the plant-based options at Mile End’s The Pizza Room to answer the question: what makes a satisfying vegan pizza?
Being a local student I was aware of the Pizza Room hype: the £7.95 lunch deal makes the restaurant extremely popular with students but until now I hadn’t yet had a chance to visit.
While perusing the menu we sipped sweet, homemade peach iced tea and a tart, fragrant orange juice. I was the hungry journalist and Kata, my girlfriend, the hungry photographer.
The Pizza Room is so-named because of the connection with its partner company, The Coffee Room, which opened in 2014. The adjoining business does exactly what it says on the tin, both establishments literally being individual rooms situated next to each other that offer a cashless, comfortable environment.
Kata and I felt at home among the laid-back home-style décor and plethora of inclusive posters and motivational slogans. It is clear The Pizza Room strives to be a welcoming space for all religions, sexualities, nationalities, and genders, as well as being vegan-friendly.
Vegan options have been available since the restaurant opened in 2016. The dough recipe has always been vegan – surprisingly buttery and not too floury, the moist base is achieved by the exceptionally-long 72 hour prove.
The menu itself has a smattering of vegan options, improved after this Veganuary to include my favourite, ‘The Green Day’. The Green Day is the vegan answer to a classic pesto and rocket pizza. Sweet cherry tomatoes, an abundance of fresh peppery rocket, crispy onions and walnuts sit atop a gorgeous homemade vegan pesto and the Pizza Room’s signature homemade marinara sauce.
The Green Day is sloppy and delightfully indulgent, impossible to eat with a knife and fork, but luckily for us, anything goes in the relaxed atmosphere of The Pizza Room. This was definitely the best pizza we sampled, and had us fighting over leftover slices the next day.
Another classic was the Vegan Margherita featuring a buttery vegan mozzarella that proved aromatic and flavoursome, but a tad too oily. Not everyone agrees, but I think the best part of every pizza is its dough – and the base of this Vegan Margherita was absolutely perfect.
A lonely criticism of The Pizza Room is its absence of a better vegan cheese, which would fling the pizzas into another dimension.
Owner Pamela Tironi’s favourite pizza toppings are Nduja, organic roasted chicken breast and The Pizza Room’s signature marinara sauce; combining ingredients is something The Pizza Room does well, keeping ingredients simple to avoid a cacophony of flavours.
I was surprised by Tironi’s answer to the question every Italian dreads: what do you think of pineapple on pizza? Dead-pan expression, and sincere tone, Pamela responded: ‘I’m absolutely fine with pineapple on pizza… I’m a very open person… everything is possible’.
This world of possibility includes the Vegan Red Hot Chilli pizza, which is quite possibly the first time I’ve ever had lentils on pizza. Each bite released various layers of flavour, starting with crispy wood-fired dough, the foundation for a picante delight.
French chilli and garlic oil gave an exciting twist to the marinara that paired well with the peppers and onions laid carefully on top. Next came the spice of jalapeno, rich black olives (that I wish there was more of) and lentils, which didn’t really add much in the way of flavour or texture, but were an inventive choice for the pizza. The Vegan Red Hot Chilli teetered somewhere between melt-in-the-mouth and oily, but was nonetheless an enjoyable feast.
Finally, we had the Vegan Veggie, a variety of vegetables (mushrooms, peppers, courgette, oregano, garlic oil) that drew out the flavour of the rich marinara even more. The main flavour of this pizza was tomato and herbs, but the textures of this dish is what really made it interesting. The courgette was mouth-wateringly soft, which contrasted well with the crispness of the pepper, and the chewy base.
Here at Roman Road LDN we believe wholeheartedly in the power of community, and we were delighted to discover that The Pizza Room team has engaged in a number of local projects: cleaning the canals, taking part in local community meetings, cleaning up the pavements, donating food for fundraisers, cooperating with police to produce safety information booklets to children, setting up a football club, donating food to homeless, creating a family choir and more. (Phew, anyone else feeling extremely lazy?).
Closing her eyes to think of her favourite part of The Pizza Room, Tironi describes the team as a family with herself as the ‘mother’, making Kata and I both temporarily consider dropping our degrees to work full-time as pizza princesses.
But alas, duty calls, so instead I asked Tironi on her tips for making the perfect pizza. She encourages love, time, warmth and care; treat pizza like your child, and the pizza will give back. But most importantly, she emphasised that there is no perfect pizza. “Appreciate what you do for what it is”, she enthuses, “enjoy the moment… pizza does not have to be a specific way”.
Despite not being the cheapest place around, The Pizza Room provides guaranteed quality (which my full stomach can definitely vouch for). I can’t sing The Pizza Room’s praises enough. A truly unforgettable dining experience, and I will be visiting again.
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