Few objects rank higher on my kitchen wish list than a wood fired pizza oven. There is something so seductive about the taste imparted to dough by logs blazing away in that stone and ceramic dome. We’re fortunate enough to have a number of eateries in London boasting substantial ovens, but for my money there is no contest in terms of the best tasting wood fired pizza. It has to go to Eco on Clapham High Street. The quality of the produce is second to none, being always ultra fresh and of course, the pizza dough is double fermented to give it that elusive texture of both crisp crunch and chewiness.
The first time I ate at Eco was around eight years ago, and the meal was unforgettable. Pizza was cooked with a white sauce and grana padano, then topped with shreds of swordfish ceviche dressed with exquisite lemon olive and spring onion scattered over it. A chicken and avocado salad with marinated grilled peppers, olives, capers and frisee lettuce made my toes curl. Well something happened anyway, as I proposed to my girlfriend there and then. A somewhat rash act in retrospect but the ultimate accolade in terms of the effect a taste sensation can have on one’s glee scale.
This time however was a more subdued affair, in contrast to the interior, which is far from sedate. They’ve opted for a modern industrial light and airy style, incorporating colour accents of copper table tops and vivid orange stuccoed tiles cladding the wood oven. Swathes of plaster have been knocked out to reveal bare bricks.
Light pours in from the width-spanning frontispiece and from skylights spaced throughout the length and breadth of the space. It works.
We kicked off with King prawns grilled with a spicy chilli sauce and cherry tomatoes. The sauce was a revelation: silky smooth and redolent of real Italian tomatoes that explode with flavour.
Oven roasted belly of pork served with apple, sweet balsamic and caper gravy and rosemary potatoes proved a deeply flavoursome dish, with a bumper ribbon of seriously crackly crackling to boot. Capricciosa pizza and calzone with home baked ham, wild mushroom, artichoke, mozzarella and garlic really hit the spot. It is glaringly obvious how Eco has earned it’s spot as the number one Italian institution in this neck of the woods. Stylish decor, authentic Italian dishes, fresh produce and tip top service.
Finished off with white chocolate and hazelnut mousse with shards of white chocolate. All in all a splendid way to round off the working week.