Thanks to the new job, it’s been a while since I’ve written anything let alone gone out for a big night. But it was Dan’s 25th birthday party and that seemed like a good excuse to finally get around to checking out Earlham St Clubhouse – a solid contender for the best pizza in London. ESC is 90s themed bar that happens to also serve up a pretty good pie. The décor is eclectic and kitschy– from the phones at each booth (ours was a red stiletto) to the ingenious use of suspenders to hang menus from the ceiling – but it does all add to the charm. Price-wise, the pizzas and cocktails are both reasonable so it’s a spot almost everyone can be happy checking out.
Food: ★★★★☆ Service: ★★★★☆ Atmosphere: ★★★☆☆ Value: ★★★★☆ Overall: ★★★★☆
ESC can be a bit cramped if you are just propping up the bar, so you’d be well advised to book a table in advance. If you are getting the group together before piling in, there are a number of good spots to get in a cheeky pint.
Ape & Bird is just up the road and has a small but quality selection of beers and cocktails plus a very tasty cider from either Devon or Dorset. Alternatively, try Kopapa for cocktails with a twist or of course, if you’re feeling flush, head down to Hawksmoor Seven Dials.
What to eat?
Well, I hope you want pizza because that’s it. The menu is limited to 7 pizzas available in either 12” for £10 or 20” for £18 plus you can get the “Ross & Rachel” which is a 20” pizza split half’n’half with your two choices. It’s a great way to avoid an argument when it comes to picking your toppings. Our crew went with the Super Mario (tomato based with spicy meatballs), the Happy Gilmore (prosciutto and parmesan with rocket), the American Beauty (grilled aubergine and courgette with roast peppers), and the Ferris Bueller (boasted chilli chicken, spicy salami, and scotch bonnet peppers).
The Super Mario and Happy Gilmore are fan favourites and you really can’t go wrong. The toppings were fresh and the pizza baked to perfection. Keep in mind, this isn’t your thin crust flaky style base – instead it’s closer to NYC-style where you have to fold it to eat it. The base is slightly sweet and chewy but holds up well under the weight and liquid-ness of the toppings.
The American Beauty was surprisingly good (I tend to shy away from veggie only pizzas) with the courgette keeping a bit of crunch and the aubergine adding a nice depth to the flavour profile. I was a bit disappointed the Ferris Bueller didn’t bring the heat though – if you are going to advertise scotch bonnet chillies, then you better amp up the burn otherwise I’m going to feel a bit cheated. Perhaps they were just having an off day though…
How about those drinks?
The cocktail list is a decent size and sticks to the theme although you can order any of the classics off-menu. I went with an Old Fashioned as everything on the menu is served long and sounded a tad too sweet for my tastes. That being said, while everyone raved about their cocktail, my Old Fashioned was one of the worst I’ve had in a while and I quickly switched to beer and shots.
Cocktails are £7.50 each with the zombie-type one topping the list at £9.50. There are also four sharing cocktails which ring in around £40 but serve 4-6 people. Beers are around £4/bottle which isn’t too bad (but not cheap either) and for draft you are limited to Coors. There is a decent selection of bottles if you fancy a mixed drink or a shot but overall I reckon stick to cocktails if you can as they seem to be the best value (from a taste point, if you want to get drunk stay with the £5 jaeger bombs).
Worth the dosh?
On a purely pizza price point, yep it’s good value and on par if not better with any of the pizza offerings in town. When you add drinks in, I think it gets expensive to spend the night there as it quickly adds up. Plus watch out for the 12.5% service charge if you are ordering from your booth which can be an unhappy surprise if your card is the one behind the bar and nobody else remembered to add it in!