And from where I am sitting, few things encapsulate this strange dichotomy like the continued mania for new pizza businesses – which feel like both the equivalent of a safe, culinary shrug and the hottest, coolest thing in town (especially when sold by the slice). Miguel’s Pizza is in Camden and Party Store has brought Detroit-style deep dish to Brixton. Yard Sale is expanding its stone baked, collaboration-happy delivery empire to an eighth outlet in Balham; ELD and Elliot’s are levering dramatically bubbled Neapolitan-style pies from wood-fired ovens in Hackney and in Peckham, next month will see the launch of Mike’s– a Roman-influenced pizzeria from the team behind rooftop bar Frank’s. At its most compelling it is a double-fermented, produce-focused new frontier of culinary innovation. And so, with our year of perpetual picnicking due to last at least another month, I set about sampling the best that this new slice trail has to offer.
My hunt began with Slice: a genre-mashing new Southbank spin off from Pizza Pilgrims where an appealingly overblown central concept – metre-long lengths of pizza cut into gigantic 12in strips – is rendered somewhat confusingly. Cut into a ragged, double-crusted oblong rather than a triangle, scantly covered in thin coins of pepperoni and flopping over the plate like a Dali clock, my pizza from the 120-cover spot’s takeaway stand felt a little like a structural innovation too far. But, look, the dough had a springy lightness, a dribble of chilli honey helped things along, and it was pizza, so it still felt like a minor miracle of value and satisfaction.
The same goes for the takeaway slices at Big Jo near Finsbury Park. Made in the square-cut Roman tradition, they are sophisticated brutes with bronzed, sturdy ancient grain crusts and fresh, seasonal toppings (pink fir potatoes, creme fraiche and wild garlic came over like a fancy, open-faced chip butty) that pitch them somewhere between virtue and vice. For an uncomplicated New York-style slice – those isosceles that taste like a dissipating hangover – the best is Dalston’s Voodoo Ray’s.
But, ultimately, if you are short on time – and you want to very quickly comprehend all that is good about this particular scene – then you simply need to head to ASAP Pizza. Launched last summer by Flor’s James Lowe and Pamela Yung (a puckish, supremely talented New York pastry chef who also learned at the shoulder of Italian dough deity Gabriele Bonci), it is that rare Instagram ubiquity that’s worth every ounce of hype. I can recommend all of the slow-fermented, deeply flavoursome and uncommonly sturdy quarter moons emerging from their hatch at Borough Market. But it is the Lamb, Son – roasted red pepper and tomato, crumbed splotches of dark, spiced lamb and sumac onions coalescing as a devilish wink towards the flavour profile of Turkish lahmacun – that is half a dozen bites of active genius and comfortably one of the best pieces of pizza I’ve ever had.
I stood on a corner nearby and dispatched it in the sunshine, perched beside a low bollard and oblivious to the surrounding bustle of the city slowly whirring back to life. We are all of us waiting for whatever comes next. And there are far worse ways to occupy idle hands than with an improvised lunch table, a hot fold of bubbled cheese, and an enraptured moment on the pavement.