Somewhere in France right now, people are sat in a bar wondering why you don’t see Citroen Hy vans like you used to. Of course, we know where they all are. Helping street food start-ups cook up food in car parks to hungry Rosbif. I for one hope that there will be a reciprocal arrangement for Commer Vans.
Van Dough have managed to cram a wood burning pizza oven into the back of their Hy, which turned up for a Peckham début at Bar Story over the Jubilee Weekend in a break between showers, to serve up their little sourdough-based packages to a keen crowd. Pizza has been somewhat overshadowed by the burger juggernaut, but with Homeslice (at Eat.St amongst other venues), Pizza Pilgrims on Soho’s Berwick Street and now Van Dough, it’s beginning to mount a fight back and rekindle our love for the simplest of cheap eats.
Pizza is simultaneously the easiest and most tricky food to get right. The apparent simplicity of the dish gives you very little margin for error; ultimately you have to have great dough and great Mozzarella. Franco Manca – now stretching to 3 branches across London – have long been one of my go-to cheap dinners, and there is something of their philosophy evident in Van Dough’s output. Keeping the menu simple, free from gimmicks and ensuring that those two key elements are spot on…. making the output similarly attractive.
Whilst it is perhaps unrealistic to expect the the scale of Franco Manca’s pizzas replicated from a burner installed in the back of a van (and sure, I could have done with more chilli on the Chorizo number), but what Van Dough have done is to capture the essence of their sourdough base to a large extent and – in the form of their Mozzerella supply (apparently from Somerset) – maybe even exceed my expectations.
I’m not sure whether it was the result of anticipation watching smoke pour through the Hy’s little chimney or flames flicker against the cab window, but the creamy, smooth and slightly salty quality of that most basic of element of this most basic of street food, put a broad smile on my face.