Regular readers will know that November is birthday season in my family: my parents and I all have birthdays during the first half of the month. This year is a big birthday for both of my parents, and my brother have planned some surprise celebrations for them this Saturday, which is my birthday. Instead, I gathered a few friends for a casual lunch in Camberwell on Saturday. 'Laid-back', 'pizzeria' and 'cocktails' were all high on my wishlist and so Theo's Pizzeria came up trumps.
Theo's opened last month on Grove Lane, just off the bustling Camberwell Church Street. The restaurant occupies two rooms, with a series of tables and booths. It isn't the most spacious of venues, although the minimalist, white interiors make it feel larger, and the large front windows mean that it is bright and airy inside, even on a dull, rainy November day. As there were seven of us, I booked a table. There were a few smaller tables available over the lunch period, but it's worth booking if you are a larger group.
We took our seats at a table near the windows and pondered our drinks options. There are a handful of wines, a reasonably priced Prosecco, a few beers (including table beer from The Kernel) and several cocktails. Most of the cocktails are around £6, including the Basilico Fizz (gin, Prosecco, lemon and basil), which I ordered and which was refreshingly sharp.
Unsurprisingly, the main courses on offer at Theo's are all pizzas, but there a few antipasti choices available to start. We ordered one of each: olives (£3), garlic foccaccia (£3; basically, a delicious mini pizza), aubergine parmigiana (£5) and bombetta (£6). The latter was the clear stand-out: a super-delicious, posh version of pigs-in-blankets, with pork shoulder and provola cheese wrapped in pancetta. Next time, I would definitely order a whole portion just to myself! Naturally, they all disappeared before I thought about photographing them.
Then came the main event. The Neapolitan pizzas range in price from £5.50 for a marinara to £10 for the sausage or the calzone. When I visit a pizza joint for the first time, I usually order the margherita because if the tomato, cheese and base are good enough, no further toppings are needed. This time, though, I was drawn to the Camberwell scotch bonnet 'nduja (£9). 'Nduja think I enjoyed it? Hell yes! The pizzas are cooked in the wood-fired oven and the crust was deliciously puffy and chewy. 'Nduja, if you haven't had it, is a sort of spreadable spicy sausage, which contrasted very well with the creamy deliciousness of the mozzarella. I would have liked a little more 'nduja on the pizza, but there were also slices of soppressata salami on top.
The pizzas were pretty big, but so tasty that I didn't have any problems finishing mine. If you are bested by your pizza, the staff will box it up for you to take home (they do take-out too). Despite the busyness, the staff were friendly and efficient, and we had a lovely, relaxed meal. Until Pizza Pilgrims open up a south-east London location (and possibly even beyond), Theo's Pizzeria will definitely be my local pizza joint of choice.
Theo's Pizzeria. 2 Grove Lane, Camberwell, London, SE5 8SY (Denmark Hill Overground). Website. Twitter.