In an area of London made famous by Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant in some 90s film you may possibly have heard off, lies a quaint little pizza establishment by the name of Otto.
Otto came about after the two founders discovered what they describe as “food sent from the heavens” whilst driving through Portland, USA . This heavenly food was cornmeal crust pizza.
Located around 10-15 minutes’ walk from either Notting Hill Gate or Bayswater tube stations, the stand-alone restaurant is warm and welcoming. The place was quite full when we arrived but they happily seated us even though we were 20 minutes early for our reservation. You can sit at the bar and watch the action of the kitchen, or dine at homely wooden tables and chairs.
The restaurant is dimly lit with table candles and minimalistic, industrial-style light fittings, which creates an informal but cosy atmosphere. I liked the large jars of colourful herbs and spices behind the counter and the little framed pictures all along the front face of the bar, which gave the place the character that so many restaurants seem to lack these days.
That said, I immediately felt that I wasn’t trendy enough for this establishment as a it was full of hipsters in berets and scarves and quite a few solo diners tapping away on laptops as they ate their salads. In fact, the place is so hip that they don’t even bother with wine glasses, they serve your red or white in the same small glass tumblers that the water comes in. I quite liked this as it reminded me of no-fuss travelling and drinking out of anything available from cleaned out pasta jars (true story) to plastic cups to tumblers like those at Otto.
Our server was great, explaining the way that their pizzas differ from traditional Italian pizzas and running through the current specials. And he wasn’t phased by our multiple vegan/vegetarian questions, nor the fact that I am the world’s slowest menu-chooser. This may be a small thing but I also really appreciated that there was already free water on the table when we sat down.
The menu at Otto changes seasonally, with around 10 pizzas available to choose from at one time. The toppings are far more interesting and adventurous than your standard fare (Brussels sprouts on a pizza?!) and between us we tried almost all the veggie options on the menu! We had the current veggie special of Sweet Potato and Goats’ Cheese, the Spinach & Artichoke, the Goats’ Cheese and Roasted Tomato and the vegan option of Red Lentil Kofte. When I ordered the kofte pizza, our server kindly asked if I was vegan and explained that they can turn any of the vegetarian options vegan by substituting the cheese/s for the cashew ricotta that is on the kofte pizza. So don’t worry, vegan readers – there’s plenty of choices for you!
The pizza is sold by the slice and the menu recommends two to three slices per person as the cornmeal crust is much more fibre-filled than regular pizza dough, so it’s incredibly filling. Now, you may think that two pieces will not be enough. You may think that you want three slices… you don’t. I struggled to get through two and-a-half pieces (minus two crusts!) and felt ridiculously full for hours afterwards. Matt stubbornly finished his three (minus one crust) and felt ill for a fair while… Oops.
The pizzas are served in their deep oven dishes, which is a nice touch but watch your fingers when they come to the table! The cornmeal crust is closer to a pie or quiche crust than to regular pizza dough; it’s slightly sweet and is kind of crumbly, almost cake-like in consistency. As the cornmeal pizza bases are much stronger than soft, bready dough, the slices come heavily laden with toppings – just how I like my pizza!
Between us, we fared pretty well. I loved the Goats’ Cheese and Roasted Tomato pizza as it also had marinated green peppers and fresh rosemary, which were delicious. The Red Lentil Koftes had quite a kick to them but luckily I love spice! If you’re not a fan, the cashew ricotta (which was delicious!) mellowed the flavour nicely. This was one of the most filling slices. Matt enjoyed his Spinach and Artichoke, where the spinach was deliciously creamy and garlicky. I felt a bit bad for the Sweet Potato pizza as it’s the piece I ate last (after a 10 minute break trying to let the other pieces go down!) and I barely managed half of it so it didn’t get a fair assessment from yours truly but Matt listed it as his favourite of the night.
When the bill came, the bill folder had pages from a book stuck in it, which was too cute not to photograph! I wish I’d written down what book it was… The pizza slices are priced between £3.75 and £4.75 per slice, which may seem a bit costly but due to their bulkiness and the fact that you only need two-three pieces each, it’s actually quite fair. Our bill with three pieces of pizza each and a bottle of house wine came to £20 per person, which is pretty good. They don’t include service as standard, which is most rare these days so that was a nice touch. But yes, we did tip!
This is so different to Italian-style pizza that I wouldn’t really consider it an alternative to your regular pizza joint of choice, just something completely different altogether. In a good way. And the restaurant was so cosy and friendly, that I will definitely be heading back in a couple of months to sample their spring menu.
6 Chepstow Road
London, W2 5BH