Franco Manca, Leeds – Restaurant Review
Franco Manca, Leeds
by Steve Crabtree – @stevecrab
Seasonal offerings aren’t always what they’re cracked up to be. A lot of the time they can be a whimsical ploy to fill a few more tables, cash-in a bit on a certain time of year; and let you leave feeling a little bit underwhelmed.
But one place you don’t get that feeling from is Franco Manca in Leeds. For me, the city’s finest pizza restaurant which always serves up a whole level of tasty difference.
“Knock your tastebuds for six”
You’ll have missed the Christmas menu at Franco Manca now. Which on one hand is a shame, but on the other hand doesn’t matter. Because this place will always give you a brilliant standard menu, and incredible specials. And when they come around with the next seasonal menu, I’m sure that’ll knock your taste buds for six.
Over the festive period my friend and I went to sample some of the Franco Manca Christmas plates. On my first visit to the restaurant just after opening, I sat upstairs – away from the hustle and bustle of the main restaurant. But this time we were on the ground floor and in the thick of it. And we were pleased about that. There’s a good vibe and great atmosphere in Franco Manca, and it makes it a good place to be. The staff do their bit to help with that, and we were taken care of nicely on arrival and shown to our table.
Now, with the seasonal stuff here it’s purely their independent take on things. They don’t compromise on the quality of what they serve up, and this is where they stand out. So on this Christmas menu, we weren’t being offered Turkey, cranberry and sprouts shoved on a pizza base. We were still getting pure pizza.
“Love the simplicity”
We were offered a glass of bubbles on arrival but plumped for a glass of No Logo lager, and a glass of No Logo white wine. I love the simplicity of a brandless selection, and in keeping with how they do things – these were full-bodied and good flavoured drinks.
As for our eats, I went for the Baked Yorkshire Fennel Sausage and Wild Broccoli to start. My friend decided on the Buffalo Mozzarella.
We had similar thoughts on the mains – resulting in thinking about pizzas 306 and 416. (No names. Just numbers and descriptions. Simple.) We decided that we’d order both options, and share them. And this proved to be a wise move.
From where we were sat in the restaurant, we could see the chefs preparing and cooking the pizza in view of everyone. They’re having fun and they’re whizzing through each and every one. I always get the impression that if you see someone enjoying cooking, that enjoyment goes in to, and then back out of the food when you eat it.
“Certainly packs a punch”
And when our food came, we couldn’t wait to tuck in. My Fennel Sausage dish was hot, and for a starter, I was impressed by its size. Plenty of meat in there, melted cheese oozing all over the place – and I found each bite was wholesome and tasted great. The sausage certainly packs a punch, and you find yourself taking smaller bites to make it last longer.
Over the table the Mozzarella was served up nicely and again, a big-bite kind of opener. That too went down well, and we had two cleared plates by the time the mains came. Were we a bit daft doing that? Had we any room left for a main?
The answer to that last question is a big, easy “Yes”. The food – starters and pizzas – are so freshly cooked here that they’re filling, but light and comfortable. So when the pizzas rocked up, we were ready to dive in.
“Best of both pizza worlds”
That “does the base stick to the plate?” test thing happened. And they passed with flying colours. (If you don’t do it, start doing it. If your base doesn’t lift, ask questions!) We split each pizza in half, did a bit of plate shuffling and all of a sudden in front of us were the best of both pizza worlds.
Franco Manca pizza number 306 consisted of a sourdough base, with spicy lamb sausage and ricotta. Added to that is yellow tomato, fresh basil and British mozzarella. Now, this pizza may not be the most pleasing dish on the eye, but not all great food has to some with a Lawrence Llewellyn-Bowen look attached to it. 416 was a veggie offering, with caramalised red onion and wild mushroom. Seasonal pesto and mozzarella make up the rest of this one, which is the more handsome sibling of the two. It would definitely have more fans on its Instagram page.
So here we were. About to tuck in. And my memories from my last visit came flooding back and as I took my first bite of 416. Absolutely delicious. The pesto on this one really hitting the senses, and working well with the onion. And on pizza 306 the meat didn’t let us down. This was a gorgeous choice, which had the right balance of spice in the lamb sausage alonside the light tomato taste.
And they’re large pizzas too. However hard you try here, I honestly don’t think you can find a fault with any food at Franco Manca. And you can’t find fault with your service either. Throughout we weren’t fussed over, but we were asked how things were, had our every need attended to, and the knowledge of the servers and the management perfect.
It wasn’t just us enjoying our mains either. You genuinely see peoples eyes opening wider when their dishes are brought to them, and I largely put the good atmosphere in the room down to people really enjoying their food.
We absolutely devoured each pizza. And we were just impressed. We had room for desert, as again – fresh and light eats mean our stomachs were far from stodged out. So we decided to share an Affogato. We had to ask what this was, and upon being told it’s an Italian coffee-based dessert we went for that. A hot shot of espresso, with a couple of scoops of vanilla ice-cream that we mixed together ourselves. Our third refreshing dish of another successful visit to Franco Manca.
Before we left, we had a sneaky look at something of a hidden bar downstairs. The way they’ve done out Franco Manca from a decor point of view is so nice. And this bar is a wonderful bonus to that. It’s an area for private hire and it’s a wonderful extended haven of the place. Would be great for pre or post-pizza tipples!
At £17.95 per person for the three seasonal dishes, plus our welcome drink – this offering was incredible value for money, but it was the quality that stood out above all that. You wouldn’t find anything we had would be something you’d only get at Christmas. The quality of our Franco Manca meal, and its service, was once again superb. It’s a place you should visit for a decent bite with your partner, your family or friends. You won’t be disappointed. We certainly weren’t, and it won’t be long before I’m back.
Franco Manca, 1 Trinity Street, Leeds LS1 6AP
Mon – Sat: 11.30am – 11.00pm
Sun: 11.30am – 10.00pm
0113 403 3713