It struck me recently that, with the exception of a few weeks back in 2009, I have been working on the same Glasgow street pretty much my entire adult life.
Known more in recent years for its high levels of air pollution and even higher concentration of burger restaurants than as the home of the UK’s best small music venue, I feel as though St Vincent Street too often gets a bad rap. Which is why, as I mentioned in my recent review of Therapie’s new laser hair removal clinic, I pay particular attention to new openings here – well, it’s hard not to when you’re pretty much watching them evolve in real-time.
Of the recent glut of new openings (Therapie; Chaakoo – a 1950s Bombay cafe-themed Indian tapas from the same people as are behind Topalabamba on the same street; Spanish restaurant Iberica), few have excited me more than Pizza Punks. I mean, pizza and punk rock are two of my favourite things at the best of times – so you can guess what I’d make of a combination of the two.
Of course, with the exception of a few choice song lyrics spelled out in eye-catching neon around the restaurant, the “Punks” in the title has little to do with music at all: rather, it’s a reference to Pizza Punks’ mission to stand up to the status quo and do things a little differently. Well, that and the fact that it’s a really cool name I guess. The thing that Pizza Punks are offering to set them apart from the competition? The ability to choose exactly what you want on your pizza, without having to pay more.
Pair that with some tasty table snacks or selections from the deli counter, and you have a recipe for something pretty special.
Based on a combination of server recommendation and good old-fashioned curiosity, we opted to start with the intriguing-sounding candied bacon as well as a portion of chicken wings straight from the wood-fired oven. The former turned out to be exactly what it sounded like: surprisingly more-ish strips of crispy bacon in a sweet glaze, which pretty much describes what happened to Stringer’s eyeballs when I told him about it later. And the chicken wings? Thanks to the wood-fired cooking method, they were probably the tastiest I’ve had in a Glasgow restaurant. Not only that, the sauce (hot sauce and a mint yoghurt) came on the side which meant I didn’t have to have any. Win.
Now, the promise of endless toppings is enough to turn the head of any pizza fan but Stuart – my work wife/lunch date – is not just a pizza fan, he’s a pizza connoisseur. Neither his head nor mine could be turned by some of the more intriguing topping choices on offer, which include nine types of cheese, smoked salmon, beetroot, peas … and macaroni and cheese (!). Stuart doubled up on the meats, while I opted for the tasty-sounding lemon thyme roast chicken with red onion, mushrooms and peppers. Our orders were delivered to the pizza chefs, for their toughest challenge yet…
With the likes of Paesano and Nomad Pizza also incorporating wood-fired pizza ovens in full view of diners into their restaurants, you’d wonder whether it was in danger of becoming a gimmick – if it wasn’t, hands-down, simply the best way to cook pizza. Base-wise, Pizza Punks opts for light and crispy over the fluffy dough-clouds of that other favourite pizza place of mine – which, to be fair, is what you’re after when you’re loading up with toppings.
And these were good toppings. Understand, we haven’t tried them all but what we had were really fresh and tasty meats and veggies. The whole combination was so good that, when I couldn’t finish mine (it was lunchtime! I don’t eat as much as I used to!) I did something I never do and agreed to have it boxed up for later. Unfortunately, “later” was when Stevie was in town and I had already promised him I would take him to another pizza restaurant for his birthday dinner, so I never did get around to it. I’m dreaming of that last slice even now.
I’m also dreaming of the missed opportunity that was the dessert menu: we were hitting the end of our allotted lunch break by the time we had finished our pizzas so I felt it would have been taking the piss. Sweet pizzas, milkshakes and every variety of ice cream tub with freshly-baked cookies – I promise, I’ll be back for you.
I couldn’t resist a peek at the (non-alcoholic) cocktail menu though, opting for a sweet and refreshing cherry soda. The after-hours selections include hard ice cream floats, tasty rum- and gin-based concoctions and fruity mojitos that operate along the same lines as the pizza toppings – basically, the inside of my weekend brain so I’ll definitely be back to give those a go at some point.
Great food, great vibes and great value mean this one definitely comes recommended – have you punked up your pizza yet?
I received a complimentary meal for review purposes, but all views are my own and unbiased.