Review: Sodo Pizza Café, Walthamstow E17 (£)
21 Hatherley Mews, London E17 4QP (branches also in Clapton and Bethnal Green)
Summary: This cosy, friendly pizza cafe offers the dream combination of excellent pizza, a sound weekend brunch – including pizza for brunch, YES – and decent coffee, all at very reasonable prices. There is nothing not to love except trying to find parking in Walthamstow. This place is worth braving the North Circular for. Verdict: 9/10
Value for money: 9.5/10
Practical details: Brunch is served at the Walthamstow branch from 10am-2pm Saturday and Sunday. There are two other branches in Clapton and Bethnal Green. They take reservations and walk-ins.
Approximate price per person, pizza including a soft drink: £13-15
There was a time when Walthamstow was just the place at the end of the Victoria line where you knew you’d always get a seat, and even then it wasn’t worth visiting. But times have changed, and the fact that I have travelled there from NW London for brunch – and a pizza brunch at that – indicates the scale of the transformation.
A once haggard Hoe Street has enjoyed a serious facelift of the Beverly Hills housewife variety, and as I amble down it, I pass a woman with a loaf of sourdough wrapped in rustic white paper tucked under her arm. For a moment, I thought I was in a parallel universe. I turn off into a tiny mews where my brunch venue awaits.
Sodo Pizza Cafe opened in Walthamstow in 2016, on the site where a French-Brazilian cafe once stood. It has another two branches in Bethnal Green and Clapton, but it’s the neighbourhood-friendly E17 location which does weekend brunch. I step inside, and am enveloped in a warm, earthy setting. Natural floors, wooden tables, wooden chairs, exposed brick walls. It’s all comforting, natural, and cosy, and it turns out that is the vibe of this welcoming, deliberately unpolished place.
It is bustling on a Saturday early afternoon, and I am seated straightaway (note: the service is excellent). I look around, and the clientele are the nouveau gentry of this recent addition to the hipster London fold: I see Doc Martens, bold horn-rimmed glasses, loud shirts, and the like; I see young families and various groups of family and friends. I see the new East End.
Sodo, however, is not pretentious: it is warm, friendly, and makes damn fine pizza. They call themselves a ‘sourdough pizza cafe’, and state that they let their dough ferment for 48 hours so it is light and easily digestible. Most of their pizzas are vegetarian, and they have a rotating and creative vegan weekly special – the one on the board includes chimichurri and mushrooms. Even I’m tempted.
I study the menu, and even though there is a respectable brunch eggs menu, like a homing missile I zone in on the brunch pizzas. I order the Morrissey – tomato, mozzarella, chard, mushroom, sundried tomato, olives, parmesan & egg – and settle down to people-watch. My pizza soon arrives. It is magnificent, both in size, appearance, and, as I soon discover, flavour. The dough is light, the individual elements full of flavour, and my egg is done to runny perfection. I happily dip my crusts in the golden yolk, in between shovelling forkfuls of deliciously laden dough into my mouth.
It all works. Having a pizza for brunch is exactly what I would wish on the menu in Heaven, and on top of that I can order a pretty decent coffee, made with Nude Coffee beans, to follow. I am impressed when my waitress offered to bring me a fresh coffee because my first one had gone cold. My love for this place increased another notch.
I settle down with my book and read in peace, as around me people enjoy conversation over excellent food, or eat with and clean up after their kids. It seems to be a place for everyone.
A one off great experience? A repeat visit…
I like the place so much I make a repeat visit a few days later, this time for dinner. Remember I live across the other side of London, but nothing comes between me and good pizza. I’m keen to know whether my experience was a one-off dream come true or something that I can rely on this place to deliver. It’s the latter, happily.
I vacillate between the lure of the Lorena, with butternut squash and feta, and Sunny Goat, with goat’s cheese and sundried tomatoes, and finally plump for the classic Margherita because I see it on somebody else’s plate and it looks too tempting to ignore. It arrives, again with its own proper pizza cutter to slice your pizza yourself (I really like this). It’s a huge, delectable dream of tomato and mozzarella on a disc of crisp yet chewy dough, and I wolf it down happily. At £7, it’s incredibly good value, and one of the best Margheritas I’ve tasted.
What others thought…
Like the good food evangelist that I am, I happily spread the word and tell others about this place. My brother visits with his friends, and they both rave to me afterwards about how good the pizza is. One goes so far as to say, ‘it’s probably the best pizza I’ve ever had’. I can understand. It’s definitely one of the best I’ve had.