Kensal Rise is finally on the up. It’s a fact. West London (and certainly North West London), doesn’t get its fair share of openings or foodie developments. Hampstead, one of London’s most beautiful, affluent and cosmopolitan areas has a high street which is 50% empty, and 50% mobile phone shops. And only in the past two years had it had drinkable coffee at Ginger & White, for instance. So if Hampstead isn’t burgeoning, what hope would its less salubrious neighbours to the west have?
But Kensal Rise has a few tricks up its sleeve. It's firmly Notting Hill overspill territory, as shriek the many property pieces written by local ES and Metro hacks shuttling down to Northcliffe House. Money goes further than Queens Park, which itself is expensive with a saturated main drag lacking many opportunities for new businesses. Kensal Rise feels more plugged in with West London due to transport routes, more youthful, and also the BBC has long been a big employer in these parts.
And so for the first time since our own Hurricane BawBag, the London tornado of 2006, rampaged through these streets, Kensal is on the map for something special. Sacro Cuore is the second opening by the folk behind Santa Maria Pizzeria in Ealing. I’ve not eaten there personally, but I’ve had Franco Manca so many times, I have a vague idea about Neapolitan pizza discipline and etiquette.
The starters are summery distractions before the main event, like garlic focaccias and bruschetta. We had a burrata to share, which was silky smooth with a slight sour tang, accompanied by some focaccia strips and rocket and tomato salad. Good value at £5.95 – especially compared to the €22 Ibiza burrata of my new avatar.
Now on to the pizzas, which is why we’re all here. And they’re very good. A couple of snags I’ll come to later but generally I was very pleased. The tomatoes were flavoursome San Marzanos and the mozzarella had a slight sweetness.
I had the Diavola which as promised came with heaps of green and red chilli peppers and a prolific heap of salami shreds. We also had a Boscaiola and a San Daniele on our group and they went down extremely well. But not that quickly, as the pizzas here are really quite enormous. They come in at £7 (margherita) to £12 (San Daniele).
On to my small gripes, which may have been unlucky execution on the day: my pizza was a bit soggy in the middle, which I would attribute to a heavy touch on the tomato sauce, good as it was. And secondly I do prefer the crusts more charred and imperfect than they arrived, but I’m not sure how authentic that is, so I’ll put that one down to my subjectivity.
Service was prompt, but lacking the exuberance from the waiting staff and bravado from the chefs I love so much at expect from a Neapolitan pizza joint..
Overall it’s a great business to have opened in the area, and I’m sure it’ll be hugely popular. I’m now keen to keep plugging through the London’s best pizza lists and posts floating around; I’m not sure this is my number one (Franco Manca’s two chorizo number takes some beating) but it’s certainly a privilege to have such illustrious company in Kensal Rise. I love a good Bufalina, so that's definitely next.
Food – 8/10
Drink – N/A - we only had water (see below)
Service - 7/10
Value – 8/10
Tap water tales – 0/10 (swerved with the "filtered" £1.50 nonsense, only value if sparkling)
Staff Hotness – 6/10