Going to nearby Kingston upon Thames with grandsons Freddie (7½) and Ben (4¾) has become a regular holiday time ritual and makes a lovely outing for me with the boys. A major attraction is Bentalls toy department, which is one of the best I know, and they always come with a little money from Mummy & Daddy to spend. I will buy a small thing too and tell the boys we have to choose something to take back for Alex, because at just 20 months he’s too young still to join the outing. After toy shopping, we enjoy a walk through the market square to the Thames. Today we spent some time in the square as there was a carousel and the boys had a turn on that. Then they were keen to look at the market stalls where we bought figs and apricots, which they wanted to try. Just after buying these Freddie shouted: Look, Nonna, white aubergines! And indeed there was a tray of plump little white aubergines. I hesitated; did I want to buy more? I didn’t but now I rather wish I had! I must go back … From the market there’s an archway that leads through a small alleyway to the river. Freddie noticed the big tile picture on a wall and we stopped to look at this little history of the market, dating from the 1100s. Once we got to the river we passed various cafes and restaurants and they remembered the burger place from last time: Hache Riverside Social. They liked it a lot but had already agreed between them they wanted pizza this time. We spent some time walking slowly along the river looking at swans, geese and ducks and the boys marvelled at narrowboats where they could see people live. Eventually we arrived at Kingston Bridge and walked up a slope into the main part of the town again and headed to the Franco Manca in Clarence Street.
Franco Manca, which serves Neopolitan sourdough pizzas, was opened in Brixton market in 2008 by Giuseppe Mascoli and Bridget Hugo to great acclaim and soon became THE place to go for pizza. Now they have 60 pizzerias throughout UK. I went to the South Kensington branch, one of the first to open, with my friend Lucia in 2015. Being Italian, Lucia is always on the lookout for a good, authentic Italian pizza and was keen to take me there (click here for review). Since then, I’ve been to other branches, including the more local Richmond one where I took Freddie in 2018 (click here for review). He still goes there fairly regularly with his parents. The Kingston branch is quite new – it opened in June – and it was only very recently I noticed it was there. It opened at 12 noon and we were the first in. Thankfully! It soon filled up and there was a queue but being first in meant we didn’t have to wait too long for our food.
We were asked where we wanted to sit and chose a window table. The boys could see through to the end where pizzaioli were making the pizzas and also see the wood-burning pizza oven. ‘Entertainment’ in the form of a page of quizzes and things to colour in – crayons came too – was brought immediately with two Kids’ Menus. (The Schleich toy animals you can see were their Bentalls’ purchases!)
It’s a brilliant Kids’ Menu: a pizza (choice of 4), drink (choice of 3), and ice cream (chocolate or vanilla) for £6.95.
The boys chose No.10 with the usual tomato sauce and mozzarella but also cured ham. They may be ‘smaller’ pizzas but they’re a very good size and in all honesty would be enough for me if I was allowed to order one!
I chose ‘Organic tomato, garlic, oregano, capers from Salina, Kalamata black olives, Cantabrian anchovies & mozzarella’ (£9.95). I also ordered some Nocellara green olives for £2.75 because the boys love olives and none were coming on their pizzas (though I guess I could have asked for them as an extra topping).
I had a non-alcoholic beer for £4. It was delicious. The boys chose from their set menu Homemade Organic Lemonade (Freddie) and Apple Juice (Ben). These were top quality – you could see the real lemon and its bits in Freddie’s lemonade and Ben’s apple juice was that nice cloudy type.
We all tucked in and really enjoyed our pizzas. They were excellent; really good. I have to say that Franco Manca, like all chains, can vary a little depending on which branch you go to and I have been disappointed at some. But when they get it right – as they did at Kingston today – their pizzas are fantastic – buonissimo! They use top quality ingredients and lots are organic; the pizza dough has a nice crusty bite to it with a little soft dough – but not too much – inside. Really, for me it was a perfect pizza.
A scoop of ice cream came with the Kids’ Menu and Freddie had chocolate, Ben vanilla. Nonna couldn’t resist a pudding too once I saw they had ‘Lemon, rosemary and almond cake with yoghurt & organic honey’ for £4.65. It was really gorgeous and I gave a little to Freddie as he likes all things lemon; Ben didn’t want any.
I also ordered an espresso macchiato (£2) as a ‘meal out’ just doesn’t have a proper ending for me unless coffee is involved. But it’s always just an espresso or, once I saw macchiato on the list, I decided to have that. It was perfectly prepared – a really good macchiato.
It was a really great lunch. Good setting, cheerful ambiance, friendly service – and most importantly great food and drink. The final bill was £40.64 including service which I thought was very reasonable for what we had. The Kids’ Menu is truly great value. Freddie and Ben were very enthusiastic about it all as we came out and were pleased they’d chosen to have pizza today!