My journey into a world sans gluten has been relatively smooth, though there have been some bumps in the road. As I chronicled in my last spotlight
, sandwiches has been a major food group missing from my life. My issues however do not end with sandwiches. Pizza is probably one of my favorite foods, and my early experiments with my own gluten-free dough were meet with average results. The pizzas weren’t bad, but they were far below the quality of my normal homemade pizzas. After some random google searching, I discovered a pub in Bethnal Green that offers gluten-free pizza and apparently executes it well. I decided to head east and search for the elusive gluten-free pizza.
My trip took me to The Florist Arms
, a rather unassuming, small pub in Bethnal Green, covertly located a short walk from the Underground station. I called in advance to make sure they had gluten-free pizza, just to ensure my trip would not end in vain. The menu at The Florist Arms is simple, consisting of mostly pizza, with a few salads and oven baked dishes. The interior is like a typical pub and felt cozy on this cold, rainy January day. I ordered the Italian pizza, along with a half pint of Stowford Press cider (I don’t normally order half pints, but I had a few too many the night before). This being a freehouse, they are not connected to any brewery or beer company, so they had a varied selection of draft beers and ciders. The Stowford Press was especially tasty, not sweet and unfiltered, leaving it cloudy and slightly sour.
The Italian pizza arrived quickly and looked delicious. I almost wanted to double check to make sure it was the gluten-free pizza, because it looked spectacular. The super thin crust pizza has a base of tomato sauce and was topped with mozzarella, parma ham, parmesan and arugula. It tastes like pizza! That may sound basic and obvious, but when you have not had a good tasting pizza in well over six months, it is a pretty big revelation. The dough is crispy and cracker like in the best way possible.
My own experiments at home have resulted in pizza crust more similar to pie dough than pizza, meaning a solid, nearly crumbly texture. At The Florist Arms, I could fold a slice NYC style without the whole slice snapping in half. It actually reminded me of the pizza at Co. in NYC, home of master baker Jim Lahey, though the the crust around the edges at The Florist Arms did not have the same airy structure. The rest of the ingredients were good and it was nice to have some greenery on my pizza at lunch. Made me feel better about eating a whole pizza.
Overall I was impressed with the quality of the pizza at The Florist Arms. It is miles better than my own. The tomato sauce is good too, not too sweet, and the parma ham with arugula and parmesan is always one of my favorite pizza combinations.
The staff is kind and the location was convenient, just off the Central line Bethnal Green stop. For locals, the Florist Arms also runs a lunch special, so all pizzas are £6 from 12:00-15:30 (as of early 2015). There is an additional charge of £1.50 for the gluten-free option, something I have accepted, as gluten-free ingredients are more expensive than traditional flour. With the half pint, the total bill was just under £10. That was true value for money. Whether you eat gluten or not, The Florist Arms is a great place for a pint and a pizza without breaking the bank.