Archive for the ‘General’ Category

What to Eat for Breakfast when in Rome or Clapham

There is an old saying about “When In Rome…”, which roughly translated means that one should adapt one’s mannerisms and general behaviour according to the accepted norms of the people into whose natural habitat one happens to have intruded.

The eternal conundrum though is, when in a Clapham pizza restaurant, is one in Rome or in London? Culturally speaking, I mean.

Specifically, if one happens to be somewhere inside the Eco Restaurant, general held to be one of the finest restaurants in Clapham Common, at breakfast time, does one opt for the English or the continental?

The difference could not be more pronounced. The former is a typically generous platter of sausages, bacon, eggs, tomato and mushrooms, with optional ketchup or brown source and often accompanied by a mug of hot tea or coffee.

The latter, on the other hand, is a comparatively light combination of croissants with sundry jams, marmalades and spreads combined with thinly-sliced offerings of meat.

Unbeknown to some, there are further options available with which to satisfy the particularly discerning morning palette. One that particularly catches the eye is called the “pink prosecco breakfast”, which combines a choice of eggs benedict, smoked salmon with scrambled egg or a Full English with a glass of pink prosecco – a refreshing pink sparkling wine.

What the reader may not be aware of is that Eco’s extensive breakfast menu offers all three, and constituent parts thereof, as well as kippers, bruscettas, fruit salads, breads and pastries.

Eco may be a pizza restaurant, but it is so much more than just a pizza restaurant.

So when you are in Clapham, in an Italian restaurant, do you go English or continental? Fried slice or pancetta? Sausage or salami?

Actually, it’s your choice.

Pizza, the International Italian Dish

Everybody knows that pizza is essentially an Italian dish, notwithstanding the fact that other Mediterranean nations have at various points in time and history produced flatbreads of their own which may have borne a tentative resemblance.

And yet how many people know that several nations have paid the dish the ultimate compliment by inventing their own unique versions and derivatives?

The Australian pizza, otherwise known as the Australiana (yes it’s true!) is usually made by adding bacon and egg to the traditional Margherita, but for those whose wish to go completely ethnic it can sometimes also feature kangaroo, crocodile and emu meats.

In Brazil a version is offered as a dessert which can include banana, pineapple or even chocolate.

The Indian pizza may opt for paneer in place of the conventional Italian mozzarella, and is also available in a tandoori chicken topping.

In Israel a meat-free kosher version is available for those who follow religious dietary observance that forbids the mixing of meat and dairy produce. Some Middle Eastern spices are also added to give the pizza a particularly local flavour.

Local toppings in South Korea can include Bulgogi (a marinated barbecue beef) or Dak galbi (marinated chicken mixed with stir-fry vegetables in a chilli pepper paste).

Spicy chicken and sausage based pizzas are very popular in the eastern regions of Pakistan, although the dish is still relatively unheard of in the west of the country.

Meanwhile in the United States the presence of large Italian and Greek communities has ensured that pizza is a mainstream and popular food, though many local and regional versions have emerged with their own special character.

At Eco Restaurant in Clapham Common meanwhile, traditional Italian pizza remains the order of the day, although pasta, risotto, salads and a whole lot more also adorn the enticing menu. An extensive range of foods and wines are available to a wonderful traditional and cultural experience for all to enjoy.

On Clapham, the Slave Trade and Pizza

Clapham is a district of South London, in the London Borough of Lambeth. It is best known for its very large Common (shared with the London Borough of Wandsworth), its lively high street and its historic Old Town.

Clapham appears in the Doomsday Book (as Clopeham) and dates back to Anglo Saxon times. The name is thought to derive from the Old English “clopp” combined with “hamm”, meaning a homestead/enclosure near a hill, and it was originally a small cluster of cottages in what was then a part of Surrey.

The Common contains three ponds and a modern paddling pool. Eagle Pond was refurbished around eight years ago when it was drained, landscaped and replanted. Long Pond has a century old tradition of use for model boating. Both Eagle Pond and Mount Pond are used predominantly for angling and contain a wide variety of popular species.

But to the keen student of history Clapham is about far more than simply a few historic buildings, a vast expanse of grass with some ponds, and some shops. It was in fact the home of the Clapham Sect, led by William Wilberforce, who successfully campaigned for the abolition of the slave trade in the early nineteenth century.

Just around the corner from the Old Town is of course Clapham High Street, a thriving hub of bars, eateries and places to socialise and enjoy refreshments or indeed a more substantial meal. It is here that one will find Eco Restaurant, one of the most popular restaurants in Clapham High Street.

Well known for its innovative pizza school and its support for local schools projects as well as for its healthy, nourishing and delicious food, Eco Restaurant continues to blaze a trail amongst restaurant goers in South London and beyond, and is universally acclaimed as one of the very best Italian restaurants in Clapham.

Canapés, Crostinis and the Best Restaurant in Clapham

A canapé is defined by The Free Dictionary as “an appetizer consisting usually of a thin slice of bread or toast spread with caviar or cheese or other savoury food”.

In environments in which alcohol is being dispensed it is often the case that a canapé will be salty or spicy in order to encourage partakers to drink more. It is frequently referred to as a finger food, but although all canapés are finger foods not all finger foods can be called canapés.

The bread used is usually deep fried, sautéed or toasted in order to ensure that it becomes rigid in texture, and toppings can include meat, fish, caviar, cheese, prawns, foie gras, vegetables or indeed almost anything one can think of. The topping in effect forms a “canopy”, hence the name.

There are many derivatives of the canapé with which diners will be familiar. One is the vol-au-vent, a small, circular canapé with a pastry rather than toasted base and delicately filled as opposed to topped with any of the ingredients mentioned. Also of French origin is the amuse-gueule, which translates literally as “gob amuser” but is usually more sensitively referred to as a “palate pleaser”.

The Swedish smorgasbord and the Russian zakuski are said to have been responsible for the addition of many of the less traditional toppings to the array of available canapé options.

A popular form of canapé, though often slightly larger, is the crostini. Crostinis are, literally, “little toasts”, usually slices of French-style bread again topped with vegetables, meats, fish or other such offerings.

It is the crostini in which Eco Restaurant, described by many as the best restaurant in Clapham, specialises. Eco produces a huge range of crostinis including humous and mint, babaganoug (blended aubergine with Tahini and spices), guacamole, spicy red pesto, tuna tartare, beef carpaccio and blue cheese, as well as a disarming selection of wraps and picks. All these are available for collection or delivery.

Eco is more than just a Clapham pizza restaurant. It is truly an entire culinary experience all of its own.

The Only Real Pizza is Healthy and Fun to Eat

Think of pizza and what ingredients spring immediately to mind?

Of course there are hundreds, possibly even thousands, of additions, toppings and general embellishments that one can use on a pizza to give it a unique appearance and taste.

It has to be said that to the purists there are only two “proper” pizzas – the margherita and the marinara, and the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoltana (True Neapolitan Pizza Association) indeed recognises only these two. The former of course consists of tomato and mozzarella and the latter tomato, garlic, oregano and extra virgin olive oil.

But go to any pizza restaurant today and the choice available will invariably be from a far broader range than the two “original” pizzas about which the anoraks would appear to be so precious.

At the Eco Restaurant – undisputedly one of the best Italian restaurants in Clapham – for example, the menu caters for those who like it hot, those who prefer the taste of fish over meat, or indeed those who are vegetarians. Many of the ingredients used, such as salami, funghi (mushrooms), anchovies and olives, have themselves become established pizza ingredients at more or less any restaurant.

One pizza that has achieved growing popularity is the quattro formaggi (four cheeses). At Eco this is a much ordered dish comprising fontina, bel paese, dolcelatte and mozzarella and finished in a tomato sauce with garlic and olive oil. With more people choosing to adopt a vegetarian diet this is inevitably a combination that is in real demand amongst many customers.

One can rely on the chefs at this prestigious and popular Clapham restaurant to blend the flavours of these unique cheeses to create a taste that is truly to savour.

Eco Restaurant’s Really Fun Food

The following comments are reproduced from a respected online London restaurant review site:

“The Pizzas are the best in London. Very good service as well as really nice to look at!!! Good crowd and great music. The ideal place to go often.”

“First Class food and service. Eco’s pizza’s are without doubt the best in town and their salads are so fresh and tasty. It’s also easy on the wallet which is handy in this climate. The service is always upbeat and just like their orignal in Clapham the place was buzzing, a great place to line your stomach before you hit the town! Just a shame there were no frogs legs pizza’s on the menu, I was so looking forward to that!”

“I love this place! They have the most delicious lasagne I have ever tasted and their pizzas are out of this world. Prices are reasonable and staff are friendly and attentive.”

“Really fabulous pizzas. The bases are amazing, perfectly cooked and completely fresh – never soggy or boggy. Toppings are all fresh and really well executed, with some unusual combinations which work really well! The al forno is incredible value. Wine list good and very reasonable. Great atmosphere – but does get pop-music-tastic in the late evenings, friendly staff, pretty perfect actually! “

It is always nice to be appreciated. What pleases most of all is that every commentator speaks not only of the quality of the food served up at the increasingly popular Clapham North restaurant that is Eco, but also of the atmosphere. Eating at Eco is not only a great culinary experience. Dining at Eco is fun.

At Eco Restaurants we pride ourselves on providing an enjoyable experience for our customers as well as really good, fresh, healthy food at a seriously competitive price.

A pizza worth getting off the Clapham Omnibus for

The nineteenth century journalist Walter Bagehot once expressed his view that “Public opinion…is the opinion of the bald-headed man at the back of the omnibus.”

In 1903 Charles Bowen QC, when hearing a case for negligence, stated: “’We must ask ourselves what the man on the Clapham omnibus would think.”

His view of Clapham, one assumes, was that of a comfortable London suburb inhabited by “decent” and “ordinary” people whom one could use as yardstick with which to gauge common-sense, middle-class opinion such as it was in the day. Presumably the decent and ordinary thing to do was to use the omnibus as a means of getting about.

At that time of course all the omnibuses in London were horse-drawn. Only in 1916 were all the bus routes in London finally taken over by motorised vehicles. Bowen’s words were in fact not the only claim to fame of the Clapham Omnibus.

About forty years previously one Friedrich Kekule von Stradonitz, a young German chemist, was working at a laboratory at St Bartholomew’s Hospital. Having fallen asleep one day on the omnibus he had a dream that was going to totally revolutionise organic chemistry. He wrote of his dream: “…the atoms were gambolling before my eyes…I saw how the longer ones formed a chain…[and then] the cry of the conductor ‘Clapham Road’ awakened me from my dreaming…."

After having taken something of a turn for the worse during the earlier part of the last century Clapham became fashionable and is now a popular venue for socialising and eating.

We like to believe that Eco Restaurant in Clapham High Street is one of the best restaurants in Clapham offering an impressive range of mouth-watering pizzas and other culinary delights, good wine and excellent service.

Give it a try next time you are passing on the Clapham Omnibus.

Team Eco – A Winning Side

Who are these people who make the best loved restaurant in Clapham Common the choice venue for pizza enthusiasts that it is today?

Well, in the beginning was the Creator, known to some as Sami Wasif. When Sami created Eco Restaurants his stated aim was to “push the boundaries of the people’s expectation of food (beyond the mere satisfactory)”.

He developed Eco’s unique sourdough pizza, a process that has been continuing over two decades. It is a process that combines different types of flour and opts for natural fermentation to deliver a unique pizza base that is full-flavoured yet healthy and enjoyable to eat.

Operations and creativity are the responsibility of Charmaine Wasif, Sami’s daughter. Charmaine was born into the catering industry, but she left behind a potential career in architecture to return to her vocational roots. Charmaine currently focuses on the creative and marketing side of the operation.

Jannett Jindi started her career at Eco as a kitchen porter and then a waiter despite having gained a degree at the University of Sudan, and has worked her way up to the role of Administration Manager and Personal Assistant to Sami. Jannett now takes care of all the administrative work involved with the business.

Finances meanwhile are taken care of by George Gergis, who like Jannett started his Eco career “at the kitchen sink”. His role includes purchase manager, stock control and wages.

These key people, along with the whole team of chefs, waiters, waitresses and managers, work together to create and to bring to you the most talked about Clapham pizza. Every member of the workforce is valued for his or her creative talent in bringing about the best pizza that one can buy for miles around.

It is strength in depth, as well as just at the top, that gives the Eco Restaurant family the edge in both product and service.

The Origins of Pizza

These days we take the pizza for granted, but how often do we reflect upon this tasty and nutritional meal and consider where and when it first came into being?

As a basic seasoned flatbread the pizza’s origins could arguably be traced back to several Mediterranean cultures. The Greeks and the Phoenicians would cook theirs by placing it onto a hot stone and seasoning it with herbs. The Greeks called this plankuntos and it perhaps more resembled focaccia than a modern-day pizza.

Some believe the word “pizza” to have derived from the Latin pinsa, meaning “flat bread”. Archaeologists are even said to have discovered a preserved a Bronze Age version of the dish in the region of Veneto.

Mozzarella cheese came to be added to the dish with the introduction to Italy of the Indian Water Buffalo. The richness of the cheese that was produced from buffaloes’ milk enables producers to use less of it to the same effect. It is also generally higher in protein and minerals than the more traditional cows’ milk. Mozzarella di bufala remains to this day a favoured ingredient for aficionados.

The remaining essential ingredient of the modern pizza is of course the tomato. This was brought to Europe from the Americas in the sixteenth century and was originally thought to be poisonous!

Whatever the origins of the seasoned flatbread which constitutes the pizza base – and variants have been found to have existed in Persia, Palestine and further into Asia as well in Greece and Phoenicia (and obviously Italy) – that of the modern Margherita is not in any doubt. The baker Raffaele Esposito worked at a pizzeria which was established in 1880 and still operates under the name “Pizzeria Brandi”. In 1889 he baked a pizza that evoked the three colours of the Italian flag – basil (green), mozzarella cheese (white) and tomatoes (red) for the visit of King Umberto I and Queen Margherita of Savoy. The Queen liked the pizza so much that it was named in her honour.

Today in our popular Clapham takeaway and restaurant we continue the proud Italian tradition of good nutritious toppings on a light seasoned base, although now of course there are many more options available to our customers. We like to think the Eco Restaurant, Clapham has found its own little place in history.

Back to Pizza School

You may not be aware of it, but the Eco Restaurant is far more than just the best restaurant in Clapham.

It is in fact a hub for the young and the not so young to enjoy themselves, at our Kids’ Pizza School, at a morning meeting or networking event, or at a party later in the day for up to seventy people.

At the Pizza School we run lessons in making pizzas. Usually they are managed by our head chef Ahmos on Saturday mornings, although sometimes they are run by a manager. You receive a t-shirt, then some information about how to make the dough and add the toppings. You will be given some written information, then a demonstration of how it all comes together. Then, at the end of it all, you will be awarded a certificate to take home. Sometimes our young visitors organise for their friends to come along to Pizza School as part of their birthday celebrations.

We believe it is good for children to see what goes into their food, and how it is made. Eco Restaurant takes pride in the healthy and nutritious fare that we provide to our customers.

For the older ones, in fact for any age group, we cater for parties. You can organise your own menu. You can order any cake you wish, and it will be delivered to the event. We can accommodate groups of up to 70 people.

The other type of event that we can provide for is the morning meeting or conference. You can request a breakfast buffet, a full breakfast or coffee and pastries. These can be booked from early in the morning up until midday.

When it comes to Clapham Common events, Eco Restaurant is accommodating and versatile. We are not just a restaurant, we operate at the heart of our local community. We are so proud of the good food and good service that we provide to our customers we want you to come and see for yourself, and share in what we do.

Whatever your age, wherever you are, come and enjoy our work with us.