Baked in Brick, Digbeth

An early memory of mine involves a statuesque neighbour and his classic Mini. I recall watching him get in with wonder: as a small girl he seemed almost a giant, six foot tall with a broad frame larger than my boyfriend’s ego. He would dip down, swinging his head and lead leg in simultaneously to enter the tardis-like interior with ease. This was a man who could eclipse the sun from certain angles, fitting into a car that looked the perfect size for an eight year old schoolgirl.

Merely getting into a Mini Cooper would be far too simple for Lee Desanges. Three years ago he decided there was much more that could be done with the chassis; he stuck a pizza oven on the back and a grill on the front, then wrapped those oh-so-massive arms of his around the street food industry and suffocated them of every award going. Off the back of that success, Baked has moved into some permanent bricks of his own, tucked away in a corner of Digbeth’s Custard Factory. It is a beaut of a restaurant with exposed wood, metal caging, and a mural on the far wall where you can spot nods to Lee’s journey to so far. That is, of course, if the massive Mini bursting through the wall doesn’t distract you. Outside is one of the nicer sun terraces in the city. Inside or out, it is a very nice place to eat.

On both our visits, the majority of our meal comes straight out of the pizza oven. We have a serrano ham pizza finished with shavings of Lincolnshire Poacher, another with robust meatballs of pork and a yellow pepper ketchup, and most ludicrously a carb squared white pizza topped with boulangere potatoes and smoked chicken. With blistered bases and the softest of crusts, the composition is pretty much perfect. Is this the best pizza in Birmingham? Probably. More specifically, is that white pizza with spuds my favourite in the entire city? Absolutely. Oh no, I’ve morphed into Josh from Love Island.

The dish that grabbed the majority of awards for Baked in Brick was his beef shin calzone, and it is properly glorious; rich beef in a lengthy marinade of red wine that has just a hint of spice and garlic heat. In amongst the meat are teeny wild mushrooms for an earthy kick. It is a dish that only improves when slathered in a blue cheese dip full of more umami. What a plate of food this is.

Don’t be fooled into thinking this is just a pizzeria though; dishes such as the oak smoked burrata with tomato and pesto and their ever rotating lunch menu – think anything from burritos, curry and salt beef sandwiches to salad and mezze platters – show off Lee’s innate understanding of flavours and make me want to relocate my office to Digbeth.

It’s impossible not to love Baked in Brick. They have seamlessly moved from street food to restaurant without losing sight of what has made them so successful. And with winter approaching at a frightening speed (my bets are on Christmas songs any day now), the fact that Lee’s food is now available under roof makes me very, very happy.

Find Lee’s bricks at The Custard Factory, Gibb Street, Birmingham, B9 4AA. Website.

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Bosco Pizzeria, Bristol

Working away is such a bore. You have to lug a suitcase around, you sleep badly in strange beds and you have to hang out with work colleagues instead of your actual friends. The one perk? Dinner allowance.

A long, drizzly day of tax training in Bristol meant there was only one thing I wanted to spend that dinner allowance on; pizza. My training course was inconveniently scheduled on a Monday, so many of Bristol’s pizza places were closed, but thankfully Bosco was open to welcome us with open arms. And pizza.

And lovely pizza it was, too. Neapolitan style with a good char on the crust and the perfect level of flop in the middle. The menu is split between pizzas rosso and bianco, all with a variety of proper Italian toppings (no chicken or pineapple here folks), and there wasn’t a single pizza on there I wouldn’t have happily ordered.

Of those we tried my favourite was the Funghi; a white base with cremini and porcini mushrooms, mozzarella, Parmesan, marscapone and truffle oil which brought an earthy funk to cut through the richness. The Emilia Romagna, from the pizza rosso menu, was a showcase of simple, quality ingredients and the pangrattato topping worked brilliantly. My only gripe was that the oil from the wood roasted peppers made the whole affair a little too wet in parts; order it without and you’ve got yourself a brilliant pizza.

There’s a pasta menu at Bosco too. It’s small – which I always take as a good sign – an all killer no filler kinda pasta list. We take a pappardelle duck ragu; the sauce is rich and pleasingly full of tender fowl meat, piled upon thick ribbons of good pasta. I’m only sad we didn’t have room to try the Cacio e Pepe.

The portions were generous – enough to warrant the boxing up of leftovers – and even on a Monday the Whiteladies Road branch was buzzing with people crammed around tables to fill themselves with wine, carbs and happiness. I like it here, and to me it pushes home the point that we are desperately in need of good, casual Italian dining options like this in Birmingham.

So yes, working away from home is a bore. But eating leftover Bosco pizza in my hotel bed, without having to worry about crumbs? That’s pretty damn good.

We dined at the 96 Whiteladies Road branch of Bosco, BS8 2QX.