Pizza is one of the ultimate weekend cheat foods, but at Theo's it almost feels guilt free. Ditch your usual takeaway and head to Camberwell for an authentic taste of Neopolitan cooking at its finest, with fuss free, classic dishes proving you can dine ridiculously well for under a tenner. We went down to Theo's to bring you the must-eat highlights.
It's difficult to think of an area that is more up-and-coming in the way of new restaurants than South East London - particularly Camberwell. It might appear to have missed out in the trendiness-stakes against its neighbours Peckham and Brixton, but it's actually a thriving area that is full of art students and young professionals alike, with a massive new food scene. And what more could such an area want than affordable, delicious pizza?
Nestled in between Hill's bakery and the acclaimed local's favourite pub, Hermit's Cave, Theo's pizzeria appears a minimal affair. With it's all trendy all-white exterior, you'd be forgiven for passing it off as just another one of those typical hipster haunts, but their tasty traditional Neopolitan offerings are anything but a fad. The huge glass front reveals a hoard of bustling guests at the bar, with it's functional-yet classy surroundings off-set by the laid back, typically Italian buzzing atmosphere. Some say chaotic, we say endearingly charming.
We're led through the bar and past the open kitchen, which is dominated by possibly the biggest wood fired pizza oven we've ever seen. Smells of garlic, fresh basil and the sweetness of cured meats waft as we are seated, and the temptation to inspect every diner's plate for what deliciousness they have chosen is all too much. Fresh marbled tables are off-set in that typically Italian rustic manner with tasteful wooden chairs, and the huge communal dining table at the back of the restaurant gives a real laid-back, authentic feel to the place.
Customers ranged from dining families, couples on first dates and groups of students after pre-night out fuelling - and when the food is this reasonably priced, and the atmosphere unpretentious, it's no surprise that Theo's has become a firm favourite pizzeria amongst London's foodie scene. Reading the menu, it's offerings are the definition of mouth-watering, but this might come as no surprise after learning that the restaurant is founded by eponymous Theo Lewis - former head chef at Pizza East - so he certainly knows a thing or two about topping dough.
The bases are thin and crispy (in true Neopolitan fashion), and have that satisfyingly soggy bit in the middle down to perfection. There's actually a strict set of rules set out by the Associazone Verace Pizza Napoletana which define a true Neopolitan pizza - we're not sure if these tick the 'legal' boxes, but they tasted damn good.
Theo's pizzas are made using both authentic and local ingredients, with the sourdough base fresh from Dusty Knuckle bakery in Dalston, tomatoes from San Marzano, and mozzarella also sourced from Italy (buffalo aren't exactly in abundance in south London). The Nduja, an incredibly moreish spreadable spicy sausage, is also the same home-made one that appears on the menu at the foodies favourite Camberwell Arms up the road.
While we could have ordered the whole menu, we restrained ourselves in the typical foodie fear that we wouldn't be able to polish it all off - so we opted for the intriguing white based mushroom pizza, topped off with mozzarella, gorgonzola, leeks and basil. Toppings aren't exactly overzealous, but there's just enough to give you a taste of everything in every mouthful in typical Neopolitan fashion. If this doesn't sound tempting enough, all the pizzas on the menu are under £11, which is ridiculously reasonable for their size, so there's no fear of leaving hungry here.
We had also heard good things about Theo's burrata and mortadella (that's ham and cheese, to you and me) sharing platter, and it certainly didn't disappoint. The sound of the potato and mozzarella croquettes also sounded rather tempting, and rather than the usual small nibbles that we had anticipated, we were confronted with two huge croquette logs - their perfectly fluffy, cheesy centre encased in a satisfyingly crisp shell.
A carafe of juicy Montepulciano went down deliciously alongside our Italian delights, and priced at £20, it's even more drinkable. Theo's also do a panuozzo at lunch time - pizza dough cut into pockets, cooked in the pizza oven and filled with pretty much every meat and cheese your heart could desire. So whether your heading down to Camberwell for lunch or a treat dinner to see in the weekend, you can't do much better than Theo's.
Theo's is by no means pretentious, and with Camberwell renowned for it's plethora of art students, it's very much a case of anything goes. If you're heading down for a spot of Italian lunch, you can't go far wrong in a pair of decent jeans, fresh trainers and a minimal crewneck sweatshirt - after all, Theo's whole aesthetic embraces the contemporary minimalist thing.
But if you're fancying Theo's as a first date spot (which it would be perfect for, given it's chilled out atmosphere, may we add), you wouldn't be out of place if you smartened up a bit. Stick with a good pair of dark jeans and pair with a casual oxford shirt - you could even layer it over a crisp white T-shirt, which would also solve any anxieties over inevitable tomato sauce spillages. You can thank us later.