30-32 Westow Street, London, SE19 3AH www.400rabbits.co.uk
Sourdough pizza is almost everywhere you turn, and the London pizza scene is dominated by a few leading brands. In Crystal Palace, however, Four Hundred Rabbits, is the unrivalled choice for those in search of a wood-fired fix.
Opened in 2016, this neighbourhood pizzeria has gone from strength to strength, opening a new branch in Nunhead in 2016, and recently announcing a third branch in West Norwood.
In response to the growing demand for more vegan options, Four Hundred Rabbits have just launched a new vegan special. Intrigued to see how this measures up to their much loved menu, we head down to the Crystal Palace restaurant to give it a try.
The vibe and decor sets this south London pizzeria apart from its Italian competitors. The theme could be described as 80s-meets-millenial, with a pale pink theme mixed with bright colours, gaudy prints and quirky features.
This flamboyant style meets simple wooden cafeteria style chairs and tables to create a fun and laid back atmosphere that draws in both families and groups of young people alike.
To start things off, there is a selection of snacks on offer. We order the padron peppers, Nocellara olives, anchovy garlic and rosemary bread, and the intriguing pork and chilli’beer sticks’.
You can’t go too wrong with padron peppers and olives, and, as expected, they were a satisfying salty accompaniment to our first round of drinks.
I always think a pizza bread is an odd choice of starter before a pizza, but we enjoy this deliciously cheesy bite nonetheless. The mysterious beer sticks turn out to be comparable to Pepperami, and hit us all with a pang of 90s nostalgia. The chewy and slightly spicy cured meat is indeed the perfect partner to a cold beer – making them live up to their name.
Where many London pizzerias focus on simplicity, Four Hundred Rabbits are more experimental with their toppings.
Pizza purists can opt for a classic margarita, but the rest of the pizzas are loaded with a bounty of unconventional toppings. We choose a no-tomato veggie pizza, the new meat special, and the new vegan special.
Their crust is more tightly knit, less doughy and has a more subtle tang than many sourdough bases I’ve tried, and the shape is more perfectly circular than the stereotypical oblong Neapolitan pizza.
The tomato-less pizza comes with courgettes, pesto, feta, mozzarella and thyme. The generous amount of cheese means that, despite the lack of tomato, the pizza isn’t remotely dry, and the green pesto and courgettes make it really visually appealing as well as tasty.
The meat special is probably our favourite of the three. The morcilla (a sort of Spanish black pudding) isn’t too overbearing, and is balanced very nicely by the sweet quince sauce.
The addition of padrons also goes down very well – this being the first time we’ve seen them actually ON a pizza.
Now for the vegan. Its san marzano tomato base is topped with a vegan mozzarella, chipotle roasted cauliflower, okra, marinated beetroot, basil and mint. One of the problems with vegan cheese is that it doesn’t have the salty kick you expect from cheese.
This, combined with the natural sweetness of beetroot, makes the whole thing a little sweet for my taste. The chipotle cauliflower gave a nice kick, however, and the overall result is an interesting and tasty pizza, that doesn’t leave me feeling remotely weighed down or sluggish, as a doughy pizza, and particularly vegan cheese, often does.
We round things off with two scoops of their house gelato; one malted chocolate and one ricotta, fig and walnut. Both are rich, creamy, and moreish, and I’d definitely recommend trying their build your own sundae option, if you have room.
They have an impressive craft beer menu – but be sure not to miss is the negronis, which come in at a bargain price but are of superior quality. It’s all too easy to sip your way through a few of them before, during, and after your meal, speaking from experience,
For authentic yet inventive sourdough pizza, served with a smile in a cool and easy going atmosphere, head down to Four Hundred Rabbits and get a slice of the action.