Picture your ideal evening: does it involve cocktails, a lot of laughter and PIZZA?
Nestled on Drury Lane in the heart of the Westend, BungaTINI is the little baby brother of the much loved Italian mini-chain, Bunga Bunga and the brains behind the hottest new way to spend a Tuesday evening in Covent Garden. Their pizza making classes take you from the humble beginnings of this Italian peasantry staple through to dough making, pizza tossing and – of course – plenty of face-stuffing. I went along to their press preview last week to see exactly how much mozzarella it is humanly possible to fit on one pizza…
I step off of the busy London street and into a haven of Mediterranean tiles, exposed brickwork and sleek marble surfaces. The smell of fresh dough, tangy tomatoes and slow-roasting meat fills the air, alongside a gentle cacophony of happy chatter, chef banter coming from the large exposed kitchen and those ‘ooh‘ and ‘aah‘ sounds that can only mean one thing: very happy bellies. The class starts at 18:30 and I arrive just before, giving myself plenty of time to peruse the impressive cocktail menu and order a Gina Lollobrigida; Marini Fiero vermouth, passion fruit syrup and purée, fresh lime juice, Prosecco and Prosecco foam.
The class takes place in an cosy section of the restaurant around a large ‘U’ shaped red gingham clad table with head chef Andrea Pesenti (formerly of Mele e Pele) at the helm. In front of us lie pre-measured ingredients (I wish someone would do this for me at home – I’m a “that looks about 100g?!” kinda gal), BungaTINI emblazoned aprons, a paper chefs hat and a cocktail menu. Yes please. The look is light-hearted, sitting comfortably on the right side of gimmicky and when antipasti complete with deep fried pizza dough joins the spread I know we’re in for a really good time.
With a class of only twelve, the atmosphere is easy-going and intimate and as we begin to follow Andrea’s demonstration and make our big floury wells into something that hopefully resembles dough we laugh and chatter away. Having made pizza from scratch a few times at home I am surprised at how much I learn (read: how wrong I’d been getting it!) and thus whilst the class is jovial and fun, it is also actually really informative too. Our dough is too fresh to stretch and cook and thus is left in containers to prove for us to take home, which can only mean one thing: more pizza. My face lights up.
General manager, Matt Richardson, introduces the next round of the class: a pizza tossing competition – who can make the biggest base without it tearing? Call me insanely competitive (I prefer ‘driven’ *angel emoji*) but I quickly get my game face on. The guy next to me has revealed that he used to work in the kitchens at Pizza Hut and basically I am just really determined to beat him. Not a rolling pin in sight, Andrea and his friend from the kitchen show us the traditional way to stretch the dough with our hands in a circular motion and then toss it under two fists and after much concentration and a lot of flour all down my arms I produce a winning base and am awarded with my very own BungaTINI wooden pizza cutter. Naturally, I am a very humble winner and do not insist on having a photo taken with my prize to commemorate what may be my greatest achievement in life. Take that Pizza Hut Man.
Jovialities aside, it’s time to get down to the serious business of making the pizza that I’ve dreamt of devouring all day. Using the skills that Andrea had taught us we stretch the dough to size, smother it in a healthy dollop of their signature tomato sauce and then garnish it from an impressive selection of toppings and great big handfuls of creamy mozzarella; Matt and Andrea travelled through Italy together last Summer, handpicking the suppliers for the restaurant. Mine is piled pretty high with cured meats and more cheese than I actually care to admit before being whisked off to the traditional stone pizza oven.
Finally we reach my favourite part of the evening: pizza eating. After polishing off most of my creation and safely packaging up the remainders for breakfast the next morning I am ready to go home, very content indeed. We’re given goody bags with the dough we made earlier (enough for four pizza bases: absolute winner!), recipe cards and a little bottle of BungaTINI’s own chilli oil. We also get given a certificate to commemorate our newly acquired skills, which now sits pride of place on my fridge.
I’ve been to foodie classes in the past and have been pretty disappointed by how many people they try to cram in, and how many corners are cut: BungaTINI does no such thing. The atmosphere is totally relaxed and the focus is on having fun and getting your hands dirty, and at only £28 a person including a welcome drink too it’s also unrivalled value. Running every Tuesday evening, the class would make the perfect date night, team-building activity or hen/stag do; basically if you love pizza it’s an absolute must (and if you don’t, are you okay?) Classes can be booked online here or bought as gift vouchers, so I know exactly what all my friends will be getting for their birthday’s this year!
BungaTINI 167 Drury Lane, London, WC2B 5PG. Classes Tuesdays beginning 11/4 from 18:30.