Last weekend, after what seemed like an interminable wait, the Big Red bus next to the Birds Nest pub opened for business selling pizzas and beer. Pizzas and beer, who needs anything else in life? Well some people need coffee, mojitos or a bit of salad on the side, and luckily the Big Red sells all of these!
I wasn't able to make it the first weekend, and to be honest it was a bit cold and wet anyway, but yesterday as the sun started to blaze down in a truly summery way, the geezer and I gave it a thorough checking out.
From the outside, it's a big red bus designed to look like it's busting through the fence at the side of the Birds Nest in true cartoon style.
From the inside it's still a bus, although the seating is slightly rearranged to offer something a bit more sociable than you'd get on the 36; there are tables with little spotlights and red lights that are intended to light up when your pizza's ready so you can go down and collect it.
Outside is a jumble of different types of seating; from a row of little jasmine-strewn arbours catching the full rays of the afternoon sun to big comfy outdoor sofas that you can lounge on, and more formal tables for groups ranging from two to a dozen or more. To be honest the staff are so obliging that if you turned up with twenty they would probably regard it as no trouble at all to set you out a large table, or perhaps give you the whole of the upper deck. Some of the outside area is shaded, the rest is open - a bit hot in today's temperatures but probably a good sheltered spot to catch a bit of warmth on a cooler day.
The menu is short but offers an interesting choice of pizzas, including margarita, 'mare' (prawns, capers, sundried tomatoes), pepperoni, roast vegetables and the 'flamenco' which has already become my personal fave. You can tell they are still finding their feet as far as the menu is concerned and getting the hang of the various pizza toppings because the flamenco I had on Saturday was rather different to the one I saw being served on Sunday - however the two central ingredients were the same. They are chunks of spicey, succulent chorizo and lumps of morcilla, Spain's answer to black pudding. Whether teamed with ham and a handful of pesto-dressed rocket or with green olives, they provide a very tasty alternative to pepperoni for the meat eaters.
The pizza crust was thin and crunchy, slightly burned in places which I prefer to Pizza Express's frequently anaemic version, and the topping quantities very well balanced. They are very happy to accommodate any requests such as no cheese, which I know will go down particularly well with at least one friend of mine, and the staff were overwhelmingly friendly and helpful.
Prices range from a fiver for the margarita to £7.50 for the flamenco and the pepperoni - they are very generously sized pizzas and you can also order side salads if you feel you need some greens.
Bottled beers including Peroni, and Meantime's IPA and London Lager are available, as well as mojitos and soft drinks/coffee too.
At the moment the Big Red is only open Friday (5-11) Saturday (12-11) and Sunday (12-5) but from 6 July they plan to open five days a week (closed on Monday & Tuesday).
UPDATE Dec 2011: The Big Red is open throughout the winter from 6pm and they have a cocktail 'happy hour' Tuesday to Friday from 6pm till 9pm. The hardy/smokers can still sit outside as there is a wood fire and fleece blankets to keep you warm, along with hot soup and mulled wine/hot toddies on the menu.
For a decent pizza in the evening we'd taken to walking to the New Cross House, which serves pretty reliable offerings from its pizza oven. I'm delighted we've now got a local alternative which, on initial experience, has better pizzas at a very reasonable price.
Definitely worth a visit; see you there!