In a nutshell
Having moved Michelin-starred Casamia from Westbury-on-Trym to a central Bristol location in the old General Hospital building earlier this year, the Sanchez family has now launched a pizza restaurant, Pi Shop, in the same city. A third venue, a tapas bar, is also set to open this autumn.
Josh Green is the development chef at Casamia and he’s worked alongside chef-patron Peter Sanchez to devise a menu of sourdough pizzas and ice cream for Pi Shop. Dave Hazel, though, is the man behind the pass, heading up a team of pizza chefs here to deliver Napoli-style pizzas to an eager Bristol public.
Pi Shop has its own sourdough starter and a unique dough recipe to create perfect pizzas in its impressive copper-clad, wood-fired oven. Classic pizzas are marinara, margherita, hawaiian, meat feast and the JR, a black olive, anchovy and basil delight.
But the well-known names don’t really do the pizzas justice. The bases are crisp on the outside, fluffy on the inside with pillowy air pockets keeping them light. And the toppings are more saucy than some. The team suggest that you eat them with a knife and fork, and then supply good cutlery to tackle the job.
What’s the room like/atmosphere
The waterside location of The General development provides a tranquil setting for an elegant, well-thought out restaurant. It’s relaxed, with an easy-going atmosphere, as a pizza place should be, but there’s not a red checked tablecloth or candle-in-a-bottle in sight. Doors open from the chic, white interior to an open-air terrace with seating overlooking the water, bordered by herbs supplied by Jekka McVicar for use in the pizza sauce and toppings.
menu must orders and misfires
Alongside the classics, there’s also a small collection of speciality pizzas and these change at least every two weeks. Eighteen-hour lamb is cooked in the coals from the pizza oven overnight and then used to top a slice with pickled cucumber and mint yogurt. Carbonara uses coppa, 36-month-aged parmesan and Cacklebean egg yolk to create characteristic Italian deliciousness on a pizza base. There’s no gluten-free pizza option, but there is a charcuterie board, a leaf salad and green olives – that’s your lot if pizza’s not your thing.
A Carpigiani soft-serve ice cream machine, imported from Italy, provides the Pi Shop with its puds. The flavours change frequently, using seasonal fruits to keep things fresh. It’s smoother than smooth in texture and the fresh strawberry sauce and freeze-dried strawberries made for a subtle, summery finish on our visit.
With Matt on staff (previously of Bristol’s Milk Thistle, a Prohibition-style cocktail bar) working with Camille managing the bar, the drinks list was always going to be in good hands. There’s a seasonal cocktail on the menu each day and a special bellini; it was peach on our visit. The Negroni with a sphere of ice in it has already been Instagramed more times than is decent.
Cocktails aren’t trying to be overly clever, though. There’s a short list of around a dozen calssic options, which are extremely well executed. The wine list is similarly brief, just four reds, four whites, a rosé and a prosecco. There’s an American pale ale on draught and a handful of bottled beers and ciders, if that’s your poison.
what else did you like / dislike
The service is faultless. The front-of-house team are knowledgeable, friendly, just the right side of informal and they’re clearly proud of the Pi Shop experience. They’re keen to recognise the skill of the chefs, too, and rightly so.
These guys know precisely how long to leave the pizza in the oven depending on the oven’s heat that day. It could be as little as 90 seconds, or as long as three minutes. They start making the dough for lunchtime at 7am and for the evening at 11.30am, seven days a week. You know your pizza is in good hands here.
Pi Shop is priced competitively, you won’t pay more than you’d pay in a decent high-street pizza chain. Even though Michelin-starred chefs designed the menu, prices range from £8.50 for a margherita to £12 for the slow roast lamb and £12.50 for the carbonara. If you fancied pushing the boat out you could go for Australian truffle with 36-month-aged parmesan for £30. But cheap, reasonable as it is, and cheerful is not what Pi Shop is about.
Delicious, oven-hot pizza that transports you to southern Italy, with toppings to choose from that are perfectly authentic or excitingly inventive: that’s what Pi Shop is about.
Written by Pam Lloyd (pamlloyd.com), August 2016
Photographs courtesy of Nick Hook
Lower Guinea Street
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