ASAP Pizza, which has hit its stride through coronavirus lockdown to become London’s most exciting pizza, will take its final bow this weekend. Spearheaded by Flor’s Pam Yung and Helen Evans, the project which treated the pizza base as a space for ingenious, sometimes witty creativity and a showcase for ingredients and farmers from around the U.K., will step back from the limelight on 19 September, as Flor reopens. It will do so with a pizza party, which here means slices and good wine.
When ASAP opened, this website wrote that “London, by contrast, is a city that has a healthy Neapolitan pizza scene and some decent proprietary operators, but its most cutting-edge chefs have, until now, seldom strayed into this realm.” That contrast was to New York — where operators like Ops and Leo had already taken pizza as a dish on which to privilege the stamp of personality over that of regional, metropolitan, or even national conformity. As Eater London contributor Jonathan Nunn put it in a recent interview with Yung: “good pizzas are the product of cities; great pizzas are the product of a person.”
ASAP and therefore Yung and her team’s version of great pizza is a long-cooked, sturdy, flavourful base, which acts as a platform for the frequently name-checked suppliers at the restaurant: Flourish Produce; Namayasai farm; Gothelney Farmer. The new menu at Flor, which reads more singularly than its previous iteration, includes vegetables pickled in wheat bran in the Japanese nukazuke style; a Banh Xeo-style pancake which might be stuffed with squash; and the flatbreads which co-owners James Lowe and John Ogier, and founding baker Anna Higham made a signature when Flor first opened in July 2019.
Flor’s pastries, which are now in the care of Emma Tillyer, Evans, and Rihito Maruhashi after Higham’s departure for the River Cafe, are as singular as ASAP’s pizzas, with a similar focus on long, burned-pushing bakes, with the pastry a platform for flavour combinations with the flavour to match their beauty which is also able to stand on its own feet. Like the bases of the pizzas, using changing heritage grains makes inconsistency closer to a feature than a bug, but as with the bases, the bakes are hitting their stride. A weekend mainstay through lockdown, they will return in the mornings from Tuesday to Saturday, as will the brunch menu that runs through oysters to waffles with black fig and smoked eel.
With new outdoor seating and a refreshed menu, Flor’s return looks forward as much as back. ASAP is set to make an occasional return with one-off appearances through the year, but more interesting might be the impact it has on London chefs’ perception of pizza as a site of creativity. Maybe then the city will decisively break out of its Neapolitan fetish.