The Actress, a new pub just around the corner from me, used to be called The Uplands. It was a bit of a dive. I’d often walk past on Saturday lunchtimes and there would be 3 or 4 customers nursing pints around a solitary table. I went in, once. It was one of those pubs that had a brilliant location in its favour and nothing else.
Transformed, it is now part of a clan which includes Saarf East staples The Bishop in East Dulwich, The Florence in Herne Hill and the recently opened Victoria Inn in Peckham.
She’s quite the looker now, The Actress but the real sight for sore eyes is the pizza oven. The whole interior has been re-furbished, sure; new paint, new furniture, new bar yadda yadda yadda but like I said, there’s a pizza oven. A monstrous furnace. I’d received an invitation to come over and play with it and seriously, who doesn’t want to do that? Making pizza at home is fine and all but the conventional oven isn’t capable of reaching the temperatures required to cook it properly and I’m not about to come over all Steingarten and start ‘modifying’ it myself.
The evening was about experimenting and having fun. We would play around with different toppings, from classics already in-house to the ridiculous, brought in by us lot.
First onto the paddle was one of my favourites – a white pizza with potato slices. This version came pepped with oozy Stilton. Although I thought the slices of potato should be cut much thinner (on a mandolin) and overlapped, I was happy to see an often forgotten topping make an appearance. Carb on carb, it rocks.
We then had a go at pimping our own, with varying degrees of success. I’d been too disorganised to find an ingredient to bring along, so I shamelessly gate-crashed Lizzie’s samphire instead. We ended up with a decadent combination of crab, samphire, ricotta and chilli. Great flavours but sadly, not great pizza.
Straight from the horror box: haggis and potato. I’ve tried it so you don’t have to. See? See what I’ll do for you in the name of research? It was like eating an offaly shepherd’s pie – on a pizza. Just a bit of a laugh on our part though, and definitely not one for the menu, don’t worry.
Highlights for me were meaty; a chorizo pizza was topped with two types, one skinned and crumbled and the other sliced. It was fun and generous. People will always want a spicy meat pizza. Personally I always want one with anchovy, capers and olives.
We shoved every topping going in and out of that oven, including a comedy calzone: someone’s sweaty Star Bar wrapped in a pizza base, which melted into gooey, peanut-studded wrongness. It felt dirty. It was great.
The Actress opens on Monday, and I’m sure they’ll have their recipes well and truly down by then. There will be more than pizza, too. We made quick work of some lamb, scorched and sizzling from the ferocious heat of the wood oven, juices preserved within. Cider-braised spicy ribs provoked moans of pleasure; forcefully spiced with a strong apple flavour. The meat flopped off the bone in huge, sticky chunks.
The Actress is going to make an absolute killing in this location. It sits at the corner of Crystal Palace Road and North Cross Road, which anyone who lives in East Dulwich knows is permanently rammed with yummy mummies and annoyingly beautiful and well-off people. They are going to lap this place up. If it’s not rammed to the rafters in the next few weeks then I’ll eat another haggis pizza and film it so you can see me pay for my shoddy prediction. That is how confident I am.
90 Crystal Palace Road