All reader reviews by blindmelon

Ritzy Cafe

During the late nineties as an impoverished student I had an epiphany. My bank manager was on the phone to my parents on an almost daily basis, explaining in a roundabout way that I was, em, "urinating" my money up the proverbial wall. They say you're always your parents' child and no matter how old I am angry phone calls from the folks continue to have a sobering effect.

Something had to give in order for me to avoid Mr Bailiff's wooden bat. Obviously, giving up my weekly ration of White Lightning and Tesco Value Gin was completely out of the question so I turned towards my weekly food shopping list for money saving solutions. For the first time in my life I was paying attention to the prices of the items of food I bought. It was goodbye to Nesquik, Haribo, Coco Pops, multipacks of Twix and hello to 8 pence tins of beans accompanied by toasted bread that miraculously NEVER went off.

I believe it was the bible that lamented that "man cannot live off beans and pseudobread alone" and indeed it was correct for I soon tired of this frankly awful diet. So, coming back to the epiphany I alluded to in my opening gambit, I discovered that I could make my own pizzas. All I needed to buy was a box of ready made pizza bases, some tomato puree and whatever it was I wished to top my pizza with, be it sausage, ham, cheese, marmite, malteasers or bonjela. This would provide the variety my life so sadly lacked and would cost at most £20 per week. Result. Well, kind of.

My plan had one fatal flaw; I have no culinary talent whatsoever. Actually, two fatal flaws because ready made pizza bases make good substitutes for dinner plates should your washing up pile ever become infested with some sort of penicillin-like substance that you are unable to clear up due to your fear of accidentally destroying a Nobel prizewinning fungus. Sorry, I digress but ready made pizza bases are a tooth-crackingly vile offense on the world of creative pizza and were you to make the mistake of mixing Nutella and cheese as some sort of miracle wonder topping you may find yourself both vomiting and £20 out of pocket.

Right so. As you can see, a 4 paragraph description of nightmarishly bad student-fare has been required in order for you to even dip your toe into the murky depths of Ritzy's catering. I wanted you to be ready, to share, to empathise and finally to understand. Perhaps you will shed a tear, who knows.

The Ritzy is in Brixton. People get shot there. In fact, on the very day I chanced upon this cine-cafe there were police notices around the area begging for assistance in a murder case. I have driven through Birxton and clocked warnings of car-jackings and never have I been more grateful to the good people at Alfa Romeo for deciding that my car needed an internal locking system. One would think that to attract people to a Brixton eatery your food would have to be pretty damn spectacular.

And so The Ritzy's food was, once upon a time. A number of people have recommended The Ritzy for its fantastic atmosphere, imaginative menu, live music and personable service. There is a review in the stairwell (one year old) so glowingly enthusiastic that I wouldn't have been surprised had a bastard child journo-cafe hybrid walked down the stairs to greet and fellate me. I was in a good place, I would do well here.

I certainly cannot knock the atmosphere. The Ritzy seems to be where the bold and beautful contingent of Brixton congregate and they bring with themselves an air of cool sophistication that I wanted to bottle up and take home to my Ikea showroom flat. Initial service was good too. The barstaff, again members of the too-cool-for-school Brixton fraternity, seemed eager enough to serve without delay or complaint. Finally, whilst I'm in this complimentary mood, the prices were pretty reasonable.

But the menu, oh the menu. You have a limited choice of assorted pizzas or narcoleptically dull slabs of organic material between 2 bits of bread, masquerading as sandwiches. There is a kid's menu but hey, I'm not a kid so I ordered a pizza. I went for the blandest thing on the menu and watched in impotent astonishment as it was delivered to the wrong table. The conversation went something like this:

Waiter: "Did you order the margherita?"

Customer: "No, why?"

Waiter: "Somebody's ordered a margherita and I can't find the table."

Customer: "Oh, well I'll have it then."

Waiter: "Oh, here you go."

Me: "Ahem, I'm over here. Hello? Hello?"

After some polite complaining, my pizza arrived. I note at this point that the person who actually ate my pizza had spotted my agitation and felt that the best way to placate me would be to shrug her shoulders, give me a cheeky little wink and get back to drinking her wine. It didn't work but that's by the by. The pizza was an abomination. Back in my student days I genuinely made a pizza that had tomato puree, cheese, chopped up mars bar, onions, pepperami, golden syrup, nutella, malteasers, philadelphia cheese and "hundreds and thousands" on it. Without any exaggeration it was warmer, crispier, healthier and more aesthetically pleasing than the discoid object I was presented with at The Ritzy. My student pizza went in the bin; at The Ritzy I simply requested some kind of compensation, which was refused.

The Ritzy has so much potential I feel actual sadness at the shoddy way it is being managed these days. I have been reliably informed that their former menu was fantastic, as was the food. Presently I can't see myself ever returning.

Sunday, November 18, 2007
Overall rating 4 stars
Food 2 | Service 1 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 3

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