Rathbone Market used to be the beating heart of Canning Town. Now it’s gone, replaced by a bunch of modern developments, all with commercial units on the ground floor. A five minute walk around the area reveals that most of these are ghost units, perennially empty. There is one exception: pizza joint Zzetta.
At a time when many modern London developments pay little heed to their location’s history, Zzetta takes the opposite approach. Hanging from the ceiling are quotes from locals, for whom the market holds a special place in memory. Even the layout of Zzetta references the past — some tables are made to resemble stacked wooden boxes, just as Rathbone Market once looked.
These nods to history warm the heart and give Zzetta an immediate sense of community, something that’s near-impossible to manufacture in the world of new-builds that it inhabits. Respectful touches are swell, but what about the food? If the pizza doesn’t deliver, punters won’t give a damn about history.
Like most newcomers to such a heavily competitive field — seriously, have London pizza-lovers ever had it better? — it acquits itself well, without truly wowing. We go for a appropriately named Five-A-Day, your standard vegetable pizza. It delivers on its name, relying on an abundance of veg to provide flavours which dance about in our mouth. The only weak point is the pizza’s structural integrity, which leaves a fair bit to be desired. Any hopes of this being a hold-in-your-hands pizza are pure fantasy, and we retreat defeated to a knife and fork.
The meal ends on a bizarre note. Stuffed full of dough, we decide we can’t handle a tiramisu or a profiterole. So we keep it simple and go for a vanilla ice cream. This appears in a plastic-cup, exactly the sort of thing you’d expect to find sold in a supermarket. Look, we’re not naive enough to expect every dish we eat at a restaurant to be in-house, but we’d be grateful if all places could remember to at least pretend that’s the case.
That slightly off-putting touch probably best sums up how Rathbone Market once was. We’re sure at some point some East End geezer tried to pull a fast one on their customers too. But for the most part they kept it simple, because simple works.
Zzetta, 110 Barking Road, E16 1EN.