Fishermen when at sea have used sea water for centuries when cooking their meals, so too in days gone if there was no available fresh water did coastal dwellers. And more recently chefs in Spanish restaurants have experimented with it – think El Bulli’s Ferran Adrià.
And now sea water cooking has come to London. You can experience it at ‘O ver restaurant, in Southwark Street.
‘Is this True’
Yes it is. (‘O ver translated means ‘Is this True’. The water comes from the Mediterranean and is purified without the use of chemicals.
Retaining, it is claimed, 93 of the trace minerals that are essential for health, and containing 40 times less sodium chloride than regular table salt.
Mauro Palomba imports litres of the stuff; he has to, the restaurant uses some 150 litres a week for their pizzas and in fact all their dishes.
Neapolitan pizzas: the best in the world
Mauro hails from Naples, and let’s face it Neapolitan pizzas are reckoned the best in the world.
And it was in Naples that he met Guglielmo Vuolo, one of the city’s famous pizza chefs, who was experimenting with making pizzas using sea water.
The two of them decided that the time was ready to launch sea water cooking on the UK and the London scene, not only for pizzas but for the preparation of all salads and vegetables, pasta, breads and desserts.
Indeed, ‘O ver is probably the first restaurant in the UK to use purified sea water for all cooking purposes.
‘O ver is bright, light and airy
‘O ver Restaurant is just a couple of minutes’ walk from trendy, foody Borough Market.
It’s bright, light and airy, the room, with its floor to high-ceiling windows on one wall, is shaped like a narrow triangle; the door, wide open that hot summer’s day, more or less at its point and opposite on the far wall a white marble topped bar.
Behind the bar a tempting array of quality spirits, and close to them the pizza oven. You need a decent oven to cook pizzas properly and this one is a beauty – it might not look very glamorous but it is set to reach over 400˚C and cooks a pizza in less than two minutes.
The restaurant itself is stylish, in a somewhat minimalist fashion with rustic looking upcycled furnishings. At lunch time at full service it can be very noisy, and we weren’t convinced about the wooden vases holding a stem of dried grass on most of the tables – but we are being picky. However, we did like the unusual coffee cups, and the elegant bronze coloured cutlery – it’s from Portugal, said our charming waiter, Chi.
We too enthused over the pizzas
The Associazone Verace Pizza Napoletana who regulates Neopolitan pizzas enthused about the Vuolo’s pizzas, but their rules regarding ingredients are strict, they have to be traditionally authentic.
So, even though ‘O ver uses San Marzano tomatoes, certified mozzarellas, Sorrento lemons and organic olive oil because of the sea water the restaurant is unable to call the pizzas authentic Neopolitan.
We too enthused over ‘O ver’s pizzas – in fact we more than enthused – we loved the thin, crisp yet soft and puffy, bases topped with melting, indulgent fresh tasting toppings.
The sea water helps to make the dough light and puffy and to our surprise we found them perfectly seasoned, not at all salty.
We decided in favour of a cocktails rather than wine with our meal. They were fresh tasting and delicious, perfect for a hot summer day. Or any time of day come to that.
Melting mozzarella and a rum soaked Babà
Equally delicious were our starters. As we so usually do when we are together we shared. We shared a platter of fennel flavoured salami from southern Tuscany, plus some Prociutto di San Daniele, topped by a ball of melting Mozzarella di bufala campana. Neither could we resist sharing a ball of fabulous Burrata al tartufo – organic truffle burrata from Puglia.
Guided by Chi we also shared our pizzas – Regina a more traditional pizza topped with Neapolitan buffalo mozzarella, piennolo cherry tomatoes, San Marzano tomato sauce and fresh basil; and the other, new to both of us, but as we agreed unusual and different, a Sorrento pizza – “Fior di latte” – mozzarella from Monti Lattari, Sorrento’s lemon rind, black pepper and fresh basil. Yummy indeed.
Homemade Babà – liberally soaked in a rum syrup and a delicious lemon and almond Capresina al limone got our votes too. So did some excellent coffee served in typical ‘O ver fashion in unusual crockery.
Simply One of the Best Pizzas
Whilst we had opted for pizzas because we specially wanted to experience the sea water cooking, the main meal section of the menu looked interesting too– a range of pasta and meat dishes plus a number that would have gladdened a vegetarian’s heart.
‘O ver inches towards the expensive side, but bearing in mind the quality of ingredients used, worth every penny.
And as for those pizzas – we happily award them The Foody Traveller’s accolade of ‘Simply One of the Best’. www.overuk.com