15 February 2014

February Newsletter: Pizza Restaurant adds New Flavour to the Old Bank

The Old Bank site on Honor Oak high street has been un-utilised for a number of years and the last potential opening was an application by Dominos Pizza to convert the site into a takeaway and delivery shop. The Forest Hill Society in unison with local residents campaigned to stop the planning application. Our main reason for objecting was the poor use of a prime location which we felt should be a retail unit.

There were also concerns around parking and the noise generated by bikes serving the shop during peak hours. There were over 300 objections to the application and thankfully the Domino’s application was rejected. Although Domino’s went onto appeal this decision, through a series of demonstrations outside the restaurant, Dominos’ remained unsuccessful.

Residents had nothing against takeaways but we felt sure that this key location would be better placed as a restaurant rather than a hub for a take way delivery service.

Indeed we are delighted to report that an independent pizza restaurant/cafe called SODO has now opened on the site. This is exactly the outcome we wanted, even if it took three years for it to happen! It provides a better future for Honor Oak with a selection of top quality restaurants in a small area of South East London.

SODO announced ‘SO DOUGH’ (as in sour-dough, the traditional pizza base) opened in early February. This is the third venture from SODO, the original is in Clapton and there is also a concession at The George & Vulture pub in Hoxton. The whole ethos is based around offering the best and freshest pizza, working with local suppliers and creating a fun experience for the customer.

At University, Dan Birch the founding director worked in a kitchen and hated the fact that so much was processed and deep fried. He came across somewhere selling pizza and loved the freshness and theatre of it and this is what restaurant is all about; the pizzas are made on order in front of the customers and the kitchen is an integral part of the experience.

They came across The Old Bank site very much by accident although they were actively hunting for new sites across London. They thought the building was ‘amazing’ and immediately fell in love with it describing it as ‘a big old building with bags of character’. Dan and his team have renovated the majority of the existing features including fireplaces, brick walls and old tiles and have incorporated them into the d├ęcor. They have created an interior that’s in harmony with the building and which brings to life the period features that remained hidden for many years.

In addition to the restaurant, there is a bar with seating and space for between five and seven people. The idea is that people can just pop in for a drink or actually eat at the bar, much like you might eat tapas in Spain. If you don’t fancy eating out, you can call the restaurant for a pizza and then pick it up between five and ten minutes later. The pizzas only take a minute in the oven so this is fast (and fresh) food at it’s best! At a maximum, the take away process may take twenty minutes but that’s only to be expected on a packed out Saturday night.

The most popular pizza at the moment is called the ‘Winter Goat’. This consists of mozzarella, tomato, caramelised onions, goat’s cheese, olives and walnuts. Prices range from between £6 and £11 depending on the toppings but the average price is £8/£9. All the ingredients are fresh and locally sourced and indeed they are currently looking for local suppliers in the area.

Dan is not from SE23 so I asked what he has come to like about the area and his answer was ‘the community’ which will not surprise us Forest Hilliers! He says the reception has been really supportive and that people could not wait for them to open.

It’s clear that SODO will be a great success if his passion for freshly made pizza and the support of the local community is anything to go by. The restaurant is now open, three days a week between 12pm – 11pm and once everything is fully up and running, they plan to open six days a week.

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