Because it would appear I’m becoming known as somewhat of a pizza aficionado (finally, my talents are getting the recognition they deserve!), the lovely people at The Wood Oven invited me along to their blogger event last year.
Perfectly situated on Boscombe beach (seriously, you couldn’t ask for better views!), The Wood Oven is part of the Urban Guild group of restaurants. I’ve been to all the others and they are wonderful; I highly recommend the breakfasts and Sunday roasts at the Urban Beach Hotel.
The group’s founder, Mark Cribb, gave a really interesting talk about the inspiration behind his restaurants and three things became clear:
- He’s incredibly passionate about hospitality and bringing people together over great food and drink
- His menus all centre around great locally-sourced food and home-grown produce
- He absolutely loves what he does!
I think that last point is crucial to his success. Nothing is more inspiring than seeing someone talk passionately about a business they’ve built from absolutely nothing, and learning what drives them.
He also went on to explain the reason behind the company’s logo – a pineapple, which is dotted all over their restaurants, menus and marketing materials.
Apparently the pineapple is a well-known symbol of hospitality, though embarrassingly, I worked in hospitality for three years and had no idea! Back in the day, when pineapples were expensive and hard to come by, if a host served one at a party it was seen as a sign of opulence. Their eye-catching appearance soon inspired door-knockers, banister acorns and other home ware – seriously, you’ll start to notice that they pop up everywhere! Even today, you’ll no doubt have seen all manner of pineapple accessories – lamps, vases, trinket boxes. Now it all makes sense!
Mark then handed over to his head chef, who ran us through the basics of pizza making. He also showed us photos of his research trip to Italy. It’s a hard job, but someone’s got to do it, eh?
I watched and listened as his showed us the best way to knead and stretch the dough. Easy, I though to myself. I’m going to be a pro at this.
Um…it turns out I wasn’t quite the natural I thought I would be.
Several attempts and two balls of dough later, I gave up and decided to embrace my failings. The result:
Say goodbye to boring round pizzas and enjoy a spot of f(el)ine dining with the Geek Pizzafique CAT PIZZA.*
I mean, look how cute! It has herb whiskers and a mushroom nose, for crying out loud!
Sure, the others tasted really good, but were they cat-shaped? Nope.
We took our marvellous creations down to the kitchen and prepared to be pitted against each other in the ultimate test of creativity and culinary aptitude. I suspect I won more points for the former, but really, who wouldn’t want to eat a meowzzarella (thank you, I’m here all week), anchovy, rosemary and pawperoni pizza?
After the winners were announced (shockingly, I didn’t make the top three), we rounded off the evening with a cupcake decorating class, hosted by Urban Reef’s resident baker.
All in all, it was a lovely evening, and though I didn’t win a coveted guest spot on the Wood Oven’s menu, after a playful (and somewhat aggressively rigorous) campaign of harassment on Twitter, I managed to persuade the guys to put my glorious cat pizza on their specials menu.
Winner winner, kitten dinner**.
So, if you find yourself in Bournemouth and have a hankering for pizza, these guys are definitely worth checking out.
* Does not contain actual cat
**Again, I must stress, there are no actual cats in this pizza