Ludlow has long had a reputation for gastronomic excellence. It’s been 20 years since the town picked up three Michelin stars and a Bib Gourmand. But the story back then wasn’t simply one of high-flying excellence. It was also one of brilliant, mid-market independents who were doing what they could to provide high quality, affordable food for locals. That ethos remains to this day and is embodied perfectly at Pizza Ten.
Located in Quality Square, Pizza Ten dazzled from the off. While so many pizza joints cut corners and offer low quality grub that would be given short shrift in any self-respecting trattoria, Pizza Ten elevates the status of the humble food to another level.
Pizzas are thin and crisp, the edges break with a snap. Pasta is flavoursome and punchy. And the prices are exceptionally good value. The venue has operated as a restaurant-takeaway for some time, most recently providing a pick-up service for those in south Shropshire who fancy decent food and are willing to collect.
Little surprise it’s been well-supported during the early stages of that operation. Ludlovians are discerning foodies and know a high-quality bargain when they see one.
It’s heartening that Ludlow has such restaurants. Its reputation was built over a period of years and a new generation of chefs and restaurateurs build on the foundations laid all those years ago by the likes of Graeme Kidd, Chris and Judy Bradley, Claude and Claire Bosi, Shaun and Anja Hill and Ken Adams.
Google is filled with nostalgic press cuttings from The Guardian to the New York Times, all reflecting on the excellence of the small but perfectly formed market town. If ever those titles deem to retrace their steps to find out what the town’s up to now, they ought to call in for a margherita and a spag bol in Quality Square.
Ordering couldn’t be simpler. Pizza Ten has posted details of its new offer on its website, providing a phone service by calling 01584 879450. It’s available from 6pm and there’s a free delivery service in Ludlow and its hinterland.
The venue offers four mains – a sensible number, to avoid food waste. There are three sides and ten pizzas – though customers can create their own artisan offering by mixing and matching toppings.
There is one dessert, tiramisu. The pizzas all cost £10. Though I wonder whether they’ll change the restaurant’s name to Pizza Eleven Fifty when the prices eventually go up.
My partner and I started with pasta. She ate a fantastic butternut squash tortollini with sage and butter. The pasta was magnificent; silky and a little al dente.
The filling was delicious; a taste of winter with the robust flavours of butternut. The appallingly unhealthy but wonderfully delicious hot butter was the perfect accompaniment. It added luxury to a humble, earthy dish, while the sage provided aromatic flavour.
My spaghetti Bolognese was similarly impressive. The pasta wasn’t anything to write home about: shop-bought, spoiled spaghetti. But the sauce was something else.
In addition to a small number of good independent restaurants, Ludlow also has a tradition for exceptional butchers. And the meat in the Bolognese was exquisite.
Tender and packed full of well-hung flavour, it had been expertly seasoned in a rich, complex sauce that had a dominant red wine taste. The portion size was generous – it would have fed two – and it had been topped with cheese and basil.
Pizza Ten’s list of pizzas help to set the restaurant apart. While the amateurs offer Hawaiians or Double Pepperoni, pizza ten cook with fresh basil pesto, buffalo mozzarella and offer gluten-free bases for those with dietary needs.
For sure, there’s a pepperoni if you really need it, though their version is served with anchovies and mushrooms, rather than a side order of saturated fat. And for vegetarians looking for interesting, thoughtful food, what better than a goat’s cheese pizza served with sun-dried tomato, pine nuts and honey. Were it not for social distancing, I could kiss the Pizza Ten chef and their list of inventive recipes.
We ummed and aahed about our choices. Should we go smoked salmon, kale and crème fraiche or spicked chicken, avocado, chorizo and jalapeno? Or ought we sample the local sausage meat with roasted leek and parmesan or feast on king prawns with chorizo, garlic, chilli, parsley and aioli.
Eventually, she opted for a pizza topped with smoked scamorza cheese, herbal pepper, tomato and shallots. It was a flavour bomb primed and ready to explode. The cheese was subtle and intoxicating, the herbs elevated the dish to new levels while the tomato and shallots made the case for only ever using fresh, high quality ingredients.
My selection was equally good. I opted for a mortadella pizza with black olives and pistachio.
One of the golden rules of good cooking is this: make sure you put together ingredients that get along. In many ways, chefs are like wedding planners. Their job is to find winning combinations; to make sure Dave the Rave sits next to Nicola the Party Girl but to keep apart Abstemious Aunty Vera and Drunk Cousin Barry.
It’s the same with ingredients. If ingredients were friends, make sure you put the best mates together. So mortadella and black olives is the perfect pairing – and one I’ve never seen before. Top marks for innovation. Add a little texture with pistachio and you’re cooking the food of kings.
In an era where there are limited dining choices, Pizza Ten is a bona fide go-to. It’s one of two exceptional pizza joints in Shropshire and Mid-Wales – the other is Dough and Oil, in Shrewsbury – and its raised its game at just the right time.
Though the general public has plenty of good faith towards chefs at the present time, they can’t take that for granted. Chefs need to replace that support by offering exceptional food at value prices. And on that front, Pizza Ten delivers in spades.
The mark is an obvious one – Pizza Ten scores a ten.
If you know a great restaurant that’s offering a brilliant take-away service, let us know. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the details, so we can check it out.
Butternut Squash Tortollini with Sage and Butter, £9
Vegetarian Chilli with Lentils and Sour Cream, £9
Penne Pasta, Tomato Sauce, Mozzarella, Basil, £6
Pizza Eight Sausage Meat, Roasted Leek, Parmesan, £10
Pizza Nine Salami, Red Peppers, Basil, £10
Pizza Ten Smoked Salmon, Kale, Crème Fraiche, £10
Buffalo Mozzarella, Tomato, Fresh Basil Pesto Salad, £4
Homemade Coleslaw, £3
House Salad with Berry Dressing, £3
2B Quality Square, Ludlow
01584 879 450