For every Ed Balls cha-cha-cha-ing on Strictly Come Dancing, there’s a Paris Hilton DJ career. For every Dalai Lama on Twitter, there’s a Liam Payne on Instagram. Some of the most fun and most objectionable things in recent cultural memory have come from different worlds coming together. The same goes for food. Who would have thought parmesan sushi worked? Or that tofu fish doesn’t? And who would think that fish katsu would work on a pizza? The new Temper in Covent Garden does.
This is the third restaurant from the people who brought us the cheeseburger taco (very good), korean haggis (very good), and grilled corn with popcorn (not so good). Whereas meat is the focus in Soho, and curry in the City, Temper Covent Garden is all about pizza and pasta. Don’t expect a margherita and a spaghetti carbonara though. We know these guys like to switch things up a bit and it’s no different here. Pizzas come super thin, a ‘Massachusetts round’, or super fat, a ‘Detroit square’. As with dishes in the other Temper restaurants, some things work here and some things don’t. Of the thicker style pizzas, the cheeseburger and kimchi toppings are weird and wonderful, and the perfect meeting of two worlds. The cheeseburger and the pizza are both comfort food royalty, and their matrimony is far more fulfilling than anything you’d read about in the Daily Mail. Not every pizza mash-up reaches these heights though. A thin-crust clam pizza is overpowered by cheese, while a katsu pollock topping tastes more confused than anything else. It’s hit and miss, and that’s the risk you take when you put unexpected things together.
The same goes for the ‘pasta/not pasta’ and other bits here. The idea is that every pasta dish tastes and feels as if it was made from pasta without there actually being any, like razor clams with ’nduja or the lardo carbonara. Both have all the tastes and textures you’d expect from a pasta dish without there being any of the actual stuff. It’s there but it isn’t. It’s like your Uber on the corner of the street. This works superbly at times, but not everything hits the mark. Beef cannelloni is, like the clam pizza, overpowered by cheese, while garlic bread with ’nduja is essentially cheese on toast. When things don’t work here it’s either down to two things: too weird or too cheesy. But when they do, it’s both delicious and fun.
Fun is the operative word when talking about this new Temper. It’s big and open with a large kitchen-grill in the middle (as per their other set-ups), and, mainly thanks to the food itself, it feels like a bit of a party restaurant. This is a place where you come en masse, drink some vermouth or spritz on tap, get started with some ragu and crunchy polenta, before rolling the dice with a few pastas and pizzas. It’s fearless, but more importantly, it’s fun. That’s what you want most from someone or something trying to do something a bit different.
Beef ragus feel like the pulled pork of the pasta world these days. This goat ragu is very different. It’s rich and moreish, and very nice with the polenta bites.
Who doesn’t like a slab or cheesy bread the size of your bed? It is what it is, we couldn’t really taste ’nduja though.
A bit like when you order a large drink from somewhere in America and you’re all like “oh wow that is big”. This is burnt. Too burnt.
The noodles are actually strips of lardo. Yes, it’s as filthy as it sounds. And, yes: it’s amazing.
Close your eyes and you think you’re eating a buttery, spicy clam pasta. But, wait for it. The clams are the pasta. David Blaine eat your heart out.
Officially the ultimate hangover/comfort food.
This has a kimchi base. Traditionalists will say this is not a pizza. Traditionalists are wrong.
This is like when a stranger tries to talk to you when you’ve got your headphones on: weird and not at all welcome.
Imagine sitting down to watch a film in the cinema and someone sits beside you who proceeds to cough throughout the entire thing. The cheese is the cougher on this pizza. Unignorable.
This is the childhood dessert of your dreams.