You can also head this “New Openings: Chapter” if you’re into alternative titles.
Something along the lines of “Do you want to be a food taster / come to our launch party / have a job?” but more compelling and attractive was on a banner on the restaurant-formerly-known-as Elsie Mo’s one day in late May. The building had been empty for a year and within seemingly a week of building works was up and running again with a new sourdough pizza restaurant.
Sourdough pizza is very in at the moment. You can see Franco Manca’s ever growing success for more information on that.
“I like pizza and being a food taster sound grand,” is in the neighbourhood of what I wrote in an email, “it’s good that sourdough pizza has made it to Canterbury.”
Sourdough pizza, I immediately found out, had already made it to Canterbury. Ask, the worst of the Italian chain restaurants, has sourdough on its menu and Zintino also specialised in sourdough pizzas. Walking past Zintino the following day, however, showed instead an American diner, surely making it one of the quickest turnovers in one of Canterbury’s difficult retail unit spaces. Or possibly the owner of Chapter, Elsie Mo’s, Zintino and new American restaurant that isn’t yet easily googleable or on TripAdvisor is the same person and has done a straight swap, albeit with different names, of their American and pizza branches. I expect this would be easy to find out, but I’m not a journalist.
As with new American restaurant, Chapter is neither easily Googleable nor is it on TripAdvisor. The name doesn’t stick in the brain, and, aside from my being able to cross “be the first ever customer of a restaurant” off the bucket list, neither does the dining experience. Plus it was free for the tasting.
The waitress recommended the lasagne and garlic bread. She was a picky eater. It is a pizza restaurant.
The menu is limited and I like that. Stick with what you know. Savoury ingredients are all very good, fresh, what you need for Italian food. If you buy bad olives, there’s no hiding when your starter is olives; ditto prosciutto. The garlic bread was indeed good, though garlic bread followed by pizza is very much my Pizza Hut-enthused eleven-year-old self rearing her sloppy self again.
I am still yet to fully understand the hype about sourdough pizza. They prove it on premises. Good, you have to do that. It is better for your digestion than regular pizza. Great, but still no carbs before Marbs (I am writing this from Barcelona where bread is very much a way of life). I prefer the crust here to Franco Manca but made the mistake of going for a vegetarian pizza. The vegetables were cubed. It was unremarkable and a little overpriced, particularly when comparing to Franco Manca, which I constantly am. The San Daniele is fine and the star of the three tried is the Salsiccia e Friarielli, both of which are made by the good ingredients, with a big shout out to the fennel sausage. I wish I had ordered the Napoletana, though I will go ahead and assume that my worry that it would be too salty (it was at Franco Manca) and enjoy the views towards the Spanish countryside. My how hot it is today, like the pizza when I added the chili oil (loose, lazy writing).
I was full prior to dessert and should have skipped dessert, not least because it was a terrible dessert. Had it not been free, I would have sent it back. Even though it was free, I could only eat a quarter of it. There are few things in this world I dislike more than food waste, but the thick, hard pastry was practically inedible and the scorched figs brought little delight. The tiramisu was not a tiramisu. If the tiramisu is how you judge your Italian restaurants (I am semi-inclined to do this), then poor Chapter fails quite spectacularly. Pierre was recommended the Cantucci e vin santo, then told that it wasn’t available. The chocolate pot that he got instead was the standout dessert. It’s not hard to do a chocolate pot.
All the critiques I give Chapter are said with love and reserve. This was an opening night, so mistakes are to be expected. The staff were friendly, if not a little overwhelmed, and it is one of Canterbury’s better restaurant spaces. Wood, large, a lot of light, casual with rustic charm as the estate agents might say. Time will tell if a restaurant can finally make this space work.
A nice place, I expect, to drink and snack in the afternoon. For pizza, as ever, A Casa Mia.
Chapter, 11-12 Burgate, Canterbury.