Being partially unemployed I’ve recently had time to consider the cheesy enigma, smothered in a claggy tomato paste of puzzlement, wrapped in a soggy calzone of intrigue that is the riddle of the continuing existence of Mister Pumpkernink’s Pizzeria, 116 Holland Park Avenue.
To start with, it seems so utterly out of place nestled between Lidgate’s (purveyors of the finest organic meats, poultry and game direct from Prince Charles’s Highgrove estate), sPeck (the fine Italian Deli, kitchen and wine shop) and Daunts (a bookshop where you’ll see authors browsing as well as signing).
This is a famously well-heeled neighbourhood, so who’s eating at Mister Pumperninks?* Surely not Michael Winner.**
The place sells pizza by the slice, humanely sparing you the burden of discarding a whole one. They make a sort of bastardised deep-pan / soiled mattress hybrid. Toppings are reminiscent of certain scenes from Platoon.
I’m not being a snob about Pizzerias. A good pizzeria is fine thing to have.
And here’s a fact: Pizza is cheap to make and very easy to make well. You almost have to be wilfully kack-handed to muck it up.
An average small town in Italy might have 10 to 20 pizzerias. In each you’ll get delicious pizza for about £2.50 (that’s per pizza, not per slice, as you’ll find at Mr P’s).
The final part of the mystery is Mister Pumpernink himself.
He’s a leprechaun. He sits on a pumpkin. He has a pet rat… all classic Italian associations that Pizza Express and Zizzi’s must feel foolish they overlooked.
The use of the rat I feel is a particularly bold allusion to the reality of their operation. It’s so direct, so honest. I bet the Saatchis drive past and slap their foreheads saying, “A stunted Irishman and vermin. They trumped us finding the new direction. We should retire.”
* Turns out it’s school kids. Mystery solved.
** I bet he puts on a big bib and orders in.