Tough Mary’s Bakehouse has been brightening up Derby Road since 2016 with its sunny yellow façade. It always draws the eye, whether from the top deck of the 34 bus to campus, or the three a.m. walk back from the Market Square McDonald’s. At night, from the Cathedral side of the road, the street lamps cast an amber glow on the shopfront, illuminating the intimate, white-walled space within.
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But as one night finishes, another day is just beginning. Kate and her team get into work at 4 a.m. to set about forging the day’s treats, great oven doors swinging open and closed to the master bakers’ beat. By opening time, rows of warm sourdough loaves line the counter, alongside flaky pastries jewelled with sugar.
Once a month, Tough Mary’s Bakehouse host a pizza night partnered with neighbouring pub A Room With a Brew. The menu is consistent, with four stock pizzas named like edible Snow White dwarves: Simply, Cheesy, Meaty, Veggie (which can become Vegany at your request). There is also a special that changes every month. This is the option I pluck for, as the bakery boffins toil over the recipe for weeks in advance, often coming to surprising, yet delicious, conclusions – I had a fantastic prosciutto, peach and thyme pizza last June.
the bakery boffins toil over the recipe for weeks in advance, often coming to surprising, yet delicious, conclusions.
You can eat your pizza in the bakery, although due to popularity their few tables are normally occupied. Instead, A Room With A Brew is the favoured watering hole. They are a microbrewery with a comprehensive selection of tasty home-brewed beers, often with top drawer literary puns. The staff are lovely and provide a student discount that puts the overpriced Sir John Borlase Warren to shame. On pizza night, the buzz of happy conversation rises up past the cute faux-bookshelves and fills the high ceilings.
Tough Mary’s pizza is heaven-sent because of the base. The key to a successful pizza is a thin floppy dough, allowing for a perfect cornicione, or puffy crust. Too thin and the whole caboodle will collapse, welding the burnt base to the oven until the end of days. Too thick and the dough won’t rise evenly, leaving a stodgy nothingness to suffer through. Domino’s provide bathtubs of garlic dip and pump their pizzas with sickly barbecue sauce to distract from their cardinal sin. Tough Mary’s base was crafted with obvious reverence.
Every bite is a blessing.
A stretchy crust and char-black bubbles provided the perfect platform for the toppings. Strong gooey gorgonzola sealed in the holy union of marriage with mozzarella and cream. The firm tenderstem broccoli, roasted with maple syrup, offered a sweet touch over the indulgent flavours beneath it. The walnuts added a nutty crunch and a new element to the dish. Like an organ solo, the pizza’s moving parts weaved in and out of one another effortlessly, distinct yet coming together to form a consummate whole. Every bite is a blessing.
As prices go, the bread and pastries at Tough Mary’s Bakehouse are above the student budget. However, at £9.50 the pizzas are cheaper than the majority of offerings by their chain restaurant rivals. Pizza Express, small, mean, dry, cannot hold a candle to Tough Mary’s Bakehouse. It is a fair price to pay for a once-in-a-blue-moon event, and well worth checking out if you’re not scrambling for Ocean tickets. The only drawback is the walk up from Lenton, but it’s easier on the way back with a couple of “Beerfests at Tiffany’s” down you.
Maybe, if more people find out about the best-kept secret of the pizza at Tough Mary’s Bakehouse, then I’ll stop preaching about it. Until then, I’ll happily tell any passer-by that they serve the best pizza I’ve had in living memory.
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