Do you know what Yelp is? Neither did I until very recently. Yelp feels like some sort of secret society that no one talks about. With people being given the title of Yelp Elites, and Secret Elite events, it doesn’t help shift the ‘No Homers’ club vibe.
If you can’t beat then, join them. Its with that thought that I end up applying for a place at the ‘The Pizza Off’. Described as a pizza judging event, I’m initially picturing some sort of Homer Simpson at the Chilli Off vibe and dreams of a judges hat with a giant pizza on it fill my head.
I am chancing my luck on getting invited to the event. I see the list of others who have applied. All Elites with 3 figures in the review and friend department. Whilst I only have a handful of reviews and am firmly in the “Billy No Mates” camp.
Despite the odds, I am picked as a judge. By this time, I am starting to realise that I probably won’t be sat on a judging panel wearing my pizza hat and passing my many years of pizza eating wisdom onto the baying crowds.
No I think, its more likely going to be a food stalls with a few slices of pizza that you can grab if you are lucky. I also start to worry that I may not know the secret handshake of the Elites and all the free pizza with the kept from my peasant hands.
I almost don’t attend on the evening, but I’ve replied that ‘Yes I definitely can attend’ and an El Food Brother never goes back on a promise. Call us lazy, stupid, drunkards who couldn’t run a successful food blog, even if Mark Zuckerberg gave us $53 million. But we aren’t promise breakers.
I grab a couple of pints of German or Czech beer in Albert Schloss, more on that place another time. In short, it has a beer and a fire, I like beer and fires.
Gaining some ‘German’ courage from the beer, I head out to find No 1 Watson Street, the venue for tonights ‘slice of the action’. Heading in 3 different directions, eventually returning back where I came from, I find the place is almost directly across from where I began. Those German beers can be quite strong.
The first thing I notice is a large outdoor pizza oven, and you know I like fires. I don’t spend long outside as its freezing, and theres a lovely person handing out glasses of Presseco. I’m over by the Presseco table like a rat up a drain pipe.
I fumble something about being here for the event, and am put at ease by the lady handling the fizz. She says, and I quote, “I trust you”, and I feel like I am now in the inner circle. I’ve not had to re-create the secret handshake, or swear allegiance to the Yelp logo. The world really is just people walking around, going in to rooms and saying things.
I spot Matt, he’s the guy running the show, this is my second test of the night. But again, its a quick standard handshake and I’m shown where I’m sitting. I’m in, I’m Louis Theroux.
My table is virgin territory. There are fresh packs of felt tips, a sealed Jegna set and various bits of un marked paper. I even have a name tag. This is legit.
My table soon fills up, everyone is friendly and we are soon chatting away and playing Jenga. I do let it slip that I am not an Elite, which is met with some shock, but I am not immediately singled out and shunned for the rest of the night. In fact I am surprised to find just how well I get along with my fellow Yelpers as the night continues. I am in no way comparing my struggles to fit in, to that of those who lived through the war. But I expect this is exactly what the ‘blitz spirt’ that we hear about was like, but with more pizza.
Theres fun and games sure, but when the pizza starts rolling out, things take a serious turn as we discuss the various merits of our doughy treats. Scores are discussed, and our table goes rogue with a none integer scoring system.
Everyone is taking photos and posting to social media as we go along, but we are all in the same world of obsessively documenting what you eat, so it all seems perfectly fine. Not like when you go out for food with the ‘normies’ who can eat food without first taking a picture.
I even snap a few pictures of my co-conspirators stuffing their faces with pizza, which we decide is slightly creepy, but then the pro-photographer is doing the same, so its all good. To be fair, the photos of pizzas in the face was started by one of my co-jenga players. Who got me to hold the giant inflatable pizza for the ‘pizza selfie’ competition.
But what about the pizzas?
Pizza one. A spicy beast. I believe to be from Crazy Pedro himself. Its chicken-y cheese-y, and its got a kick to it. You don’t notice the olives, which is good, because olives are bullshit.
Pizza two. A fancy one. Its fairly standard cheese, tomato, ham. I think the leaf got on there by mistake, but I ate it anyway. I’m not sure who was responsible for this one. The rules are that this is a blind taste test, so we are not told their creators.
Pizza three. This pizza has got everything wrong, salmon, bullshit, cream cheese, bullshit. But what do you know, this one was tasty as fuck. Goes to show what I know. This is by my egg-on-a-pizza friends at Croma.
Pizza four. Its a standard margherita effort. I find the floppy-ness off putting. Its difficult to get them in your mouth when they are all floppy. But it feels right when its in there. This is from the PLY, supply.
Pizza five. This one is a show-off. The prawn-cracker stands out, and the spring onion is making its self very clear. But you can’t eat the prawn cracker properly really, and in the end its a bit underwhelming.
Pizza six. “Its just like a kebab” I say. Which for once, I don’t think is me missing the point. Theres spicy chicken and other bits here, topped with a mint sauce. And the base its on is a trooper, never once going soft when its needed. This pizza is delivered by Love Pizza.
Pizza seven is left until last for a good reason. Its swiftly shown around the tables, with a game of ‘Can you guess whats on it?’ We soon find out its strawberries and cream (marshmallow?), making up this desert pizza.
The evening wraps up swiftly enough, scores are totted up and the winner announced as number 6. Well done to Love Pizza, a well deserved victory, it was a close call, with all the pizzas being of a high standard. Very little bullshit involved.
I thank my fellow Yelpers once again for a great night and head off in the rain to catch a train. Even the Northern weather and Northern Rail can not put a dampener on the excitement of having eaten a load of pizza for free.
The contenders in full were as follows.
The El Food Brothers will be sure to hit these places soon for a full taste. Croma are top of the list to try, due to their enthusiasm for the egg-on-a-pizza movement.