Steve Braunias: The man who ate Lincoln Rd rates Flame Pizza

Steve Braunias is on a mission to eat at each of the 54 food joints on Lincoln Rd in West Auckland. • Episode 39 (and food joint 52): Flame Pizza
The true test of pizza is what it tastes like when it's cold. Photo / Michael Craig
The true test of pizza is what it tastes like when it's cold. Photo / Michael Craig

The man who ate Lincoln Rd had Lincoln Rd come to him on Thursday. My nine-year-old was crook so I stayed home to look after her, and ordered in lunch from the newly opened Flame Pizza - the 55th and latest food joint on that golden mile of salt and grease on Lincoln St.

Except that Flame doesn't do grease. It's the sort of healthy option pizza, and it does Halal meat. It's wood-fired and very clean, and it's definitely also really different. Good different.

There are three Flames operating around Auckland. The first two opened in Botany, and Hobsonville Point; it's a franchise in the making, although God knows it can't be easy entering the pizza market. You've already got Hell, and Pizza Hut, and Sal's, and all three are competing on Lincoln Rd. Can Flame stand the heat?

I set Minka up on the couch in the living room with a blanket and a glass of water. It was a bad day to catch a bug: she'd qualified for the interschool cross country, and was looking forward to the event.

It would have been something special but instead she got a day of sloth at home with her dad and there's nothing special or unusual about that, although at least she got to watch Children of the Damned, a classic 1964 horror movie.

It rained, we argued, I sulked, she went to bed and I kissed her hot little head and said sorry, love you, and she slept off her fever for a couple of hours. Then we watched a bit more of the movie, and started watching Abby's Ultimate Dance Competition on Bravo when the pizza man arrived.

I ordered regular pepperoni pizza for $14.50, plus sides of oven-baked fries ($4) and Cajun chicken wings ($6.50). "Have some chips," I said. "They'll make you feel better." It was excellent parenting but the chips were pretty average, just bland sticks of potato that were neither fat nor thin.

As for the chicken wings, the portions were generous, so full marks for that, but they were about as Cajun as somewhere not remotely Cajun. In fact they were as boring as Kerikeri. I didn't detect a single flavour, not one spice.

So the sides were poor. But then I went to the main event, and opened the pizza box. A jack in the box may as well have sprang out because it was just so strange and unexpected.

Most pizzas are as flat as the Manawatu. There's a kind of height restriction policy which dictates nothing rises more than a millimetre above the cheese base. Flame didn't get the memo; the pizza came with great big chunks of tomato, and great big chunks of green capsicum, looming out of the base like the Southern Alps.

Different. Good different, in fact very good different: the tomato and pepper gave the mouth something to hold onto sort of thing, unlike other pizzas which really just slide down the chute. And so it was kind of full-on, also very moreish, plus tasty and non-greasy and filling. Minka is vegetarian, so I filled my face.

Later on we played cards, and watched the Disney channel. She sent a text on my phone and found out her friend Zahra won cross-country. She said things like, "What does 'versatile' mean?" And, "What's bigger - China, or Russia?" And, "When's mum home?"

The true test of pizza is what it tastes like when it's cold. Emily took a slice when she got home, and announced: "Yummy." Later she ran Minka a bath, and put her to bed. Happy family, good take-out food: I'm in the mood to rate Flame Pizza 8.9/10.

- NZ Herald

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