ONE summer in my teens, I nearly made a promise to myself to never go near a shipping container again for as long as I lived.
Back in those heady days, the only thing cooking inside the container was me. In the heat of the sun, a temp agency sent me and a half a dozen other guys to take flat-pack garden furniture from one container and fill another twenty feet away.
All because the logos were wrong and the forklift was kaput.
Last week I was lured back into a shipping container and again found myself carrying boxes out.
That description is perhaps unfair, because though this 30ft baby blue box at the entrance to the Nugent Shopping Park in Orpington was once a shipping container, it is now a rather beautiful restaurant.
Pizza1889 is named after the year Neapolitan chef Raffaele Esposito first delivered the pizza to its namesake Margherita, Queen of Italy, and it is the baby of three entrepreneurs passionate about serving fresh, high-quality food.
Inside, the restaurant has been lovingly crafted inside its steel carcass, with wood panelling, chalk boards and a striking, custom-made six-foot stone oven which roars to 450 degrees.
Freshness is the order of the day with the dough and rich tomato sauce made daily on site and the pizzas prepared and cooked (rapidly) while you wait. Pizza1889 serves single-portion pizzettas rather than individual slices, too, so that the nothing is left lying around.
Co-owner and food-fanatic Daniel Southwell, who worked in the City before retraining as a chef in Melbourne, explained that the restaurant seeks to use the best ingredients and expertise.
The gelato is by Soho firm Gelupo and the cakes and ciabatta come from The Bread Factory in north London.
When I visited, two busy men were behind the counter. The manager, Alex Guga, has been a pizza chef for 12 years while the chef, Michaele Lucci, finished second in the World Pizza-making Championships in Rimini last year and came over from Italy especially to work at Pizza1889.
As you would expect from these credentials, the pizzas taste exquisite.
You can taste the freshness of ingredients while the bases are light yet crisp on the outside.
Everything on the menu is numbered, with Number Five (tomato, mozzarella, Italian spicy sausage and fresh chilli) being a stand-out performer. The crisp, meaty sausage combines with the rich tomato while the chilli gives an adventurous kick.
Number Eight (tomato, mozzarella, garlic, oregano, capers, olives and anchovies) is wickedly salty and moreish.
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