Jolly nice lunch in Bray
Pizza made with focaccia might upset the purists, but there's lots to like about this tiny space
My happy place is somewhere that smells of bread baking. The real smell, not the sickly sugared air that supermarkets pump at you to make you hungry. A place where bread is made slowly has the aroma of warm baking and also a little tangy hum from the yeasty dough proving. This is the aroma that wraps itself around you in the seafront restaurant Campo de’ Fiori on a blustery lunchtime.
Welcome to Bray, the parking meter seems to fanfare when a euro buys me parking for five hours. It’s like a message from the town council to keep your spare change for the slot machines. A camera crew is following a cluster of wetsuited surfers along the seafront, the group moving as one creature, a boom mic like the scorpion’s tail above them. The sea beyond is choppy and grey.
At first it looks like we’re out of luck as the restaurant with Campo de’ Fiori written over it is locked and empty. I’m beckoned to the “market” premises across the road. Inside the small space the source of the lovely bready smell is tray after tray of pizza, baked on focaccia. It’s a little higgledy-piggledy in here, sardine tight with a strange arrangement of high benches and stools which seem to take up more room than they should. The place looks like it was once a fish shop, with a blue tiled wall bedecked with fish and a fish-counter type fridge that now houses Italian deli style meats.
A lot like the Dunne and Crescenzi chain, this is a shop, so when I sit down on a gingham cushioned stool I hit a bottle of wine with my bag and it wobbles on the shelf beside me. We’re in the lunchtime rush and the smell is one indication why. The restaurant used to be the vegetarian Escape Bistro, until Laura and Marco Roccasalvo took it over. They named it after a Roman square whose name translates as “field of flowers”. The bigger restaurant space is open in the evenings and for Sunday lunch.
The happy theme continues with the prices. A generous pizza slice comes in at €2.50 and the display cabinet has tear-drop shaped cinnamon cookies for 50 cent. We order two smoothies, the Compo Ace which has orange, carrot and apple juice in it and a Mediterraneo which is made from tomato and celery. My carrot and ginger soup is thick, hot and very good. My smoothie needs regular swirls with a straw to keep it from separating into its parts, tomato mush at the top, celery water to the bottom.