I already know what you’re thinking: “Pizza? For breakfast? Have you completely lost your marbles?”
I’m joking, obviously. That’s not what you’re thinking. You’re thinking: “Pizza? For breakfast? If that’s a new food trend, I’ve been ahead of the curve for years.”
Because pizza as your first meal of the day – served cold and slightly congealed, and with at least one slice less than you thought you’d saved – is arguably the king of all breakfasts. Indeed, half the thrill of ordering in on a Saturday night is that it saves you the enormous hassle of having to pour milk over something the next morning.
The Lebanese have long known the benefits of a pizza at breakfast – although they prefer their morning guilt-binge freshly baked. Their manousheh is a traditional white flatbread – topped with herbs, meats, cheeses and sometimes sugary treats – that is typically served at breakfast time. The name derives from the hand-pressed dips in the dough that help to hold the toppings and, while it’s not pizza, it provides similar, carb-charged comfort.
The Lebanese Bakery in London opened earlier this year and features a menu consisting almost entirely of manousheh; it bakes them in a traditional basalt rock oven, using only Lebanese ingredients. I get to sample the za’atar (an intense blast of thyme and sumac that would certainly wake you up); the lahmeh bi ajin (minced beef and lamb, with an infusion of pomegranate molasses); and one with the classic topping of baked eggs, which has a ridge to catch any runaway yolk and is the most similar to an English breakfast item.
All tasty, but it’s the akkawi – a simple topping of hard cow’s-milk cheese that is grated and washed so it softens – that steals my heart, a Middle Eastern version of cheese on toast that feels oddly light for such an obvious indulgence. The sampling is finished off with a sweet manousheh consisting of strawberry, crushed pistachios and delicious halva. I can confidently say that sampling five manousheh in one sitting makes for an “interesting” afternoon’s output at work.
This is street food in Lebanon, but the Lebanese Bakery is not selling at a ludicrous price: most items on its menu sell for £6, which seems reasonable for a modest lunch or hearty breakfast. The restaurant’s owners also have a branch in Beirut, where their food is perfect at 4am when the post-party hunger cravings kick in. Personally, I’d eat one at any time. And that’s the whole point. Rather than pizza you eat for breakfast, the manousheh is more a breakfast that you eat at pizza time. And when is it ever not pizza time?