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Racecourse Road Pizza Wars
1 December 2009
Racecourse Road has always been famous for great food, but over the last couple of years it has become the site for one of the biggest wars in Australian food - the pizza war.
Years ago, there were two extremes in pizza. You could either go with one of the American franchises such as Pizza Hut or Dominos for your fast food hit, or you could head to a restaurant such as Lido for a great wood fired pizza.
But now it's all different. A number of players have filled the gap in the gourmet takeaway pizza industry. Racecourse Road, as it happens, is where these newcomers go head to head.
So who are the contenders? First of all we have the two franchises, Pizza Capers and Crust. Proving that the big guys can't have it all their way, the independent Meltz has also entered the ring with their award winning pizzas.
Pizza Capers and Crust have set up their camps at the river end of Racecourse Rd, with Crust located next to the Commonwealth Bank and Crust a little further up near Milany. Meltz has distanced itself from the big boys, with a prime position at the top of Racecourse Rd, straight across from the Eagle Farm gates.
Pizza Capers is the most well established of this trio, with a number of stores throughout the city. The Racecourse Rd outlet isn't particularly large, but they seem to offer a good level of service to the numerous locals who frequent the store.
Having tried a number of their pizzas, including the Gulf of Mexico ($19.95) and the Teriyaki Chicken ($19.95), they are definitely a great pizza and provide good value for money. The calzone breads are a great accompaniment and well worth the extra few dollars.
Unless you're a frequent visitor to Racecourse Rd, or an avid reader of BRW magazine, you could be forgiven for not having heard of Crust before. They are a relative newcomer to the gourmet pizza market and currently have only one Brisbane site.
Perhaps the best way to describe the quality of Crust's pizzas is to recount a memorable experience at the store. I was dining with a friend who was at that point a Crust virgin. Having just spent the day at Eagle Farm for the AAMI Stradbroke we were both in need of some decent food that wasn't going to eat too far into our drinking time at the newly renovated Hamilton Hotel.
Upon finishing the Peri-Peri pizza ($20.00), my friend felt compelled to walk back into the store and tell the staff that it was the best pizza he had ever eaten. Enough said.
Meltz' position on Racecourse Rd is an interesting one. As far as exposure goes, its purple neon lighting is difficult to miss when travelling along Racecourse or Lancaster Rd. However, the position at the far end of Racecourse Rd means it is outside of the main restaurant hub further towards the river.
The store currently carries a large banner across the entrance boasting of its efforts in the recent 2009 Restaurant & Catering Qld awards where it was a state finalist in the best pizza restaurant category. With items such as this on its CV, you could be forgiven for thinking that Meltz would be the favourite to win the pizza war.
My first experience of Meltz involved a takeaway pizza. It wasn't bad, but wasn't great either. Having heard of their efforts in the recent Restaurant & Catering awards, I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt and invited some friends to come along and give Meltz another chance.
Like my first Meltz experience, their second effort was nothing to complain about, but nor was it anything to rave about. Unfortunately, when the food isn't great, one tends to start nitpicking about other minor issues. The wonky table, the amateurish menu, and most unfortunately, the average pizza.
These three establishments aren't the only ones providing great pizza to diners on Racecourse Rd, but they are the ones who hold themselves out to be specialist pizza bars. One could argue that Lido should have been included, but they are more of a restaurant than a pizza bar. In any case, my one and only experience at Lido was less than impressive, so the less said the better.
It is often said there are no winners in war, and with that being the case, it must be said that the pizza wars of Racecourse Rd are anything but. So whilst the term 'war' may be inappropriate in this case, there is certainly still much pride at stake in being crowned the best pizza bar in one of Brisbane's best dining strips.
Coming in third, Meltz has been awarded the bronze medal in this encounter, and at this stage is not able to complete with the other big two on taste or the overall customer experience. Their pizza is certainly better than the fast food pizza takeaway, but they'll need to do better to justify their finalist position in the Restaurant & Catering awards.
Both Pizza Capers and Crust both make a great pizza, have interesting menu options and both have done a great job with their branding and marketing. Pizza Capers is certainly the better known of the two, however Crust will no doubt become better known as it rolls out more sites in Brisbane.
Neither of the two is substantially better than the other, which means that it's the little things that separate the best from the rest. Slightly better branding, a larger and more professional looking store which allows customers to see their pizza being prepared, and a finished product which just tastes that little bit better.
The winner, by a relatively slim margin, is Crust. Don't throw your Pizza Capers menu out just yet though, they are a very worthy silver medallist and still worth a visit when you feel like a change from the sensational pizzas offered up by Crust.
Crust Gourmet Pizza Bar
Shop 2, 20 Racecourse Rd, Hamilton
Ph: 07 3268 7922
53 Racecourse Rd, Hamilton
Ph: 07 3630 0010
Meltz Gourmet Pizza Bar
Shop 1, 161 Racecourse Rd, Ascot
Ph: 07 3268 4777