Eating out review: The Akeman still setting the benchmark 12 years on with pizza to rival Naples

The Esposito 75
The Esposito 75

The Akeman is well known, not just in Tring, but surrounding counties too and now its name will receive national recognition.

Built on the ancient Roman road of Akeman Street in 1901 - which is rather appropriately home to Tring's Natural History Museum, The Akeman in Tring reopened its doors in 2007 as the founding bar-restaurant in the ever-growing empire that is Oakman Inns.

The Esposito 75

The Esposito 75

The popular venue is steeped in history. The Victorian building was designed by acclaimed local architect William Huckvale, and several original features have been retained.

Oakman and The Akeman in particular has made a name for itself among foodies.

And now it has another string to its now, pizzas that genuinely rival those from their heartland, Naples, Italy.

If you have never been to Naples and sampled the pizza there, add it to your bucket list.

The cheese that goes on the Esposito 75

The cheese that goes on the Esposito 75

I am lucky to have married into an Italian family whose roots are in old Napoli. And every time we go to Italy I find myself torn.

While I enjoy every slice of pizza I eat while there like no other, I know that, when I return home, the experience and quality of the pizzas effectively ruins my enjoyment of anything available here.

Until now that is.

Oakman is excited at the moment after becoming the first pub group to be named a finalist in the National Pizza Awards.

The ingredients come from the home of pizza, Naples

The ingredients come from the home of pizza, Naples

The pub-restaurant operator is being represented by Alex Balan, their pizza trainer for all their 24 sites across Herts, Bucks, Beds and beyond.

And he is armed with delicious authentic Neapolitan pizzas hand-made by trained pizzaioli in the high temperature wood-fired oven which acts as the warm, beating heart of The Akeman's lively on-display kitchen.

And I can vouch for Alex's work and that of The Akeman's head chef Joseph Cox who is expertly putting the methodology into practice.

So what's the secret? The Akeman uses traditional Italian ingredients from Naples for a start. They then slow prove the dough for a minimum of 48 hours which results in a crispy base and lighter risen blackened - and not burnt – cornicione (crust to you and I).

The dough

The dough

So already the effort and preparation that goes into each pizza is beyond anything available elsewhere - to the best of my knowledge at least.

And it is not just something dreamed up as a gimmick. Alex along with Ross Pike, the chef director, have developed their Esposito 75 pizza recipe over the last 18 months.

If you won't take my word for it, just check out the pictures. And yes they taste as good as they look.

Your only problem at The Akeman will be deciding between trying these award-winning pizzas or something else from their new autumn/winter menu.

The restaurant prepares seasonal dishes to order throughout the day using fresh, seasonal and sustainable ingredients. From charcoal-grilled meats, fish and vegetables cooked in the Josper Oven Grill plus a range of sharing dishes, pasta dishes, Sunday Roasts, and ‘build your own’ salads and very tasty desserts for all tastes and lifestyles (including gluten-free and some imaginative vegan and vegetarian options).

We visited on a Sunday and the roasts were simply out of this world too, giant Yorkshire puddings and a choice of pork, beef or chicken.

The Akeman's beating heart, its pizza oven

The Akeman's beating heart, its pizza oven

If you are an Akeman or Oakman regular, there are a few new additions for the autumn/winter menu including the starter spicy pork meatballs and mozzarella, new burgers including Beetroot Falafel Burger and Chicken Milanese Burger, Rigatoni Pollo Calabrese Al Forno - Calabria and Banoffee Sundae, Churros, and the Sundays only offering of Apple Sticky Rolls - the perfect dessert to complement a good old roast.

In terms of atmosphere, The Akeman was buzzing as always. But its popularity means it attracts a lot of people at the weekend and particularly for Sunday lunch so plan ahead if you do intend to give it a try.

As word spreads everyone is going to want a pizza the action at The Akeman.

Rating: 5/5

Alex Balan's award-winning creation

Alex Balan's award-winning creation

The Akeman restaurant

The Akeman restaurant

The Akeman is still setting the benchmark

The Akeman is still setting the benchmark

The Akeman kitchen

The Akeman kitchen