A Slice of Life: Student Food and Drink

We offer up some foodie advice, but keep it simple by sticking to the dual student lifeforces: pizza, and beer.

Feature by Peter Simpson | 09 Sep 2016

For most students, their university lives will be the first time they have any real control over (or responsibility for) their diet. Oh sure, we’ve all thrown a strop and gone in a bit of a huff over what’s been served up for dinner, but that’s a hard trick to pull when you made the dinner yourself. Not impossible, but hard to do. This lack of experience, juggled alongside the fellow joys of budgeting and time management, leads to the understandable temptation to cut corners, and opt for easy solutions that seem like a good idea at the time but just end up as culinary disasters. Well, we won’t stand for it. You’re a smart bunch, and you can do better. No we are not taking this too seriously, thank you very much.

The fact of the matter is your new city is packed with great indie food and drink, and a lot of the time it isn’t that expensive, or even that pretentious, so you just should go and eat and drink it all. We don’t have space to talk about literally everything, and we’re sure you’ll get the point after we’ve given a couple of examples. Allow us to go all ‘cooler older brother’ on you, and focus on two student staples: pizza, and beer.

Pizza: Making (and eating) it

Really, you lot should be making your own pizza. It doesn’t require a lot of ingredients, it’s quite cheap, and it’s one of those culinary skills that looks dead impressive once you get the hang of it. Do look up some web tutorials on getting your dough right and for the best way to cook your pizza (here’s a hint: you’ll need a good frying pan). Don’t try to do that ‘spinning it above your head’ thing unless you want to spend the next few days picking chunks of damp flour from behind the sofa.

If you really can’t bring yourself to making the stuff, but still want to wolf down a slice or two, you’re probably thinking of hitting up one of those pizza chains that spend loads of cash on marketing and getting a guy to bring you pizza. There are probably a few of their menus sitting on your table just now, tempting you with their bright colours and shit puns.

Well, don’t be suckered in. For one thing, look at the prices; you are supposed to be a student, not the scion of some cash-rich dynasty trying to burn the inheritance by overpaying for bad pizza. Once you get out of the ‘buy one get one free’ and ‘£1 pizza with about a million asterisks’ deals, you’ll find that charging high double digits for what is basically flour, water, cheese and tomato is how they make up for all that advertising.

But there’s a better reason than our vague anti-The Man sentiment, and that’s that you’re in a big city, packed with great pizza. Go out and see that city, and grab pizza along the way; you’ll get out of the house, have a better slice, and you might even learn something. Probably not, but still, could happen.

Glasgow and Edinburgh's best pizza

If you’re in Edinburgh, Civerinos at Hunter Square just off the Royal Mile and Wildmanwood behind Bristo Square are good places to start. Civerinos serves up enormous sourdough pies topped with exciting and well-planned toppings, in a cool space packed with little quirks to gawp at while you wait. They’re open late at weekends, and they’re planning a second by-the-slice spot if you’re in a rush – watch this space.

Wildmanwood take things the other way, with authentic Neapolitan flavour combinations on super-thin crusts; you’ll learn to love anchovies, and a pizza and a few beers still won’t cost as much as a hotdog-stuffed monstrosity from Chain Pizza Place du Jour.

Over in Glasgow, Paesano by the Modern Art Gallery currently rules the roost when it comes to pizza. Their hybrid yeast and sourdough dough takes days to prepare, and their wood fired ovens were built by genuine Neapolitans, but they’ll still do you a pizza and a beer for a tenner. Ten pounds, people. Ten!

Out in the West End, Little Italy has been dishing out pizza for as long as most of you freshers have been alive, so the least you could do is pay them a visit. You’ll find the kind of customisation you expect from your fancy ‘order via smartphone, deliver via drone strike’ pizza chain, but with lower prices, nicer ingredients, and the warm glow of knowing that the good people at The Skinny think you’re cool.

Great pizza in Liverpool and Manchester

Across the North, there are an embarrassing number of options for pizza-lovers. Manchester residents could join the crowds at Rudy’s in Ancoats for super-authentic and incredibly reasonable Neapolitan-style pizza, or head to Slice in the Northern Quarter for a by-the-piece offering from a pair of Rome-trained pizziolas. If you really like your pizza, or just want a good excuse to bunk off from that tutorial, head up to Altrincham's Market House for incredible wood-fired pizza courtesy of Honest Crust.

Liverpudlians could do far worse than heading to Maguire's, the venerable pizza bar and DIY gig venue. The gigs in the back are varied and exciting; the pizza out front is friendly to both veggies and vegans, as well as tasting boss. Tribeca’s two spots on Smithdown Road and Berry Street are reliable options at either end of town, and Nightcrawler’s NY-style slice bar is drumming up decent attention on the former site of MelloMello. If you’re the multi-tasking type, American Pizza Slice can throw out pizza to suit every occasion across their three locations. They’ve got great on-the-go, sit-in and takeaway options all ready and waiting for whenever the pizza rush hits.

[Magic Rock Brewing: purveyors of good beer (other good beers are available)]

Why You Should Drink Good Beer

There haven’t been many better times to enter the world of drinking than right now. The smoking ban allows you to nip to the pub without having to burn your wardrobe or honk on a can of oxygen afterwards, and the craft beer boom means you can get very nice beer basically everywhere for not all that much money. It’s almost certainly all downhill from here – best get to the bar before we move onto artisanal alcopops or redo that trend of all of our drink garnishes being on fire.

With that in mind, here are two very important words to remember when it comes to beer – false economy. Yes, you could go down to the shop and grab a four-pack of cheap, big-name lager, and it’ll cost you X. However, that beer may well look, smell and taste like piss, and no-one wants that. Spend a little bit more – and we’re talking tens of pence per drink here – and you can get yourself some local craft beers that don’t remind you of urine, but are instead packed with flavour and intrigue.

If you think you don’t have the money for good beer, you do; you’re just being a cheap bastard. If 20p is going to be the difference between paying your rent or not, maybe don’t go to the pub in the first place. That’s a 'life hack' for you.

So don’t drink bad beer, and don’t go to crap pubs either. We know that we just said “oh you’ve never had it so good”, but the pub trade is having a bad time right now with premises shutting left and right. It turns out all those smoking old men from earlier were drinking the entire time. Without customers, pubs can’t stay open, so go to them.

And if those two nuggets of solid advice weren’t enough, here’s another: if you don’t know what you want, ask the bar staff for their suggestions. If they can’t provide any, you’re probably in one of those crap pubs from the previous paragraph. Good bars employ people who like and know about beer, and they’ll steer you right, especially once you have a couple of favourites you can use as reference points. That said, they aren’t bloody psychic, so talk to them.

Buying (and making beer) in Edinburgh & Glasgow

But you’re students, and chances are you’ll spend a good amount of your drinking time in your kitchen as an accidental party rages around you. Fair play to you, we’ve all done it. The good news is that recently-inked distro deals mean you can grab beers from a host of Scotland’s best craft breweries in supermarkets across the country – beers from Williams, Stewart, WEST and Jaw Brew are common sights, with hyper-local efforts like Barney’s and Alechemy also fairly widely available. An even bigger selection can be found in speciality beer shops like Valhalla’s Goat or Hippo in Glasgow and Cornelius or Great Grog in Edinburgh; staffed by people who know what they’re talking about, they’re great places to track down more obscure or exciting beers.

And if you decide to quit on your chosen society within a few weeks but still want something to do, why not make your own beer? Shops like Brewstore in Edinburgh and Glenbrew in the west end of Glasgow sell everything you need to make your own beer from kit or scratch, while Stewart Brewing just outside Edinburgh will let you come in and make your own beer in the brewery. We made one, and it was bloody lovely, so who knows what you lovely clever-clogs can achieve? Only one way to find out...

Beer festivals and bottle shops in the North

One great place to talk beer, and try loads of great local stuff in one hazy evening, is a beer festival, and the North has a couple of absolute crackers on its calendar. Manchester's Indy Man Beer Con in October brings together dozens of independent breweries under one big roof at Victoria Baths, alongside a host of great indie street food vendors and foodie types from across the region. Over in Leeds, similar fun can be found at the Brew-denell Beer and Ale Festival in January. You'll never guess where it is, unless you do the most basic amount of research. Alright, it's at the Brudenell.

If you're looking for a tasty beer to enjoy at home, the North's indie bottleshops can help you find your new favourite beer in no time at all. Leeds' Tall Boys Beer Market is packed with great indie beers from across the region and beyond, while it's a similar story at Beermoth's shop in Manchester's Northern Quarter. Over in Liverpool, Ship in a Bottle in Whitechapel features over 400 beers from all over the world at any one time. 400. If you can't find one you love, you might just not like beer at all. Nah, that can't be it – guess you'd better keep looking.