Photos by Conal Thomas

Brixton is to blame for David Holmes’ new spot down Coke Lane in Smithfield.

For the past few weeks – on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays – he’s set up shop at the back of Frank Ryan’s pub on Queen Street with mozzarella, passata, and dough.

The idea came from London. “I went to this place called Franco Manca. I used to live five minutes from there,” says Holmes. “I kinda got a bit obsessed with it and wanted to make it myself.”

What started with rooftop trial and error has evolved into fast, fresh pizzas out of Holmes’ wood-fired oven.

Brains and Brawn

Sandwiched between two walls in a small alcove attached to Frank Ryan’s, Coke Lane pizza is served from a large, blue gazebo.

The pub’s smoking area, spilling onto the residential lane, has played host to Holmes since his first night here three weeks ago.

“I like Frank Ryan’s so I saw this spot and thought I’d ask yer man,” he says. “First time I asked he just said, ‘Yeah, no bother, go ahead.’”

“Yer man” is Tadhg, the pub’s owner, who wanders about this Friday evening past customers. Nearby, Holmes gets to work.

Spread out on a table are Tupperware boxes filled with fresh meat and vegetables for the night ahead. In the corner, a small oven is propped up on palettes, ideal for Holmes’ flash-fire pizzas.

“I actually bought that online, had it on my rooftop, few palettes, making pizzas, trying to recreate what I’d had before in London,” he says. “But, in Ireland, you need a dry day.”

You need kiln-dried hardwood too, Holmes tell me, and the oven has to be over 400 degrees Celsius.

Maintaining that heat isn’t easy in Coke Lane, which is sometimes a wind tunnel. But Holmes’ friend Brian Madigan is up to the challenge.

He’s been helping Holmes out since he started. “But I’m the brains of the operation,” laughs Holmes. “And the looks.”

Madigan, briefly crestfallen, laughs. “I got nothin’!”

He rapidly opens the oven’s door, spinning a nearly done pizza around. Their menu is simple: seven pizzas, all made from scratch. The titles catch my eye.

“They’re all loosely based around cocaine,” Holmes laughs, nervously.


Holmes designed the menu himself and decided he’d have a bit of craic.

“Italians will have a marinara and a margherita, but, to be honest, gone are the days where you’d just have a Hawaiian or a boring pepperoni pizza,” he says.

Instead, the menu includes the Scarface, with spicy salami, fresh chilies, and homemade chili-infused honey. Or there is the Drexl, made with roasted red pepper, courgette, fresh garlic, and a creamy cashew ricotta.

Four of the seven pizzas are vegetarian or vegan. But “there’s plenty of options for meat eaters and they’re never complaining”, says Holmes. “So let people have the options!”

Between cold pints and cigarettes, one customer out back, standing with pizza in hand, gets to work on the Mrs Mia Wallace, heaped with fresh rocket.

“My favourite would be the Gonzo,” says Madigan, when I ask. “But I tend to throw some of the spicy salami on top of it and a bit of chili-infused honey that Dave made.”

The Coke Lane pizzas cost between €7 and €10.

Over the coming weeks and months, Holmes hopes to roll out a delivery service for all those living nearby. Some have already taken notice and welcomed the new neighbours.

“There’s a couple of Spanish people living there,” says Madigan, pointing to a small two-up, two-down across Coke Lane. “We’ve become really friendly with them since we’ve been here. They brought us over a birthday cake the other day.”

Cónal Thomas is a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *