Great Leap didn’t break the mould with the décor at its newest branch. It didn’t need to. Apart from a laser-cut steel map of the capital that greets you from a side wall, Great Leap #45 bears an uncanny resemblance to the Chunxiu Lu branch. The exposed brick, rustic hardwood benches and hand-blown light bulbs all made the journey but, thankfully, conformity ends there.
It’s the menu at Great Leap #45 that ventures into unchartered territory. The principle at Great Leap has always been to do one thing and do it well. What #45 does is pizza – and damn near perfectly. Where pizza and beer in Beijing once meant Yanjing and a triangle of spongy toast coated with ketchup and ‘dairy product’, a beacon of gloriously browned crusts, robust sauce and frosty pints of some of Beijing’s best craft beer has emerged.
GLB has gone the distance to get the pizza right. After consulting with a bona fde expert from the east coast of the US, the pizza style is decidedly American, hovering between New York’s mammoth, foldable slices and the smaller, thicker cousins of Philadelphia.
Pizzas are divided into red (tomato-based) and white (garlic oil-based). Our favourite red, the Little Nunzio (120RMB for 16”), is topped with homemade sausage, banana peppers (think long, pickled bell peppers), red pepper flakes and fresh basil. The sauce is simple, with mild hints of garlic, herbs and more fresh basil that complement the sour banana peppers and the fennel of the sausage. We could have used larger chunks of sausage that retained their oily goodness better, but the flavour is spot on.
For white, we like the Green Machine (110RMB for 16”), topped with courgette, black pepper ricotta, roasted garlic, red peppers and kale. We aren’t usually found in the veggie pizza camp, but this one gets it right. The thinly sliced greens roast in the oven, rendering nutty goodness, rather than steaming the crust into a soggy mess. The garlic oil is loud at first, but soft buttery notes move in as you make it through the slice.
Other familiar GLB snacks like fried buffalo chicken wings (eight for 55RMB) and beer-battered onion rings (30RMB) are joined by some new dishes. The golden luscious morsels of the beer-battered fried chicken (35RMB) arrive with a hot mayo that we could put on just about everything. Sandwiches also vie for menu space, even garnering our attention for a moment or two. The belly pork sandwich, with five-spice braised pork and tangy coleslaw (45RMB) is an interesting take on a classic, but the main event is the pizzas, and for good reason. No news is good news on the beer front: expect the same top brews at decent prices (35-55RMB).
Maybe it’s the laid-back residential setting, or the communal virtue instilled through sharing a pizza with friends, but with an ease that belies its youth, Great Leap #45 manages to inspire confidence and joy, one slice at a time.
Time Out Live Review
Now you know what we think, see what Beijingers have to say. Time Out held a Happy Hour event at Great Leap #45 Brewpub and asked our readers to give us a 'live review' of the place. Watch the video below.