Sarah Cotterill suffers indigestion and intimidation at this super-fast pizza experience
Founded in Seattle in 2008, the MOD Pizza chain has spread throughout the US, and unfortunately two of the nine UK locations happen to be in Leeds. The Cardigan Fields retail complex, Kirkstall Road, and below the Pinnacle building, city centre. Going for the non car park option seemed sensible, but to describe our visit as an ordeal would be an understatement. I haven’t felt like such a virgin since the year nine disco. We were alone and vulnerable.
The process isn’t clear, in Nando’s it’s written on the walls, here you’re supposed to know
Even the decor is intimidating. None of the walls are the same. A mural of a massive woman’s face on brick to the right, grey concrete to the left, wood panelling on the side, industrial extractor pipes above. We choose a table away from the spotlights, after standing awkwardly at the door for about ten minutes whilst staff ignored us. It’s cool, we’re cool, it’s canteen style, sit where you like, look around a bit, try and find a menu, avoid the stares of the Deliveroo riders. Looming above us, a wall of pasted black and white photographs, all folded arms, tattoos and baseball caps, is this the MOD squad?
I flag a friendly waitress who talks us through the pizzas; there’s only a hint of laughter behind her help. “We’ve never Mod’ed before can you tell?”, we cry, stripping off layers, suddenly hit with a wave of cheesy heat. The concept is “simple”, choose a base, one of the ten pizzas they’ve created, add what you like, or build your own. Any MODification, same price. Now what?
We stumble to the bar; “What base do you want?” Wait, drinks? Starters? I want the hummus rip and share! The servers behind the conveyer belt start having their own conversation. We flounder. Eventually… “Are you building your own?” - “No…we’re customising?” It’s a half question and they’re confused, we’re confused. They scrawl in red felt tip on the brown paper lining our pizza trays, illegible to the next server in line, to whom we repeat everything. Suddenly faced with endless toppings, we go rogue…off piste. “Blue cheese?” - “Sure!”, “Butternut squash?” - “Why not?” By the time we get to the till, we’re alone again.
The process isn’t clear, in Nando’s it’s written on the walls, here you’re supposed to know. They’ve lost our order, two hummus starters and no wedges. I take a can of cider from the fridge. It’s happy hour but I’m not risking the wine, I’m already dehydrated. “Water?” She gives us a plastic cup, I’ve got no idea where the tap is. Another cup for our strawberry lemonade - one of the slushy refills from a lurid dispenser. At this rate the pizzas will be out the oven before we’ve even sat down. We watch them slide orders violently off a long paddle onto the crusty counter.
Rejoining our bags that have been unattended for about three months, we’re given one of those buzzy machines with a number on it. Do we go back up? Unsure. “Is it Sarah?”, the waitress asks. I don’t even know any more. My pizza is rocketless, even though the red pen clearly says rocket. My friend is more concerned about ink poisoning, as hers does a lap of the room with another member of staff. As we finally get everything we ordered, we ask what the number is for. It’s a table tracker. The GPS must be down. I also can’t find a fork anywhere.
The rip and share is more like rip and crack. The puffed up dough is overdone, but the hummus is actually the best thing on the table. Creamy with a really strong chickpea flavour. The wedges are golden skinned half moons, with a shiny sickly BBQ sauce. The strawberry lemonade is reminiscent of acid reflux. The Caesar salad is fishy with suspicious curls of asiago cheese like little pigs tails. You’ve chosen so many toppings out of stress that most of them haven’t cooked. Mine’s all raw mushrooms and burnt crust.
Clusters of semi deflated balloons hover above the detritus on the booth next to us. Ironically MOD does feel a bit like it’s your birthday. You can have as much as you want, so you’ve eaten everything, and end up vomiting into your mum’s cupped hands. We leave with headaches and heartburn, burping along to Blondie, which was blasting on repeat.
I’d take the year nine disco over this any day.
MOD Pizza, 11a, Cardigan Fields, Kirkstall Rd, Burley, LS4 2DG and Unit B, Pinnacle Building, 37 Bond St, Leeds LS1 5BQ
Follow Sarah on Twitter @scottnodot
All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship. Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you're passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.
Hummus rip n’ share 6, wedges 5, pizzas 4, Caesar salad 5
Staff don’t seem to care
Everyone in here appears to be under the age of 20