Neapolitan wood-fired pizza served in a floating cafe on the Cheshire Canal

The Macclesfield Canal stretches 27 miles through East Cheshire, beginning at a junction with the Peak Forest Canal at Marple. Besides being a favorite spot for walkers, joggers, cyclists and boaters, the canal has also become a stop for pizza lovers.

A narrowboat called The Waltzing Matilda floats the Cheshire Canal, making weekend pit stops to serve Neapolitan wood-fired pizzas and artisan baked goods. Since opening last spring, the cafe has visited towns and villages in the region, such as Poynton, Bollington and Lyme view.

It recently reopened for the warmer seasons after a break during the winter, and now the traveling takeaways attract masses of customers every weekend. It’s only open on Saturdays and Sundays because the founders, father-son duo Paul and Chris Edwards, also have full-time jobs.

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Every week, the regulars patiently wait for the duo to share the coordinates of the boat on the weekend, MEN reports. For Paul, who has lived on a riverboat for over five years now, and Chris, a professional chef, the idea – like most greats – was born out of infusion.

Chris, who is also a chef at Tom Kerridge’s Bull & Bear restaurant in Manchester, said: ‘To be honest, it all started during lockdown when I was on furlough. I’m not really the type of person to sit around doing nothing. We had been toying with the idea for a while, and we were just sitting on his boat, discussing ideas and we decided on pizza.

Named after his niece Matilda, who was instead born on a narrowboat around the time the concept was coming to fruition, the business is well and truly a family affair. “We went on vacations on a riverboat when I was a kid, and I think my dad always loved the idea of ​​being on a boat,” Chris explains.

“It moves around, it’s what you call a continental cruiser, so every two weeks it changes location. It chooses the quietest and most idyllic places whereas with the Matilda we always try to find lively and lively places.

Offering a modern take on classic Neapolitan pizzas – the detail is really in the dough – the Italian delicacy is baked in a bespoke pizza oven located at one end of the boat. Taking inspiration from the pizzerias of Naples, the oven base has been crafted with high quality Biscotto stone, which helps to slowly dissipate oven heat and prevents the pizza base from burning.

Chef Chris Edwards serves up freshly made pizzas at Waltzing Matilda Canal Boat Pizzeria in Macclesfield.

“In my last job we had a pizza oven and I started learning a bit about dough and I thought I was good at it, but then I went and trained by a guy called Marco Fuso, he’s like the godfather of modern pizza,” says Chris. “I learned some really cool techniques.

“A classic Neapolitan pizza is a straight dough and you make it the same day. This must be done according to very strict standards.

“But we pre-ferment our dough, so I make something called a biga and pre-ferment that the day before. The next day I finish it and it adds a tangy flavor, but it also makes the dough much softer.

Served through a hatch on the side of the boat, Chris likes to keep the trimmings simple. First there’s the Margherita, Marinara and Pepperoni, which is then accompanied by The Swagman – made with spicy chorizo, ‘nduja, fresh chili and topped with hot honey and candied jalapeno – and the Prosciutto Crudo E Rucola, which is presented with prosciutto, fresh chilli, Grana Padano cheese, fresh arugula and chilli oil.

As you might expect, delivering freshly baked pizza on a riverboat takes a lot of groundwork, and Chris and Paul have put in many hours to make it possible. “The week never ends because every night we pick up supplies,” says Chris.

“I finish the job on Friday and get on the boat and start pre-fermenting the dough. Then I arrive at six o’clock on Saturday morning and start making the dough.

“Currently, I have to make three batches of dough because my mixer is not big enough. After the treatments are done, we then mix it with the rest of the ingredients, boil it, and then it has to rise for eight hours, so once I’ve done all of that, I start my preparation of toppings, dips, and tomato sauce.

“It’s a long day and I feel sorry for my dad because he doesn’t come from the kitchen like me. He works long days as well as a bus inspector, but he learns and tries to work with the dough, so he puts in a lot of effort.

Queues are forming for the Waltzing Matilda's freshly baked pizzas.
Queues are forming for the Waltzing Matilda’s freshly baked pizzas.

Chris’ homemade dips include candied garlic mayo, ‘nduja mayo and pesto mayo, and every week he creates a few unique pizzas to keep regulars on their toes. Specials this week include Pumpkin and Sausage with Wild Broccoli, Fennel Sausage, Red Chili Jam and Candied Garlic Oil, and Beef n’ Blue created with San Marzano Tomato and mozzarella fior di latte, as well as spiced beef and blue cheese.

While pizza orders must be placed in advance, freshly roasted coffee, artisan pastries and deluxe hot chocolates are available from the boat’s hatch on both days. Under the pseudonym ‘Boaty Bakes’, Chris’s sister Rebecca bakes around 80% of the pastries, while the rest is supplied by local bakeries including Silver Apples Bakery in Stockport and DGHNT, based in Manchester’s Northern Quarter .

The layout of the barge meant that their initial plans to accommodate a small number of guests inside were not realized, but that did not deter visitors, and most places where it moors have an area to sit on the towpath. “It’s been absolutely mental and the number of people who have wanted to come down is way beyond what we could have imagined, so even if we had planned to have four or five tables on the boat, it would just have been too much. exclusive and too crowded would be missed.Secondly, I needed a lot more space for the kitchen than I thought.

Paul Edwards serves up a chocolate brownie and luxurious hot chocolate from the pizzeria on the riverboat Waltzing Matilda.
Paul Edwards serves up a chocolate brownie and luxurious hot chocolate from the pizzeria on the riverboat Waltzing Matilda.

Although it’s difficult to balance full-time work with the demands of running their own business, Chris and Paul have made it feel like easy sailing, and The Waltzing Matilda’s continued success is testament to that. hard work and dedication of the couple. “I love it, I’m so proud of it, of what it’s become and where we’re going,” says Chris, who mentions in passing that they might be considering a double-decker bus for their next foodie adventure.

“I didn’t really expect it, I thought it would just be a small thing, but it becomes a whole entity in places like Marple. We’ve never had a bad review because people understand that what we do is a bit unique.”

To learn more about The Waltzing Matilda and its next destination, visit the website here.

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