The pizza chain has added more Marmite to its menu in the U.K.
I don’t like Marmite. As an American, living in a land which has tacitly rejected the yeasty spread, this was never much of an issue. But a few years ago, when I moved to England with my wife — who is English and who likes Marmite — suddenly the tables were turned. No, I’m not constantly offered Marmite as I walk down the street, but much like netball and Robbie Williams, I now have to openly accept that these things exist.
To wit, today, Papa John’s in the United Kingdom has added Marmite-stuffed crust pizza to its menu. And it’s not just a specific specialty pizza: Instead, for an additional $3 or so, you can order any pizza on Papa John’s menu with a ring of Marmite and cheese stuffed into the crust. The offer is available at all 400 locations of the chain in the U.K. until May 20. The new promotion reportedly follows on the success of the release in January of Marmite and cheese scrolls — kind of like yeasty, cheesy, garlic knots.
And so, because I live here in England — and because I can anonymously order online — I got a Marmite-stuffed crust cheese pizza for lunch today to see what I thought of it… as an American, of course. The verdict: I didn’t love it — but the reason why surprised me.
Overall, like most major pizza chains, I am ambivalent about the taste of Papa John’s. I know what it tastes like, and that’s the baseline we’ll work from. So what about the Marmite? Well, the problem is that Marmite is only in the stuffed crust. The reason crusts got stuffed to begin with is likely that they tend to be the boring part you don’t care about. So in the end, the bulk of the pizza — a.k.a. all of the pizza besides the crust — just tasted like a normal Papa John’s pizza. As a result, when we judge the Marmite stuffed crust, we’re literally just judging the stuffed crust — and in that regard, there wasn’t enough Marmite in it.
The crust is thick and bready. The cheese is dense but mild. I definitely wouldn’t want Marmite oozing out of the sides, but at least the way my local Papa John’s prepared it, a very thin layer of Marmite wasn’t enough to really pop. When it did sneak through, I actually really enjoyed it: The salty, umami, even slightly burn notes worked well with the cheesy pizza crust, adding some zing to its heft. So in the end, I think a touch more Marmite — without overdoing it — would have made things that much more exciting.
Proving my point, I also ordered the Marmite and cheese scrolls. (I’m a masochist apparently.) These bready knots were much more Marmite forward, and I found myself digging them. Not that pizza dough and mozzarella cheese aren’t enjoyable in a fattening sort of way, but when you add the aggressive attack of Marmite, you suddenly realize how flat the flavors are — especially with a brand like Papa John’s that isn't in the business of offering sourdough crust or buffalo mozzarella. In this regard, Marmite served as a bit of a beneficial attention grabber, reminding me how pedestrian a ball of chain pizza dough really is.
Overall, this certainly wasn’t a “Green Eggs and Ham moment.” I still would not, could not, eat Marmite on a boat or with a goat. But would I try a Marmite pizza again? Yeah, I would. Whether it'd be from Papa John's is another question.