I would like to tell you how my husband’s beer battered haddock was..

A Review of the Vanbrugh Pub, SE10

We were crowded out of Greenwich on Saturday lunch. We should have spotted the inevitability of this, when we couldn’t even park before getting to the eating stage. We popped our head around the door of so many places that I have yet to review: Heap’s sausages, the replacement to the Spread Eagle that has strange coloured cakes, and all they could offer was outside seating. It was about 2 degrees outdoors, so eventually we got back in the car and went to the Vanbrugh. Nestled in its own personal hill (that’ll be Vanbrugh Hill), the Vanbrugh’s pastel colours have caught our eye a few times.

Amongst the Vanbrugh’s recent improvements are a light and airy extension at the back with a visible kitchen that promises good things, or at least an absence of things that you wouldn’t be prepared to do to people’s food when they are watching… like defrost it for example. Next to the kitchen is a blackboard of events, I peered through to take a look…. all of the events were football matches to be shown on the TV, which was a bit disappointing. We sat in the extension. There were after all sofas, and sofas are good for Saturday afternoons and we drank Meantime beers  although with one of us being a driver we pondered the necessity of Meantime to produce a non-alcoholic version.. so long as they are not chicken..

I would like to tell you how my husband’s beer battered haddock was, but post chips calamari, and a burger where I didn’t even try to eat both sides of the bun, really there was no room to sample it. Here’s the evidence that the visible kitchen may be more than a party trick: the tartar sauce appeared to be truly homemade… the sample on the plate of haddock differed from that on the whitebait. There was very little fat on whitebait (with the recent chubby whitebait in Papa Charlie, I’m figuring whitebait has upped its game. Can’t they do this to calamari?) but chips were mega battered. Fair enough to the chips, they were called triple cooked and they were delicious, so I don’t find this as offensive as the lightly battered cod cheeks served down the road in the Cutty Sark.

Lunch at the Vanbrugh

Triple Cooked Chips and Burger

I shan’t be reviewing this honest fare type food again soon. There’s a heart to maintain, so make the most of it now. Dessert was a little disappointing. My pink lady crumple was only dusted with crumble.  I wonder if this was the chef’s conscience coming to the fore having served the earlier fatty dishes. The custard still tasted good with welcome flecks of vanilla, but it was more of a drink than a sauce. This makes me think of making a custard drink for the fireside to supplement, err… I mean alternate with hot chocolate and Bailey’s.

From traditional crumble the second dessert of salted caramel and chocolate brandy terrine with dulce de leche ice cream was more wannabe gourmet. And I say wannabe, not because it was bad, but because it did not actually arrive with dulce de leche ice cream. Now this is more forgivable in a pub than in Chapter’s where I have had a similar experience, so we did not complain, but I wish more places would pay attention to this detail, having promised much. That said, the salted caramel and chocolate brandy terrine was good enough in its own right.

 

As we laid back in the sofa, allowing as much space for our stomachs as possible, my husband’s phone buzzed to tell him that his hard won car parking space in Greenwich village was time up. A waste of the Greenwich cost of parking.       

I don’t care if it makes me fat this week, I HAVE A COLD.

A Review of The Viceroy in Chalrton SE7

Have you ever had one of those streaming cold write off days, when even if you were at home it was a waste of a day because all you can do is lie  in bed and resent your immune system? Yep? And that feeling that only a curry appeals as you believe only this has the power to blast through the veil around your sense that doesn’t let anything else in (the other exception being whisky and brandy which are vastly preferable to strepsils). So why did we visit the Viceroy in pleasant Charlton on an Tuesday evening? BECAUSE I HAD A  COLD. (Still do actually. Sympathy welcome).

 

This also means that midweek calorie concerns are off the table. I don’t care if it makes me fat this week, I HAVE A COLD. Did I mention? So no caution was to be exercised over the ordering of popadoms. Has the hotness of lime pickle been diminished? I have noticed this at quite a few places lately. When I first tried this exotic delicacy as  a student Exeter I was physically punched in the mouth. Who changed? Me or the pickle? Will I get to keep the mango chutney when the assets are divided, or will even the chutney mean nothing to me in the absence of pickle?  I feel sadness. Maybe even regret.
I enjoyed the mango lassi, but was it actually a desert drink. The waiter seemed to think so too, as he looked confused at my choice to have it over popadoms. It was a good combo tho, the fatty crisp popadom and the sweet yogurt drink. Almost forgot I was lactose intolerant, but I didn’t seem to suffer too much for it.
Service was a little bit ‘in your own time…’ which was a bit odd as we were the only people there for the first half hour so it can’t have been busy-ness that held them back.
The Rogan Josh was pleasant, brimming with wedges of fresh tomato, but we think they left the chilli out, not to mention the ginger. It didn’t quite burn off our colds. The prawn dhansak added some needed kick to make up for it.
dishes of curry

Rogan Josh and Sag Aloo

I am not a fan of peshwari naan. I usually like sweet and savoury combos but not this one. Too stodgy maybe? But my husband is always letting me choose plain and my husband was being very nice to me despite the fact he also had a cold, so it was really his turn to choose the naan. Sharing it was actually a challenge. I tried to rip it which felt more authentic. It resisted me as if I was ripping a frisbee. I decided to throw ‘authentic’ to the well people and took a knife to the naan. It didn’t help. When we eventually hacked through the bread, I discovered I have not changed my mind about disliking peshwari naan and let husband finish it himself.
 
I never come away from The Viceroy feeling cheated. In fact given the insignificance of the bill I come away feeling flush. But I don’ t come away feeling as if I have had the most magnificent meal either. Just pretty well contented.

I wish had gone straight for the petit fours..

A review of Boisdale’s at Canary Wharf.

http://www.boisdale.co.uk

 

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The menu at Boisdale’s said that the haggis in its starter form would be a mini haggis. It was not. My starter was an enormous portion of magnificent haggis (with neeps and tatties) wafting calories into the air. There’s nothing like haggis to exude energy. If it hadn’t been that you have to put the energy into it in the dirt place, by feeding a sheep for some years and then boiling it’s innards for a further year, I’d suggest it as an alternative to nuclear power. It’s like a red hot coal fire in a plate. The traditionally served dish hit the mark- a little more fulsomely than intended. Even better was the accompanying 15year Glenfiddich. I really hadn’t expected the ‘accompaniment whiskey’ to be so complicated with such strong smokiness and honey notes. We were far from alone in choosing this dish, many Haggai came through the door in the course of the evening in the hands of the waitresses with short tartan skirts.

Fortunately the pie that was delivered by the rather stereotypically Scottish man (can this have featured. in the recruitment ad? ) arrived later was no bigger. This was wiLd veniSon, cLaret & BLack waLnut pie. I was a bit disappointed not to find any walnuts, but alongside the flavours of the accompanying braised red cabbage, pickled wild damsons, cinnamon this made a great balance of savoury and sweet.

At this point the band took a break. Oh yes, I should have mentioned the live band. Because actually if you eat in the Boisdale’s restaurant, you have to pay for a ticket to the band too. And we had paid for good seats. On a Tuesday night this turned out to mean that we were right under then noses of the band, and there were no other customers to be seen within about 50m of us.

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Which sounds great if you like live music, even better if you know and love the TJ Johnson Band which has a very good rep. The fact was, it was really embarrassing. I winced every time that they caught my eye as I stuffed food in my mouth. I felt that my propensity to eat rather quickly was under scrutiny. And even worse. They didn’t clap when I finished a course.

No hang on, that’s the wrong way around. Even thought they watched us intently, we were supposed to clap them. But it felt kind of artificial when no one else was around and we just sort of cringed when we should have clapped.

They were so comfortable on the stage that we kind of assumed that they would take this in their stride, but actually after a whole, they took longer and longer breaks, and at the end of one song, one stood up, put his hand to his eyes and peered around as if to say ‘is there anyone out there?’
We aren’t corporate customers who didn’t come for the music, bemoaned my husband. We paid for this table… Perhaps we should have said, ‘get that man more of what he’s drinking’ but do people say that in real life? 

The dessert worried me as it landed in front of me. The visual proportions were wrong for a dish that was well thought through.

The description of lemon and bourbon with cranachan promied richness and tartness whipped up together. Well, there was creaminess, to be fair the cranachan was delicious, and there was one tart raspberry. But ultimately there was no real kick for what should have been dramatic combinations. A waste of calories.

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I wish had gone straight for the petit fours, which came in portions of eight (way forwards…) and were made up of some particularly nice mini citrus tarts and jellies.

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And then the whiskey menu. All 50 odd pages of it. Fortunately I had forwarded this list to my husband as date night pre-reading a couple of days earlier. (Who says marriage spoils the romance?) and he had got his head around the scotch pages. I personally had contemplated the Japanese whiskeys but it felt like a cop out in a Scottish restaurant. We chose Ballechin Oloroso Sherry Cask Matured. Now would we have really known if they had swapped the content… We….ell, they were as described in the menu, and my husband recognised the flavour of mine from a visit to the distillery.

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As we Politely left our seats at the end of the night, the band acknowledged us sadly. Dear TJ Johnson band if you are reading this, I am so sorry. I applaud you inside.

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The genius of the mosaic cake was the invisible chocolate chunks

A Review of Hazev, South Quay

Hazev ain’t so far away, guys, over in South Quay on the way to Canary Wharf. And you should go to Canary Wharf every now and then, on the DLR and stuff. In fact we ended up here when we spotted that our meal in Greenwich would be providing insufficient calorie-to-food-satisfaction when it came to dessert, leaving us to fill the cake shaped hole that the starter and main course had built for us.

We have been to Havez before – the restaurant bit, and the food was delicious, served in enormous portions and full of textures and flavours by hospitable waiters amongst opulent decor. And we had peeked at the deli next door, which seemed to be full of cakes with similar benefits.

To be blunt, the deli was full of savoury dishes that made us wish we had not already eaten in Greenwich and unusual non-alcoholic sweet drinks that kicked the virgin bellini from Papa Charlie to the ground. We had tea to accompany our cake though. There were a lot of cakes to choose from and many of them newbies in my cake eating experience, hence it was a tough choice that cake decision. Ultimately we homed in on
Hazev pie.

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This was made of cinnamon, apple and whole almonds that kept their crunch. All of this was case in a soft cakey pastry and while I love buttery shortcrust pastries, cakey pastry does have its place and Hazev pie is definitely one of those places. The second choice was mosaic cake.

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I can’t tell you what made me choose this , because the look of it was unfortunately close to refigertator cake or rocky road, both of which take fundamentally awesome ingredients and ruin them. But I shouldn’t have worried about the mosaic cake. The genius of the mosaic cake was the invisible chocolate chunks that made the texture of the cake spot on.

We’ll be back just for drinks some time.

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How to have your cake and blog about it

A coffee shop blogger’s strategy for staying slim.

If I stopped buying cake, readers of my coffee shop blog would stop reading, right..? But I need to keep things under control. I like my clothes. I have spent money on them. I don’t want to outgrow them. This could prove expensive, if not to say wasteful.

So after years of trying to get the balance right, here’s how to have your cake and eat it (and blog about it if that’s your kind of thing.)

Top Tip Number One: Stick to Budget
Surely the key to happy and healthy eating and exercise is to know when to let go and enjoy yourself and when to reign it in. A diet is like a budget, no? Sometimes you spend a lot and you make it up by spending a little.

I always think before I bite. Is it worth the calories? If you’d look for value when spending money, why not with calories? You’ve heard of buying clothes as investment pieces, well before you bite into that cake think, is this a quality item that will last me a lifetime? Am I asking a bit too much of my cake? Well let’s tailor that down a little… will the experience cheer you for the day, well ok, until the next meal. Many cakes fail this test. Many of those failures are supermarket ‘best,finest,wowest’ brands.

Vegetable soup and breakfast also help with this budget idea. The ultimate fill you up without too much calorific intake is vegetable soup made with just vegetables and stock. No, no, please come back…, this is worth reading, I’m not just talking about boiled veg… I have always had an eye to adapting soup recipes to these pared down ingredients (plus pared down and lazy prep) and some are downright delicious. So try: parsnip and ginger, roast tomatoes and basil, courgette and mint. Depending how complicated you want to get, you’ll find there are some funky combinations out there that you will actually look forward to. And don’t forget to have one, yes just one slice of your favourite bread and butter on the side.

And breakfast? Breakfast is actually my top meal of the day because it could be anything. Sweet savoury, ideally made up of several courses and both sweet and savoury – an option that is brilliantly experimented with at Giraffe. Sorry, lost focus on the subject at hand for a second. Sadly most sweet breakfasts are kind of out, at least for 6 days of the week because the sugar doesn’t fill you for the day ahead. On the other hand, making breakfast an event and having something a bit different every day is a great way of looking forward to the morning’s eating. Key to this is lots of vegetables. For example, poached egg, roasted peppers, fried onions, and a little bit of bread. Alternatively it is fun to experiment with different grains: Buckwheat, millet and oats all make for interesting hot pots or unusual pancakes. Don’t add honey, but go mega with the soft fruit.

And as with any budget write it all down. This has a bizarre psychological effect on me. When you see in black and white what you have spent, you really do know if you can afford that treat or not. The internet is awash with people telling you that ‘tracking’ is actually a key success tip for weight loss.

Top Tip Number Two: Manage both sides of the budget with Exercise (sorry about that)
Using the budget analogy, this is the pay day bit, where you get a bit more slack to spend. Sadly if you’ve ever calculated how long you need on the exercise bike to burn off a Mars bar, you’lol know it’s a minimum wage scenario.

So, here’s an incentive for you. Pretty decent cakes can be found in many swimming pool and gym centres. My local leisure centre cakes seem to be sourced locally, and meet the sort of traditional English types of lemon drizzle and chocolate brownie. This means that the warm glow of virtue doesn’t last much beyond the changing rooms. There is no justice is there? Slightly more healthy is their cooked breakfasts, toast and mushrooms or even toast and bacon are good protein rich breakfasts for a dieter in my opinion, and can be pretty good, depending on the mood of the staff in charge that day.

In terms of swimming, though, the annoying habit of the pool to reduce in length every time there is a class on, means that I go to the lido instead. Cakes at the lido are bad, so is the coffee and so is the savoury food. I have been visiting Charlton Lido in the winter evenings. I am working on the assumption that the day it is just too cold, is the day I take up the gym instead. The volatile weather means we have tested this theory down to 9 degrees with a breeze. This is mostly ok. A couple of times the pool heating was not as enthusiastic as you’d hope, but felt fine after a couple of lengths. Poolside showers are also good. The bit to worry about is the dash from pool two showers. This is cold. On the whole though, I am enjoying these trips muchly, they are exhilarating and quite eerie in the rain with the mist coming off the pool.

The biggest challenge to this whole venture is the dreaded free meal challenge. I think this happens to everyone (cakes in the office, people?) but as a food blogger there is always someone wanting to provide you with free food- such nice people! In the face of blogged criticism some smart outlets will feed me for free. This sinister approach has led on one occasion to the delivery of 98 chocolate brownies. Yes, ninety-eight. There are two of us in my household. Now you have to remember that free food is a force to be reckoned with. I had criticised these brownies for being too cakey and stodgy, but was I really going to throw them in the waste bin when they were free. Would you? The solution was to take them to the office. This was win win. My colleagues loved me (although they were a bit grumpy when the sugar rush wore off), and they all validated my original view of the brownies.

Short for Political Correctness?

Why is Papa Charlie called Papa Charlie anyway? Is it short for Political Correctness (doesn’t sound very military) and does that explain why the food served here is not Spanish, or Turkish, or Italian or Morrocan but Mediterranean? Surely a North or a South in the restaurant’s description would help a little bit? I certainly can’t work out which country was represented by the supposedly gourmet Burgers (that quintessential mediterranean food). Sorry, I wasn’t convinced enough to check.

There were some plus points. My plastic menu offered me the chance to resolve some mysteries of previous blogs… I know that you have been on the edge of your seat to know: The kleftico from Rare, that sounded like it was made out of the previous owners and oxo cubes had a descrption next to it (slow cooked lamb on the bone). Okay, so I did already know this. I googled it.

And the second solved mystery was how imambayildi would taste following the marvellous description offered by Efe’s Meze.
I have been kicking myself for not ordering it and here it was on the menu. I ordered right away and it turned out that the waitress could not pronounce it either. The imambayildi was delicious, subtle but a real grower although I think I would have struggled with it’s pure vegetableness as a main course. The whitebait that we also ordered was pretty chunky, overweight whitebait which for me took the attraction off. (Some things are supposed to be an excuse for batter, not provide food in their own right.)

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I thought that a virgin bellini was just about the best thing that I have ever heard of. Because bellinis are great, sophisticated and delicious and very much something that require moderation. I should have remembered that the plus point of bellinis is the champagne, and that the absence of this left you with cherryade and mint, at a bitingly massive mark up. Gourmet challenge for you: alcohol free champagne. (Oo, I can see my readership figures collapsing as I type.)

Besides the bellini hiccup, the starters were in fact very promising and made me try to see beyond the plastic menus with pre-published ‘specials’ (so not so special for today, huh?) and the fact that the decoration is identical to when I reviewed this location as Helva.

But the main courses really took the meal to renewed depths. The chicken guvec (a chicken stew) was definitely made of turkey. (I should note that the date of our visit was the 1st January. See where I am going here?)

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Although the kebabs were genuinely chicken and okayish, they weren’t the cheapest, and the accompanying bulger wheat lacked pizzaz.

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We decided we would not enjoy stopping around for dessert and got the DLR to Hazev for this experience…I’ll update you about that on another blog.

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Lebanese food, in the office, at lunchtime

Why order pizza for a takeaway office lunch? I thought, when remitted to get lunch for a team meeting. Everyone does that. I wanted to be more interesting. Lebanese would be way more interesting.

One I had emailed my colleagues the menu, I kept getting orders for sandwiches. This worried me. I would never ever look at a menu with unusual names and flavours and order a sandwich. It was when my boss in passing referred to Lebanese food as spicy that I started to get wind of the fact that I may have misjudged my colleagues interest in unusual foods and made a faux pas. I remembered that this was a man who eats mars bars for breakfast and hates tea and coffee because he doesn’t like hot food in his mouth.

It was wisely pointed out by one colleague who could barely disguise his concern that we would need knives forks and plates, so I figured, I would not back down, I would go the extra mile and bring plastic cutlery at my own expense.

My boss had ordered chicken and rice. It started to make sense to me. I handed over the rice realising that all the rice came with vermicelli and waited to be shouted at for ordering rice with maggots.

I was getting panicky. There was a garlic labneh. I have heard it said that some people hated garlic. This wasn’t really possible was it? Worse, could it be true of the people I had just ordered this meal for? The things you don’t know about those who sit next to you every day.

In fact when I thought about it, how come I know about labneh and vermicelli. That will be Ottolenghi cook book. And while I have come across them many times since, perhaps I have taken this knowledge for granted.

Me, I was on a diet. I ordered smoked aubergine which was delicious but way more oily than I anticipated and I did not need to eat again all day.

Hmm, so what’s baklava? Asked the grad. Baklava is great I said, honey and pistachio and oily puff pastry. She took a bite and pulled a face. I was disappointed until  I clocked that no one wanted to try the baklava. And it would have been wasteful to throw it away so I had to do my bit and keep all of the baklava to my self.

Judging from the clean up, I think I may not have done too badly. The only real left over casualties were labneh and vegetables.

Nice one, said my colleague with the phd, next time we will order from Beruit? I have no idea if this was irony or not.

Reviews of The best places to Eat in Blackheath and Greenwich

It’s high time that this blog made some explicit recommendations. Other than telling you that the staff were sweet, you probably want to know where we had meals that were really great, or err kind of disastrous.

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Now on the coffee shop front (after all, that’s how you know me)

Buenos Ares Cafe. The joy of Buenos Ares is the chilled atmosphere which is quite an achievement in squashed up Greenwich. There are no out and out cake winners, but their approach to savoury platters is fabulous… and usually too much for one person to eat:

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Peyton and Byrne. I really don’t want this to be my favourite coffee shop, but I have to say its produce is flawlessly excellent with exciting attention to detail. I’ve been here twice. This was my first visit http://wp.me/p5fONJ-hc and this was the visit where I realised how great it really was. http://wp.me/p5fONJ-jr

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And the Scullery in Blackheath Standard, oh what great coffee, what simple but wonderful cakes. http://wp.me/p5fONJ-gd

On the subject of cake, pretty decent cakes can be found at Rhubarb in Lewisham’s Glass Mill, otherwise known as the Lewisham’s swimming pool. http://wp.me/p5fONJ-eKYes really.

Gail’s Bakery, now I am writing this review with Gail’s having newly opened, and it’s impressive and exciting shop front could just be prejudicing me, but for now, ain’t it great? If the shine wears off, I’ll be sure to update you. http://wp.me/p5fONJ-jJ

And for restaurants

Buenos Ares restaurant. Do you notice a common theme here?

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Bianco 43. Interestingly this review provoked reaction amongst people who have not enjoyed their pizzas, but I have to say I am a fan. I have been there whilst known to be a local food blogger, and also more anonymously, but each time I have had a fantastic time. http://wp.me/p5fONJ-cn

Chapters. Again. I really wanted to hate Chapters.. http://wp.me/p5fONJ-2A

The Hill, at the bottom of the Royal Hill is a real gem. Excellent food, both sweet and savoury.

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Huge disappointments included Jamie’s Italian http://wp.me/p5fONJ-fP and Cau http://wp.me/p5fONJ-g2 The former in particular should have no excuse. After all, we have particularly enjoyed visits to other Jamie ventures such as Barbecoa in New Change http://wp.me/p5fONJ-2X

I blog (almost) weekly, so make sure you keep up by using the buttons above for a regular email, or RSS feed.

Am I missing anything? Please let me know in the comments boxes below, and I will go and investigate

A Three Course Amuse Bouche

A review of Gravetye Manor, East Sussex

http://www.gravetyemanor.co.uk

I’m figuring that my weekend away in East Sussex counts as a Blackheath blog review. This is because I live in Blackheath and I want to go on weekends away that are an adequately short drive away from Blackheath, and I’m figuring that my Blackheath and Greenwich readers do too.

Gravetye Manor gave us a very warm welcome, potentially because the hotel was quiet, us arriving 10 minutes before the allowed check in time, although throughout our visit all reception/waiting/cleaning staff offered a cheery hello! We were led through perfumed hallways with woodsmoke and Corot-like oil paintings to our room, which was impressive. Much care and attention had been give to the decor of our standard room, a key feature apparently being textures. Bose speakers and a Nespresso machine were nice touches, along with a mini bar of complementary juices, and cantuccini.

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We’d planned a late lunch by one of the open fires but the sun was actually out (despite the time of year) and we wanted to take a look at The Manor’s advertised gardens in the short period of daytime left. The gardens were beautifully cultivated, taking advantage of differing ground levels and took a good hour of exploration including a sitting on garden benches in the autumn sun overlooking a neat but completely unused croquet lawn.

There is a strong slant on garden food in the hotel’s promotional material and we are pretty sure that our eggs and vegetables were sourced from the walled garden, although there were very few vegetables with any of the meals…

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On return to the hotel, lunch from the garden menu was disappointing. We’d aimed to eat very light (in preparation for the evenings meal ahead), and so ordered eggs and smoked salmon, which basically arrived as a soft boiled egg without salt or pepper and a loaf of salmon. This was a little bit of a let down despite being a fan of eggs and there was so much salmon and yet so little flavour (or veg).

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The cheese as ordered by my husband however was delicious. The size of the portions will take about a year on the cross trainer to remove from my body. And while we had the cheese names listed to us by an eager waiter, it was a bit ‘in one ear and out the other’ as our mouths watered. This was a pity as there was an exceptionally subtle blue cheese and great goats cheese that I will never be able to name for you. We were slightly tricked (haha) into a lunch time wine. I ‘d been holding out for dinner, but was told that their English red wine was light. Why I thought this changed anything about dinner, I don’t know, but It was offered an excuse and I ran with it. Actually it was fabulous. Light and grown up.

There was a bizarre cramped feeling in the living room where we ate lunch, with the main door opening straight onto the only sitting room with an open fire. This was bemusing given there clearly was much more space somewhere in the hotel.

The dinner menu was fantastic.
This is the first three course amuse bouche I have ever eaten:

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However I preferred, the cauliflower and truffle velouté. Very truffley.

Scallops with fennel and vinegar sounded like an unattractively astringent
combination, but arrived very traditionally tasting (and perfectly cooked). Exactly what I ate for mains is a little bit up for debate because it was venison cooked in the way that the hare would have been if they had not run out of hare. With the exception of a small pastry slice (‘the chicory tart’ I assume) which bought an unwanted extra oiliness to the dish, the meal was excellent. The slices of venison being beautifully cooked and tender, and whatever constituted the meat ball delicately spiced.

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As with all restaurants the waiters offered still or sparkling water. But if you paused, they would then add, or there is the local spring water. The mark up on still and sparkling water was so great that they were hiding their own local speciality. This was beneath them, I think.

We especially asked if we should order side orders, because if the dishes came with enough sides, we might not be able to eat dessert. Terrible! It was advised for my husband’s Brill so we ordered dauphinoise which the waiter said would easily share between 2 dishes. Check out the pretty tiny saucepan in the picture. That’s what was to be shared between two. Fortunately, this wasn’t especially necessary because here meals were perfectly balanced.

The dessert of hazelnut creme brûlée, chestnut canele, walnut crumble and dark chocolate was good, but a little samey by the end which is odd given the effort for diverse flavours.

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We went for coffee and petit fours by the fire. This was the meanest selection of petit fours I have ever seen.

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So, back to the room. The water pressure and shower were great and there was a heated floor. Woohoo at for heated floors. These should be in planning instructions for the building of everything, even carparks. (Maybe not tube stations).

But hanging a newspaper in a pretty straw sack on the door handle might look sophisticated, but it does wake you up at 6am and what I never ever want at a weekend away is to be woken up at 6am.

Breakfast service lacked a little panache with dirty plates left unremoved, and bizarrely undercooked poached eggs (Gravetye does not honour eggs. I suppose no one is perfect), however it did retain its charm. One area for improvement is the communication of how the breakfast menu works. I am acquainted with the free for all buffet, or the free for all a la carte (yes really) or the choice between continental versus full English options. Here everything was listed out with out any clear guidance on what choice fitted their expectations. This was a pity, as you might have chosen fruit and yogurt, but it turned out that fruit and yogurt were both starters, and you could only chose one. The cooked breakfast was considered the main course which sounded intimidatingly heavy, but was in fact presented with the same elegance as dinner and in similar petite portions. A nice twist was the lambs liver. And frankly, after that, we just asked for a mini pain or raisin and a pot of coffee, which was delivered without a second glance.

Staff, even cleaners, make the effort to be friendly, unlike some hotels we have been to where reception is shall we say point-scoring? Attention to detail and quality is mostly very high. No one ever asked for our room or our name. Or maybe we had been marked down as troublesome customers once we had ordered the spring water.

Car journey from Blackheath: 1.5hours
Room Rates: £250-325 for standard room
Nearby attraction: the Bluebell Railway (that is steam trains!)

http://www.bluebell-railway.com

The Horsted Keynes station is preserved as it may have looked in Victorian age,with the exception of the credit card machine. Unfortunately trains are not too frequent but a bit of an explore will find you a roaring open fire in the waiting room. In the cafe you can buy a sausage roll or a hot chocolate, AND PREPACKED FLAPJACK. I think I have made my thoughts clear. We took the railway to East Grinstead where we found an equal dearth of coffee shops, but did buy Lyonaise sausage from the local marketers recently recommended by hairy bikers. Which was odd. Has anyone else tried this?

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Multidimensional viewing

A Review of Gail’s Bakery in Blackheath SE3

Sometimes I am lazy. Sometimes the likes of Jamies’s Italian and Cau hit the streets of SE3 and SE10 but take me a whole six months to get around to visiting (not that either of them were worth it). But I was a little spurred into action by the heaving contents of the ginormous Gail’s Bakery. It looked like I was about the only resident of Blackheath who had not visited the Bakery within three days of its opening. This just was not on!

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So despite being on something of a health drive at the moment, I forced myself through those doors and to the delightful view within.

The three layers of Bakery layout is a very clever design. Now I know that this is very similiar to the design that was Prime Videos (but different from India Jane, I think?), but for a Bakery it creates wonders – Multidimensional viewing: look up, see happy baked-food-eaters, framed by the hanging wares of the bakery. Look down, see the evidence of onsite bakery with gratuitous piles of appetising breads to one side. Look in the middle, and you get sandwiches, patisserie cakes, breads, baked things. There is a significant message here: there is bakery going on all around. Don’t be left out. Get in quick.

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So in summary, our plate held a buttery light fruit cake with cinnamon and almonds. I ate the marzipan separately (never grew up, see). Marks out of five: 4. And a ginger nut that verged on a little cake. It was ginger nutty, invitingly brown and crystallised with sugar. Marks out of five: 5. We ate it with a capuccino that was nice and flavoursome.

We came home with a tiny buttery (i know I already said it) Mexican wedding cake that seemed like it should be olive oily, but had that nice understated not too cakey element to it; what should have been a quinoa sourdough, which although delicious seemed to contain large seeds that did not resemble quinoa – any enlightment to offer me Blackheath? and a sausage roll that in the words of my husband, did compete with the sausage rolls from Hand Made Food. You heard it here first. (Really you did, I scanned the Bugle’s blog to make sure there was no reference to sausage roll).

3 Blackheath Village
London, SE3 9LA
Opening hours
Monday-Friday 7am – 8pm
Saturdays & bank holidays 8am – 8pm
Sunday 8am – 7pm