It’s been a long time… A review of Eve in Covent Garden (cocktail bliss!)

It’s a long time since I descended (descended, like underground; like checking out the fire escapes like Jason Bourne, or because I’m just paranoid rather than really a spy) into a dark bar of loud music and bareshouldered couples but I’ve been hanging out in Covent Garden lately and I think that makes me quite cool. Well, cooler than I’ve been for a long time, so probably a little less cool than most… especially as I’m only there for a poetry class.

This was a beautiful bar, like I had forgotten bars could be, like sinking into a black velvet evening. We specifically booked a quiet corner, and even though the music was not really to my liking, it made for an atmospheric backdrop as we read intriguing cocktail menus to candlelight and considered that the date next to us would be going better if ‘he’ stopped talking about himself and his really dull sounding job (should take a poetry class or summat).

Here are some examples of the cocktails: Parsley Daiquiri – probably doesn’t need too much explaining.

And Beetroot Louisianne: beetroot rye, sweet vermouth, Benedictine, salt, peychauds(do you pronounce the ‘e’? The bar staff forgave us either way)

And on the topic of the bar staff.. they clearly loved their job: the crest fallen face that their alternative to a Cranachan Punch (why did no one think of whiskey, oat milk and raspberries before???) was not the most excellent; and the enthusiastic incitements to order cheese dounuts. 

We found the corn cakes, crunchy, semi-sweet, flavoursome… mmmm…. actually superior to the cheese donuts.

Corn cakes at Eve in Covent Garden

In summary the drinks were quite good, the food was pretty good, but the experience was one of its kind romantic.

Cocktails at Eve in Covent Garden

Anyway, while I’m here… it seems a good time to remind readers that Original artwork, paintings and posters of cityscapes with dramatic skies are available on alexpaintings.com

Virtually Deptford, A Review of Kitcho in Greenwich

Kitcho is somewhat off the beaten track from Greenwich, beyond even Davy’s wine bar, (in fact virtually Deptford). We were ordering for a friend on a delayed bus, ‘shabu shabu’ she called (via text) but we couldn’t find it on the menu, and when she arrived (and explained that was Japanese hot pot) she said she’d decided that there were probably more specialist places opening up that she would prefer to visit to try shabu shabu anyway.

The staff were incredibly eager to please. Unfortunately this didn’t help avoid a long gap between courses, a very long gap. And we were talking noodles here, not slow cooked nothing. 

But the meal started off well with spicy edamame, that we all agreed to order a second round of… and forgot. 

Spicy Edamame

But the sashimi seemed flavourless to me, or just sea-tasing, or to be specific a little bit sea tasting but less tasty than the sea. Normally I enjoy sashimi. In the noodle stakes the udon was average, but my beef chilli ramen was delicious. 

Udon Noodles at Kitcho

The stella part of the menu was the simple but elegant cocktails, starting with dragons blood, which looked like this:

Dragons Blood cocktail

And a sweet cocktail that we should have had instead of dessert, but we justified in that we only had teenie tiny mochi (and that hardly counts right?), made up of hennessy cognac, baileys double cream and some other sweet thing. Slightly on the sweet side but if you have a drink for dessert, that justifies all calories… right?


Dessert was definitely going to commence – a review of Crol&Co. SE1

I discovered Crol & Co two years ago when I trundled past on the bike  (a gift from my husband) determined to work out how to get to the office on it in about 2hours; indicating by thinking really hard about lifting my right hand from the handlebars.

And I thought, passing Crol & Co. mmm… coffee… cake…. mmm… ooops, was supposed to indicate just then. 

I now take 40mins to cycle past Crol & Co on my way to work. And I think, mmm coffee… cake… bicycles (they have a bike rack full of hipster bikes, not that I would ever endure a hipster bike on Greenwich Hill. Feel free to show off in the comments below if you do). 

But it was only this weekend that I actually made it through the doors to find it was everything that it promised to be from the outside, cosy, full of homemade cakes, sourdough and cold brew coffee… and matching through-the-roof-prices, offset by particularly pleasant staff and swift service. It’s a cashless business, and I’m kind of fond of the way it’s propelled into the 21st Century like that.

All the savouries were toast based, which I assume relates to the facilities available, but in these days of couscous and bulgar wheat, it seemed a pity. My goats cheese toast was a bit of a mistake, much as I like goats cheese, and walnuts, the ‘drizzling’ (aka ‘drenching’) of honey elevated it to dessert levels before dessert had even commenced and dessert was definitely going to commence. There was plenty of cake choice. Recent disappointments have led me away from anything called a blondie, but their green gooey looking version was very appealing. 

I went for Chocolate Guinness cake which turned out to be good, but like Red Velvet Cake (authentic or not) without a thick rich cream cheese icing, Chocolate Guinness Cake will never be a recipe worth emailing over the Atlantic/Irish Sea. The real winner was the spiced orange cake, full of flavour and interesting textures and the only thing that didn’t offend my lactose intolerance. (Something tells me I should order differently, but then my taste buds just don’t let me.)

And for those worried about my bike safety, you can spot me on Quiet Way One as the one with the very definite and enthusiastic hand lift indicator. 

Frosty Sunrise, (an unseasonable review of Oxleas Wood)

Oxleas Wood. 

I discovered Oxleas Wood when I had the madcap idea that the first weeks of January were a good time to get up on a Sunday morning in the frost to see a sunrise. (These things happen when you get to a certain age. We are frequently to be seen as a Lycra streak on Q1 in the commute too. No telling.) Greenwich’s One Tree Hil was facing  the wrong direction, and after a little homework we took a punt that a hill at Oxleas faced East.

Well, it kind of did, but the early sunrises of January were a bit underwhelming and the cafe at the top of the hill didn’t open til 8:30 (declining to serve some quite interesting sounding breakfasts until 9:30… yay!) but we figured we should wait for the best cloud cover and kept on trying. And gradually moved on from our believed vantage point kind of tip-toeing on a tree root, with heads twisted kind of eastwards, to discovering the pathways through trees, that are different every day we go. In fact the winter scenes get pretty magical sometimes. 

Oxleas in the winter time
This is how the early winter sun looks… yes in London!

Frankly after a few visits, we were addicted and our summer (slightly less sunrise related) visits have provided different (although more traditional) views of beauty to that I find I can’t go on holiday anymore, I would miss the thrill of seeing oxleas under different atmospheric conditions. 

Oxleas wood in Summer time

So much more than manicured Greenwich Park.

Cabrera Review, SE12

We’d heard good things about the steak in Cabrera in Lee and following the demise of CAU (although we always preferred Buenos Aires) there was room for steak in our lives. Not only that… there is an especially well-priced weekday menu… safe in the knowledge, I think, that when you get into the restaurant and see this:

The ‘other’ menu at Cabrera

They won’t be losing any money.

Well… we were reasonably well behaved, sticking with the set menu and adding some especially nice wines to the side… Always nice when the waitress knows what advice to give here. 

My only disappointment was the lack of vegetables, so I chose gazpacho as a starter… not a very normal MrsBlackheathCoffeeShop thing to do, and watched as my husband had a starter that fully qualified as a main, before beginning on his steak. 

Our steaks were delicious and perfectly done, and were accompanied by proper old fries, none of this ‘triple-cooked-chip’ business because ‘we needed more syllables to justify the menu listing’ and we were given a wonderful bread that I would guess by the charcoaling and the slightly gooey interior was cooked by grilling.

The dessert menu was a curious thing… Sometimes good restaurants compromise on dessert and just offload their freezer on you, dusting off the occasional frozen pea. And cornflake sundae did not bode well… so does cheesecake sound promising (kind of like the one at Champagne&Fromage) or a bit more of a disaster out tripple choc caramel how much sugar can I saturate in my cheese affair? In the end I settle for a very pleasant shortcake and chocolate dip, which well complemented my dessert wine. 

First Name Terms with A Champagne named Colin

A review of Champagne and Fromage in Greenwich SE10

I’d just like to say, I’m on first name terms with a champagne called Colin. But when we pointed this ‘silly name for a classy drink’ out to the waitress at Champagne&Fromage, with an immature giggle, she pronounced it in a French accent which sounded so much more sophisticated. This led to attempts to think of names which did not translate well into French (and we hadn’t even started drinking yet). Where was Dave, for example? “Daveed” she responded with narrowed eyes. Champagne&Fromage is a dinky little place, where many tourists peer into the windows to see what happens within, so our ignorance was public.

A champagne called Colin

Our waitress compounded her superiority by pouring the champagne swiftly into two vertical glasses with no overspill, releasing the biscuity smell into the air. She cracked a smile then, and said, that’s my new party trick. Colin actually turned out to be the duller (Chardonnay based) champagne than the pinot based (and cheaper) Blanc de Noirs.

The interior of Champagne and Fromage

We were offered the option of choosing our own cheeses, but we deferred to the experts (ie. The Waitress with the French Accent). This resulted in dark cherries poured on top of a soft cheese which was melt in mouth delicious – and I’m not normally keen on ‘sweet’ with cheese. There was also a goat’s cheese rolled in the grassy flavours of thyme (no Boursin here – fortunately.)

They were complemented with shot glasses of condiments: olive tapenade which was too sweet for me, sweet enough to be sandwiched between layers of sponge cake and sold as dessert and just as with every cheese tray, there was a fig jam. (Why? Why?) However the basil preparation contained a healthy dose of garlic and redeemed the condiment with cheese concept for me.

Meat and Cheese at Champagne and Fromage

The large number of meats on the board were nice, but too strongly flavoured against the champagne and spoilt it a bit. I’d recommend sticking with cheese if you are having the champagne. The restaurant has got Champagne&Fromage only in the name after all.

Now this is where your average diner is going to make a terrible mistake. The average diner is going to say, I have just had a delicious treat of luxurious products, and I feel very spoilt and I am going to leave now. Erreur Terrible!

Fortunately I am not your average diner. Instead of the ‘I am going to leave now’ bit, I say ‘right, dessert!’ And my decision here is going to prevent you from making L’erreur terrible. Because the desserts are the best I have had in a long time as sampled with the dessert platter: french macrons (are more floury tasting than British ones); Good cheesecake with chocolate chips, which whilst sounding like a gimmick had a fantastic effect on the consistency and unlike almost every other cheesecake in the world was not childishly saccharine ; and the seasonal caneles, made up of very salted caramel (have you noticed how all caramel is supposedly salted these days? well this one really was), and a spot-on batter.

It’s a long time since I had a dessert as good as this one. Thanks Colin.

Brunch – actually lunch

A review of The Ivy, Blackheath

Sometimes you don’t want the carbohydrate bomb and crowds that Gail’s has to offer when you fancy a last minute lunch in Blackheath. That’s what led me into the new Ivy, Blackheath – for what the menu called brunch. It had to be done sometime.

The Ivy in Blackheath is kind of different from Chapters that it replaced, full of quirky 1930’s glamour and jazz. But the glistening atmosphere, initially at odds with laid back Blackheath vibe (that I never before noticed was laid back…) was actually quite enjoyable for its efforts. The walls were crowded with exciting engravings of old maps and scenes from South East London. The Hand Made Food interior is going to have to up it’s game if this is what dining in Blackheath has become.

The glistening interior at The Ivy in Blackheath

Art at The Ivy, Blackheath

The menu seemed a little full on with heavy dishes for the lunchtime/brunchtime slot, but there were some gems. Despite my intention to flee carbs, I ended up with pancakes.

Pancakes at The Ivy SE3

(That’s because I started with truffle arancini which I say is enough of a savoury meal to start with.) and an English Spritz cocktail with Earl Grey gin  which despite having a tea-ish name, can’t be bought at Gails, so I feel quids in.

Earl Grey Cocktail

The non-alcoholic tea selection was good, and I had nearly ordered an Oolong tea, but the sight of that Earl Grey gin on the drinks derailed me. I found the cocktail a little pasty, but my other half was thrilled with his virgin mary.

My pancakes, loaded with cream and berries, were fine enough and not too sweet, but the point of pancakes in my opinion is to taste the batter, and here they were quite overwhelmed with condiments.  I  really shouldn’t have ordered coffee and cream as well as flourless cappuccino cake, because there are only so many courses and drinks that can come with cream in one sitting, but hey, I had Earl Grey gin to soak up. That’s why I had to apologise to the waiter for not being able to finish his chef’s very fine food.

Steak and eggs at the Ivy, Blackheath

Flourless chocolate cake

My other half’s dessert

The downstairs of Chapters, having been a dining area is now replaced by mysterious underground rooms. “The ladies is the seventh door you will walk past,” said the waiter. No really he did, as if to invite me to ask, what could the other rooms be…? And I’m still left with that question. Is this a novel way of convincing customers to return, as if a little bit of the mystery might be unveiled?

Yorkshire Pud justification

https://www.thewhiteswancharlton.co.uk

Sunday lunch at the White Swan was a bit of an unexpected trip for me. Otherwise  I would have ordered the beef with Yorkshire pudding – obviously. As it was, I had eaten more than my fair share of beef brisket the previous night and really didn’t fancy anymore, yorkshire pud justification, or no Yorkshire pud justification. Even I have my limits.

I went for chicken, with a sigh and revelled in the cosiness of the White Swan. We ate around a genuine open coal fire on old sofas, one of which was malting feathers (we didn’t ask… although  I will say that we were at one point told that the chicken had run out and then a chicken was found, and it was after that that we saw the feathers. Just saying.)

Through the window, the beer garden looked impressive with a decorated hut-like-construction at the very end so it seems well worth a revisit in the summer. I also heard good things about the live music offerings.

My chicken meal, was nice enough. It wasn’t a beef roast though. I hungrily hovered over my husband’s beef roast until winning half a Yorkshire Pud, and a description of an exceptionally well cooked beef.

Staff operated on a ‘the customer is always irritating’ philosophy, curtly advising us half way through our main course that the starters were on their way. Clearly asking for starters at the start was just plain passe… Still, I may well go back to this not quite local local.

The Most Important Meal of the Day

A review of Boulangerie Jade SE3 on the Blackheath Standard

http://www.boulangeriejade.com/welcome

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. This has nothing whatsoever to do with the opinions of nutritionists. Breakfast is really the most important meal of the day because it is the downright most funnest. At what other time of the day can one  eat cake and pastry as a main course, or instead choose spicy eggs, or maybe all of the above because there are no rules on courses, all washed down with the biggest of coffee bombs, because you don’t have to worry about caffeine keeping you awake?

Or maybe you choose cereal. I don’t judge you. I I feel pity.

Boulangerie Jade in the Blackheath Standard understands breakfast with its  suitably diverse menu leaving you flummoxed (and hungry) for a good chunk of time while you debate whether you are going down the savoury route or the sweet route.

I went for the Mackerel tartine.

Mackerel Tartine at the Boulangerie Jade on Blackheath Standard

I’m a big fan of mackerel me. This was pleasant, and different, which is what I’m always looking for, but maybe not full of the huge flavours i was craving. There was horseradish as promised in the accompanying creme fraiche, but only just. and only discernible after having a good glug of water to clear the palate.

Another time I’m trying that considerably unhealthier sounding toulouse sausage roll. Here was my husband’s choice:

Service from our initial visit has upped its game. Losing the frosty looks if you glance at a waitress about your twenty minute delay on your eggs, and the arrival of bacon that does been cooked to the beer mat consistency plus the constant implication that your presence is generally really really annoying being welcome improvements. So the harsh trip advisor status may yet improve.

My only disappointment was the constant promise that the cakes (from the Jade bakery) were on their way. It has to be said, Jade cakes are very very good cakes – all the ones I have tasted. They were on their way through out the whole meal. They were still on their way when we had to give up and leave and go about their business (with a sourdough loaf of course). Not all of my business is sitting in coffee shops you know.

Fun from the foodie festival,

My tickets to Blackheath foodie festival were courtesy of ABK-Beer Events sellers of beer and pretzels.

So this is an odd blog to write… because I always think of you guys reading this to decided where to visit next in Greenwich… but I’m guessing you’re going to have difficulty getting back to the foodie festival to check out these recommendations until next year. Or find out where the foodie festival moves next…

Savories were my favourite in the whole visit. Absolutely perfect was the Caribbean stall’s jerk chicken which was delicious and according to my husband who brought it home from me to tempt me into the festival when I wasn’t well (just call him the pied piper healer of Greenwich) was prepared very healthily, and my husband don’t lie, he don’t!

Caribbean food at the Blackheath foodie festival

 

 There’s only one way to tackle a foodie fair… full of no end of exciting options. And that’s to have a three course meal with drinks, followed by shopping. That seems to be the only way to feel that you’ve made the most of your ticket without feeling rather ill. So for starters we had oysters and (despite this being brunch) champagne. These stalls were rather cleverly set out next to each other, leaving me sitting in my arm chair, one glass in each hand, trying not to warm it, whilst waiting for the oyster queue to go down. The oyster stall sold both farmed and natural oysters, proving that the latter are far superior… and I feel a bit sad that I can never ever eat farmed oysters with the same enjoyment again (or at least until next month…)

And the Indian street food was fantastically delicious. 

Sweet things were focussed on special diets.. a lot of gluten free. Having many celiac friends, I am happy that there are an increasing amount of options available to them… but I’m not sure that there were many options at all for non-special-dieters. There was the occasional pretty traditional cake stand, that (as is so often the case) failed to live up to its chintzy promises in taste and I ended up going for the bubble waffle ice cream store… a great idea of turning an actual bobbly waffle into a cone and filling it with ice cream. Sadly the flavour combinations promised much, but the delivery was not far off from school canteen fare.

 The other disappointment of the day included the rather arch shop sellers in the Greek olive stall though. They were determined to pack large orders into bags, despite being asked to do smaller, racking up a bill of £30 on lemons and olives that were mouldy by the end of three days. I should have walked away.

But we had lots of exciting flavours from this cheese store. Aged mozzarella, and hard goats cheese that we took home and finished off far too quickly, along with this Spanish crisp bread that may well be intended to be eaten dry, but was particularly delicious with proper butter.

Cheese and Crackers