Venice isn’t Local , but…

 

So, this is not a local food review, but having recently returned from an anniversary trip to Venice, here are some food photos to enjoy…

Exotically dressed pasta, in Italian, rather than English sized portions:

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Pasta at the Guggenheim

Every guide book told us to go to the fish market early in the day as the boats came in to get the real fish market experience. Whatever. We reached there at 10am. It was stunning, although we were laughed at for taking pictures.

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Delights at the Fish Market

…And Cafe Florian on St Mark’s Square is apparently the oldest coffee house in Venice, and is full of beautiful (if kinda gaudy) interiors. The catch is, there are too many people in there to see anything but the ceiling. And you have to eat quickly to avoid being herded out by a door man.

The tea, affogato and (not very Italian) sacher torte were however delicious.

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Sacher Torte and other Treats at Cafe Florian

“Shopping ain’t my bag” A Review of L’Orchidee

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This gallery contains 4 photos.

A Review of L’Orchidee in Westfield Shopping ain’t my bag, so you will not be shocked to learn that I have only just visited Westfield in Stratford despite its proximity on public transport. I shan’t review Westfield itself. Suffice to … Continue reading

What I hoped to find in Masala Mart I did find in Masala Mart

Screwfix, Plumbase, Masala Mart. They sound like they are all from one conglomerate, don’t they? They certainly all sit in the trading estate in Ramac Lane Charlton. But there is one name in that which doesn’t make me feel like I am in boredom land (unless re-furbing the house which is hardly a regular occurrence). Can you spot it? No? Er, this is a food blog, and you can’t eat pipes…?

I have been planning to go to Masala Mart for a while. I thought I would pop in while my husband was buying something really useful from Screwfix. But the Wholesale part of the title was putting me off. Eventually my husband offered to make reconnaissance mission and just asked them if they were a supermarket too. They said that they were and they seemed to think this was a daft question, but at least we got the answer.

Now what I hoped to find in Masala Mart was exactly what I did find in Masala Mart, a treasure trove of spices in proper sized packets at considerable better value than Ocado was prepared to offer. 10g of something 1.79 for 10g at Ocado, but 100g is 1.39 at Masala Mart. I’m always looking for flavour. I’m always looking for something different. I knew there was a pretty good chance I’d find it here.

It’s a quirky old place, like stepping back into the supermarkets of the 80’s, with sellotape for closing plastic bags, and little dips in the counter for the wire basket, which was weighing us down by the time we reached the tills.

And there are some things that Ocado just don’t stock, like multipurpose seasoning which has been invaluable in my cooking of stews. It makes the most ‘really shouldn’t have tried that in the slow cooker recipe’ taste good. (although I will admit that I since saw msg on the label which has put be off a bit). And I was thrilled to get gnarled ugly black cardomon pods, in addition to the green. The experimental purchase was of the Indian sweets which I have had only a couple of times in my life. They very obliging offered a ‘mixed pack’, leaving us to eat the very rich, tablet-like sweets over a very long period of time.

The challenge now is finding decent sized spice jars, I need one that can hold 400g of cinnamon sticks that only cost… Recommendations welcome…

A Tale of Two Restaurants, Eating out in Jumieges, France

A tale of two restaurants. (but only one city, well village)

I’m going to talk holiday. I’m allowed. It happens. I’m sure that you go on holiday and eat out too.

And this is all about food really because we made a terrible faux pas early on in our trip to the Loire valley in July. We chose a restaurant according to its Michelin star. Now I am not one of those people who goes bemoaning the Michelin star world. I like good hearty honest food, and ethnic food, but I also love innovative food with special attention. What this all comes down to is that I like food, and unlike when choosing where to live as either relaxed or busy, modern or traditional, or quirky, it’s one area I can change what I have every day.

However, despite picking the top end tasting menu at La Gambetta in Saumur we found the Michelin starred restaurant hugely disappointing, with elegantly designed dishes, that had nothing interesting to offer in terms of taste or flavour combinations.

Pretty but dull at La Gambetta

And this put us on a bad footing all holiday. We started searching for more homely type offerings, but when deciding on a location we would find it was not open on the night we were looking for.

So this was the mood we were in on our return home via Jumieges checked into our spa hotel and were offered the option of booking into Auberge du Bac, described as having beautiful views, and Auberge des Ruines described as being a gourmet restaurant. We were flummoxed. We asked for more time to consider the question.

Eventually I suggested that we book dinner at Auberge du Bac. This was because my La Gambetta experience had left me a little jaded about the use of the word gourmet, and Auberge du Bac scored well in trip advisor with words like ‘authentic’

But it worried me at night. It disturbed my massage and jaccuzi trip. (OK, I am exaggerating a bit for the elevated purpose of making sure you know how great a trip I had) and eventually I reasoned, well, we had to have lunch somewhere… so why not at the gourmet restaurant? And we could exercise restraint by having their cheapest set menu this time. My husband agreed with this readily and that was the plan we went for.


Let me just underline that we chose the cheapest menu at Auberge du Ruines that was EUR25, and a Euro isn’t going very far at the moment. This was how it went: Refreshing tomato salad with tomato sorbet, an exciting fish dish, strawberries with popping meringue discs , and other delights. It was flawless. It was exciting.

Refreshing tomato salad with tomato sorbet,

We ordered off ipads –now that bit was pretentious. They weren’t interactive (saving valuable wait for the waiter time) and they occasionally crashed. Although I liked the connect 4 sugar balls presented with the coffee, the petit fours were a bit stodgy.


This was one of the nicest meals we had all holiday, under the shadow of the impressive Normandy ruins.


So I was pretty glad I squeezed in that lunch. We walked down to the Seine in the evening to ensure that we tried to burn off room for dinner at Auberge du Bac. And here we picked one of the more mid-range menus, that was of a similar price to lunch. Let me begin with the starter, seafood profiterole. Now profiteroles are just pastry, and yep, this starter was mostly pastry. However it is more usual for profiteroles to have some sort of flavour, and one might expect this to hold true when they are named after seafood. But, nope, there was no flavour in this profiterole. You know it didn’t have to be seafood flavour, it could have tasted of garlic, or cheese, or just basic seasoning. It did however bring one unique feature: sogginess. I saved the top in case it tasted better. It didn’t. The waiter didn’t even bother to ask why we hadn’t finished our starter. He swept it away without giving us a chance to comment. I figured he’d tasted it too.

Here is the cod in chorizo. I hope you are comparing and contrasting with the pictures above, because these meals cost exactly the same. I think that it would be more accurate to call this cod with chorizo dumped on top, any benefit in flavouring the cod by frying it in Chorizo juices was lost on this chef, bless him. Kind of.


And the cheese dish. You know I don’t want to harp on about it, but this meal did cost the same as the last dish.


The lemon soufflé was alright. The tarte tatin, yeah well you can see the picture.


And at no point did anyone ask if we had a good meal, even though it was obvious we had left some of the dishes. Only the very young trainee waiter asked as he took our payments. We looked at him sadly and said, not really, but that was nothing to do with you.

Review of Ice Cream at the White House Bakery in Greenwich Park

The White House Bakery in Greenwich Park

Is it possible to have a walk in Greenwich Park in summer without wanting ice cream? Really, if it is possible, this is an experience I have yet to achieve. And I don’t just mean because Black Vanilla is at the road at the bottom, because to me, Black Vanilla is quite so-so. Instead we had in mind the ice cream stall in the herb garden, which has recently re-opened after an extended absence.

The White House Bakery did sound like you might go in with an ice cream desire and come out with several cakes and coffee stowed away in your digestive system. The posters within the White House Bakery compounded this impression, showing layers of rich cake with thick fillings.

The White House Bakery in Greenwich Park

The reality is that there were three cookies going on a glass plate in a corner. Not three types of cookies, but three cookies. We looked around the café to see if perhaps they had just had a huge party of bakery lovers who ate all the promised cake. The café was empty but for us.

Oh, yeah. There were also rows and rows of pre-packed sandwiches.

Which is all a little bit sad because the ice cream was delicious. My blackcurrant and clotted cream ice cream was exactly what is should have been, biting blackcurrant with rich clotted cream texture. It was spoilt only by a too sweet cone, a common phenomenon. 

Clotted Cream Icecream

We ate them in the herb garden surrounded by bees, debating whether bumble bees make any honey at all.

Empanda Masterclass at Cau

A Review of Empanada Masterclass at Cau, Blackheath

Have you ever had the experience of not actually ordering for ages, despite hunger, because there are so many exciting options on the menu. Cau, in Blackheath presented the most impressive solution to solve this problem I have ever seen, they invited us to a master class where they presented the steak cooked in most of the ways of the menu. 

They called this an Empanada Master Class. I like empanada’s but I think they undersold themselves in the name here, no?

Wee..ll okay, they didn’t offer us everything off the menu, just  a hefty chunk of the crowded speciality cut steak menu, followed by the empanada’s they cooked (Cau wisely provided takeaway boxes for the ones their guests prepared, although please note that my husband won a bottle of wine for his efforts as joint 2 best empanadas.)

They certainly demonstrated some impressive cuts. We saw them raw first:

  
Got talked through how the cut is used by the chef – how to cut around the muscle, and slice and how to spice. My favourites were Asado de Chorizo. Alert Chorizo sign! always a good reason to seriously consider a dish from a menu. However no sausage featured in this Chorizo, this dish was sirloin with chorizo type flavours (paprika, chilli, garlic); and   Tapa de Cuardril, thinly sliced, well salted rump steak which drew frequent comparisons to bacon.

So that when Cau then sat us down for our main courses (yes, the sampling the entire menu and eating emapanadas was generally considered the starters), we ordered these as our mains. Brilliant. I was then presented with a brick of  Asado de Chorizo. 

  More steak than I could ever consider ordering… I’d remembered the flavour and forgotten to check the size: 500g.  Fortunately i had left a little room by declining the side of chips and ordered tomato salad, allowing me to steal my husband’s chips. 

  My husband  I had more reasonably Tapa de Cuardril endured its deliciousness throughout the meal.

  
None of this stopped us ordering desserts. Had they been a bit more boring, i might have considered skipping them – THATs how full I was. But the menu had a few intriguing options, including frequent use of the dulce de leche phrase. I settled on three-milk cake. All good. This was kind of a lemon meringue in basic ingredients but the added cream, condensed and evaporated milk (and no pastry) took the flavour in a completely different direction. And, no offence to Lemon Meringue Pie it was a good direction.

  
Shamefully, knowing that we started our meal at the same time as everyone else, we were the first to leave. Ah well, happy people eat steak fast.

*The  meal and masterclass at Cau were entirely complimentary to promote August’s #CAUnival (try getting that past spell check) and you should know that ‘free food’ always makes me happy (even if it was free cabbages). #CAUnival has been introduced to support the charity Action Against Hunger.

10-12 Royal Parade, London SE3 0TL

The Royal Standard Pub in Blackheath, SE3

A Review of the Royal Standard Pub in Blackheath, SE3

I think it is only right to blog about the recent tweet up that I was invited to by Blackheath Royal Standard the other day as part of their refurbished pub launch. A tweet up, apparently means free food and drink (the free drink turned out to include all Meantime beer – curses I was having a dry June) whilst being asked to tweet about it because it makes you happy. So please note that even though I have ‘paid in tweet’s for my food, this blog is severely prejudiced, as ‘free food’ has to be one of my favourite things, (shortly followed by ‘food’) and automatically improves my mood.

I reached the tweet up a little mystified as to how this thing would work and it took 2 drinks and ordered starters before we properly worked out where the other tweeters were sitting. @Welovedeptford and @MisterGreenwich were represented, making a nice triangle of local postcodes for the Royal Standard. This combination meant that I did get to sample most of the starters, which is an unusual achievement even by my standards and my recommendations would be the chorizo, whitebait and the squid. We had just come back from a coastal holiday with plentiful supplies of fresh fish, on the beach, barbeque and restaurant, and had been a leeetle bit concerned about mercury levels. The starters were so delicious we forgot about this.

Chorizo and Sourdough

I suffered extraordinary food envy at the main course, as I was out dished by every tweeter and tweeter sidekick on the table. It never would have crossed my mind to go for the Southern Chicken… until it appeared, and @WeLoveDeptford ordered the slow cooked British short rib, which was huge and looked amazing, but was hard to photograph without revealing the tweeter’s identity. I was allowed a bite of my husband’s burger which was delicious.

 My My steak sandwich appeared to be the poor relation, presented on dry (unbuttered bread) and waaay over done. Seriously, my guess would be that I had insulted the chef, really insulted the chef. But I don’t really see how I had the time to between being invited and ordering the food. Was it about the not drinking thing? Upsets some people.

Our host also thought we should review the sides, but ordered them mid- meal meaning that they came after our mains and our cutlery had gone. Did this hold us back? Not really to be honest. The winner here was the sweet potato fries. I am not sure that anyone else on the table spotted this.

Desserts were equally rewarding. My blood orange cheesecake was perfect. Sweet and bitter, and crumbling all at the same time, along with the blackcurrant coulis. I had a picture of this, but it isn’t playing ‘ball’ on the blog. Other tweeters reported exceptionally good ice cream. They all recommended it, uniformly. It sounded promising.

  

  

 With all this focus on food, the refurb (the whole reason we were there) was a little bit less of the focus. But it is nicely done. All of the seats were a good quality leather, all of the tables had flowers in old whisky or gin bottles, that made you think of gin, which was a pity because of the dry June.

And being with a bunch of local tweeters, never has such a centralised source of all local gossip emanated from the left hand corner of the Royal Standard pub as it did that Wednesday evening. Here was what I learned in the blur of the following few hours: Meantime beer has been taken over by a large corporation. The Cutty Sark is being ruined by strange health and safety barriers around the flat fountain (of already dubious invention); many conspiracy theories surround the non-opening of the central Greenwich Buenos Ares that has been ‘now recruiting’ for about 9 months. The Crown in Greenwich is a Very Good Pub; the Silvertown tunnel plus Ikea plus the new Sainsbury’s will equal traffic Armageddon; Smoking Salmon is excellent and well loved, but struggling to find a home. No one can work out why the roof of the new Greenwich Market looks exactly like the old roof. There are thousands of new homes being built but no new roads and Charlton Lido is a hidden gem.I also know the location of the next Greenwich tweet up, but I haven’t quite got it in me to turn up un-invited…

44 Vanbrugh Park, Blackheath, London, SE3 7JQ

 

A Review of Sefa Restaurant, Trafalgar Road, Greenwich SE10

A Review of Sefa, Turkish Restaurant, Trafalgar Road, Greenwich SE10


I frequently find that the items on Turkish restaurant menus presetn chokes of kebab that are hard to discern the differences on. What really is the meaning of shish as in shish kebab? We all pondered this at the table at Safa restaurant and agreed we should google it some time. Here I sit at a computer right now. Yeah, I will google it sometime.

I ordered an Adana kebab (peppers and lamb) as I ate Turkish bread with a really spicy sauce. The bread was gorgeous, however, my delicious Adana kebab was apparently the worst of the kebab offerings, according to those who wisely ordered the mixed grill. This made me feel discontent when I was otherwise perfectly happy.

 

But what really struck me in the food envy stakes was the yogurt kebabs. You see, it worried me that my kebab might be a little dry served with salad and rice only. It turned out to be very rich and oily, but the kebabs with yogurt were on a different level altogether, drenched in yogurt sauce and butter and bread and sauce that was probably just a combination of the three. Both of the dish types were enormous, the yogurt one in particular and really could be shared between two.

And here’s the other debate for a google. Should you eat the leaves of a radish? This came to light when I saw that I had eaten the bulb and left the leaf, while by friend had eaten the leaf and left the bulb. Between the 2 of us perhaps we would have left the platter clean, but you know. Germs and all that.

Desserts all seemed to end in Sundaes. Well, mostly Sundaes. I will concede that there were also three turkish desserts and two cheesecakes. Which left me with a quandary. I prefer authentic. Mostly because for ‘authentic’ read: not what I ate last week or for a substantial period of my childhood. However, the other day I sampled a friend’s homemade cheesecake and suddenly converted back to cheesecake with an investigative habit, seeking that homemade cheesecake experience all over again at every restaurant that offered it. This is a food that I had written off as a ‘business as usual, chuck in chocolate and cream and base and everything will be ok’ thoroughly boring dessert that appeals to the nothing more than supplying disproportionate amounts of calories at the end of the pub meal. So I ordered baked 3 chocolate cheesecake. Yes, I even broke my no chocolate in dessert rule this day.
Well, it was made with good quality chocolate: The meal so far had led me to be believe that it ought to be. But it was very heavy and the emphasis was on the cheese and chocolate rather than a really good base. So, if you like cheesecake normally, I think this was a good sample. But I think it reminded me why I don’t like cheesecake.

Safa was very popular, heaving with customers. I tried to remember what it replaced. Does anyone remember, and did it have this many regular fans? But I still haven’t googled Shish kebab.

129-131 Trafagar Road
SE10 9TX, London
Phone: +0208 269 0233?