Fried Carbs. Hot Fried Carbs. Hot Fried Carbs in sugar.

A Review of San Miguel restaurant and tapas bar, Greenwich SE10

Question is, would I ever have visited San Miguel if the San Miguel Twitterer had not challenged my lunch choice of cold mussels? A choice by which I still stand, you should know.

I might not have, because San Miguel is based in the heart of the Greenwich where the students and funky shoe shops make it all just so colourful, that the duly colourful Spanish bar doesn’t quite stand out. But their website told me they cooked homemade tapas, and churros… so I was going to find search them out.

San Miguel feels authentic. Partially because it is unashamably Spanish, being full of genuine Spanish articles that seemed such wonderful exotic holiday keepsakes for our parent’s sideboards in the 70’s; and partially because it was full of Spanish speakers – staff and guests. I was impressed, if not to say slightly intimidated. I came to sound off about whether I enjoyed lunch, and now I have to concede that my personal opinions might just not be Spanish enough.

Paella was an option on the menu, but so was Tapas. And tapas is a wonderful thing. It means that you can (1) not make up your mind from the menu and have everything, and (2) (where all tapas dishes are the same price) pick all of the meat rich ones. This is a clever thing to do because restaurateur had priced in the assumption that you would have some vegetable dishes, so you can feel smug that you got good value for money (albeit slightly bloated).

Mmmmm… (one on the bottom right is spinach scramble).

I was floored at San Miguel: (1) The menu was so extensive that had to get our iphones out and make a shortlist in order to knock some of the options off; and (2) Not all tapas dishes at San Miguel were the same price.

But the food, atmosphere and service were so good, I forgave them.

Fabulous and undersold on the menu was the spinach and mushroom scramble “revuelto de Espinacas”. Does that sound appetising to you? We ordered it because we thought we should order some vegetables. The scrambled eggs with spinach and mushroom, however had another depth of flavour altogether – coconut…? This was the dish we saved till last… even after the flaming chorizo.

Hmmm, flaming chorizo. A great Spanish food now with a slightly caramelised coating (thanks to the flaming.) Look real flames (hadn’t expected that from the menu description either.)

Makes a slightly caramelised outside to one of Spain’s best ingrediants

We also chose scallops. Don’t often see those on a tapas menu so even though I am getting slightly irritated by every Michelin-wannabe plonking pan-sear-fried-diver-caught scallops on their over-written menus. Scallops are great, but they are easily described with one word and do not make a chef great. (I’ve cooked scallops; that says it all). However, back to San Miguel: Scallops wrapped in bacon; no pretentions; great.

The staff were actually lovely, all of them, not a single gripe; risking burning so that we could photograph flaming chorizo; piling their arms with more dishes than I was trained for silver service and allowing us to eat churros even in the day time (and why not?)

Oh yes… churros. I hadn’t mentioned them. Fried Carbs. Hot Fried Carbs. Hot Fried Carbs in sugar with hot chocolate on the side. (Why aren’t Churros more famous?) The San Miguel Churros were a particularly thin brand that I would have preferred with a rich black coffee, but maybe that’s just not Spanish.

HOT FRIED CARBS IN SUGAR

HOT FRIED CARBS IN SUGAR

San Miguel Tapas Bar & Restaurant: 18 Greenwich Church Street, London SE10 9BJ

Peas have been Upgraded

A review of Nando’s the Restaurant in Greenwich Pier

If you can spot the sangria I am going straight back

If you can spot the sangria I am going straight back

I was happy to be going to Nando’s this week and in turn to blog about how great it was in an I’m-not-a-food-snob sort of a way. Sunday evening brought disappointment number one: they had run out of sangria. Oh, yeah. The world was ending along with the Olympic Closing Ceremony… there was no Sangria at Nandos.

It has been a souless few days since then. Peering into restaurant windows, seeing the Mexican on the Heath advertising that they now serve San Miguel beer on tap… and thinking, “but not sangria?” (they probably do, actually but I was busy right then).

You may have been led to believe that sangria was invented to go with something other than peri peri sauce. You should rely less on Wikipedia for your facts.
It’s long, it’s mellow, not too sweet, and is actually better than beer in many circumstances – especially ones featuring hot food. The Brahma beer I had instead might have been great, in fact it was the beer I used to enjoy with a Nando’s before I discovered sangria. But it wasn’t sangria.

Disappointments two and three were shared amongst my friends, who found that their loyalty cards were no longer accepted, and that the halloumi had run out. (Can anyone explain to me why this last oversight was a problem?)

I did enjoy my a quarter chicken medium-hot with ratatouille and a good fair chunk of my husband’s chosen side dishes including ‘rugged pea mash with whole peas, parsley, mint and chilli’. Isn’t it great how peas have been upgraded since they were something convenient to have with fish fingers? Is anyone else sure that they are never ever going back there?

I finished with an elegant Portuguese tart. This is one of the great simple eating pleasures in life and is also done very well at Boulangerie Jade. Such a tart cannot be soggy. It must be crisp, flakey and custardy or else it is nothing but a bland mash of wannabe carb. Nando’s tart hit the mark. I had it with black coffee in huge pool of a cup, hence drowning my non-sangria-d state. I tasted some of the bottomless frozen yogurt, but on the whole, I’d be skipping most the dessert menu.

The Nando’s on Greenwich pier virtually sits underneath the stunning Cutty Sark, and has with huge windows overlooking the Thames. On a hot deep blue evening, this location is something else, even if you have no hope of getting a seat in the roof garden.

Nando’s Greenwich Promenade, King William Walk, SE10 9HT

A little bit of ciabatta-nose-up-turnedness

A review of Red Door Gallery & Cafe in Greenwich SE10

In the forest of teapots, in the land of Red Door; underneath the greater luminary (the 70’s paper light shade) and the lesser luminary (the ornate pre-victorian one), my husband and I did eat 2 sandwiches (one each) and a slice of chocolate cake.

Greater and lesser luminaries

We were strangely uptight. Was it my husband’s work weighing on his mind, or was it the lack of cake for sale? (We arrived very late in the day). Or was it because the seats at the front of the cafe were facing the barista/waitress/owner as if we were on a panel interview? There were 3 of them and two of us. So I guess that makes us the interviewees.

There were other seats. There was a throne like sofa facing in the opposite direction, but then they might have spotted me taking sneaky pictures of their interior to report back to you. There was a lovely sunken tea room at the rear (I do mean lovely, not remotely lose-able oneself in, but some how labyrinthine nonetheless.) but that was full.

On our other side, sitting in the pretty window bay we were swamped by paparazzi. Thousands of tourists stopped to take photos of us. I had no idea this blog was so famous.

What am I saying? Of course the blog made the big time. It’s great. The only catch is that I think these people didn’t realise it was BlackheathCoffeeShops blogger in the window… I think they were just taking pictures of the pretty facade. Rude really.

We made 2 good choices having fluffed the seating plan. Mine was a smoked salmon, cream cheese basil bagel. Now how many times have you eaten smoked salmon with pesto and never thought to eat it with fresh basil? What is it about smoked salmon? Does it go with everything, likea sort of fabulous socialite of the food world who’s a little bit wet on her own?

My husband chose the goat’s cheese and sundried tomato ciabatta. I have to admit to a little bit of a ciabatta nose-up-turnedness  going on here. I would rather choose good bread than something a bit stodgy with an Italian name – as if that changes anything (Bognor Regicci; Johnito Majorato). But you knew when I said “Goat’s cheese and sundried tomato” that we were talking something good, didn’t you? And they didn’t fluff it neither– not the singlest drip of intrusive spread or overactive dressing.

Tea arrived in an enamel teapot, nice touch, and poured into my grandmother’s teacup. Well it’s been a long time, but one generation’s faux pas is another’s cutting edge so I sipped. I believe the contents were Twinning’s Earl Grey. This is good.

Can you see the enamel teapot hiding behind grandma’s teacup?

There is no theme to the ‘gifts’ and arts and crafts on the wall. Some I loved, some I err… I did not. I think the point is that Red Door is a work of art in its own right. It’s a sketch book of a coffee shop, rough around the edges with sparks of brilliance made all the more intriguing by demonstrating the thinking behind the art (ooo – I think I will plug one of my pages here … about time I got something selfish out the blogging process. For sketch book – click here (NOW! – no excuses)).

We were instructed by our interviewers that we could only order dessert when we had finished our mains. Finishing the main course was not a problem or hadn’t  you been reading up until now? It was unfortunate that we were so late for the full cake selection which left us with chocolate cake. This was referred to by the owner as ‘you would like a slice of that monstostiy would you?’. Chocolate cake is not what I would normally choose but the cake was light and fresh with no pretensions of ‘death by’; and gratifyingly 2 different types of icing (one within, one out) both meltingly soft. So the cake box is ticked too.

Service was also quirky and fun. No pretensions

Red Door Gallery

10 Turnpin Ln, London, Greater London SE10 9JA, UK

You all keep asking where the pictures are.

You all keep asking where the pictures are. And I’m meant to be an artist so there’s something wrong, right? Here i present my Q&A, questions posted for the artist by the artist on the subject of: “Why no pictures?”

Why would an artist use a standard header picture from wordpress?

What can I say? I have one visual part of the brain, and one wordy part of my brain, and never the twain shall meet. (yes – pendants, I know that’s a misquote.)

Fortunately for a food blogger, my wordy part of the brain connects well with my eating side. Frankly if my eating side did not connect well with other things, I would struggle with most every day tasks.

Why don’t I paint a picture of Blackheath and use it as my header?

Because dear reader, Blackheath is twee. This is not an insult to the village that I love to pop into (quite regularly as you may have noticed from this blog), but this is not the sort of art that I do. Maybe one day I will see an angle or a light that suits my style actually on the heath, but this is yet to occur, and even if it does there is no guarantee it will work as a header or suit my blog. See my commentary on my painting of the Champs Elysees at http://alexpaintings.com/#/europe/4537246510 for my philosophy on how I paint something already famous or definably beautiful.

If you’re still not happy, I’m sure I have Constable’s phone number around here somewhere for you.

Surely I should do a montage of all my paintings or photos of the village as a header.

No.

Sorry, you wanted something more verbose? Well, let me put it this way: if you find any montage anywhere that you think looks nice – not to mention arty, fun, draws you in, adds value… please post the link in the comments below and I will see if they will sell me the copyright.

I promise that I will try and upload an iphone pic to any further reviews.

Short version of this blog: My writing isn’t good enough for you? Go buy yourselves ladybird books.

Starbucks is over the road (for anyone who doesn’t get it.)

Hand Made Food interior (or is it Handmade food?) Blackheath

A review of Handmade Food in Blackheath SE3

Once upon a time I thought a Bacon and Egg sandwich was just that: a Bacon and Egg sandwich. Possibly I would worry about whether it was made with butter or margarine. And I would put up with margarine if that was what it so happened to be, in the same way that I might put up with a chip in the mug of tea served with fish and chips… because this is greasy-spoon-food right? And you’ve got to eat greasy-spoon-food in a greasy kind of a way? Well it turns out that I was wrong.

I was enlightened one day after walking into Handmade Food before 12pm. I had been there before. They do such a good line in cakes (there isn’t a single cake that is worth overlooking here)  that I had rarely diverged from this option. But on this particular cold morning, I saw that they served bacon and egg sandwiches… er… admittedly for a fiver.

If I tell you that the hand made food bacon and egg sandwich is worth every penny of that fiver.. and more pennies still, would you have me institutionalised? Well before you ring for the ambulance… go and try it. I do not know what makes the difference. Good bread, perfect width of slices; butter (HMF was never going to be a margarine sort of a place); fabulous bacon and egg which I assume has been carefully sourced. But it is as if each egg had been considered with each bacon slice and each type of bread.

Have with coffee. HMF seems to vary in its coffee allegiances but I have yet to be disappointed. Starbucks is over the road, for anyone who doesn’t get it.

I will have to get back to you on the deli, the cakes, coffee surroundings and service some other time. But there is one terrible truth that you should know about HMF. Despite a clear interest in the arts, they have never exhibitied my paintings. Never. Not even when I smiled at them when I paid for breakfast/elevenses/lunch/tea/caketime/mid-mid-morning snack time etc.

It’s ok. I’m not offended. And it goes to prove how objective my views are that I continue to say nice things about them,  and their coffee and their expensive bacon and egg sarnies…

Is anyone enjoying their outdoor olympics tent, by the way? Seeing the menu I am desperate to try and get there before it all closes down.

 40 Tranquil Vale, Blackheath, London, SE3 0BD

Advice needed: Why is clafoutis, please?

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A review of Paul Rhodes Bakery in Greenwich

Advice needed: why is clafoutis please? (That was a ‘why, not a ‘what’.) And why does it sometimes have an ‘s’ on the end and sometimes not?

I understand that clafouti(s) should theoretically have a place in the patisserie collection. It features berries and custard; both very nice things; and eggs, very clever things; and pastry which features butter and butter is one of the fundamentals to life worth living. Euclid said so, go look it up: Book9. But why is the combination of these things so unbelievably like the unfortunate conclusion to a school diner.

We didn’t choose the clafoutis at Rhodes this time. We had coffee and cake, and a sandwich. That’s the order we thought of them in, not the order we ate them in. (Yes, we are now bankrupt and do welcome contributions – paypal details follow shortly.) This week we ordered a cheese straw too. The cheese straws at Rhode’s bakery are good.

Rhodes used to have their very own rude French man. Genuinely free insults for all visitors. This was a masterpiece on their part. He was a tourist feature. But he started mellowing. Falling in love, maybe? He needed to choose if his love life was threatening his art; you will no longer find him there. Now they have a selection of kids who don’t actually know what they sell:

Me:  “I’ll have the Rhode’s Classic,”

Staff: “Eh?”

Maybe the lad just couldn’t hear me and I was brought up not to say “what”. But my suspicion is that I confused him by calling the sandwich a the Rhode’s Classic, a Rhode’s Classic and not just a cheese toastie. This didn’t bode well.

The Rhodes Classic differentiated itself on the price tag by being made with sour dough. Actually it was just a cheese toastie with larger than normal quantities of tomato. I’ve had dull sandwich experiences more than once here. Believe me, the place for startlingly good sandwiches is Boulangerie Jade. It’s a pity, because Rhodes’ breads (that require more money than you should be carrying loose change in Greenwich) aren’t bad.

Unusually I wasn’t in a cake mood and had a raspberry shortcake.

We like that raspberry shortbread. It was constructed like a large jammie dodger without cream. Don’t stop reading until you’ve heard the rest…

Oh, Rhodes, where do you get a crunch as good as that shortcake had? I’ve never experienced such crunch before. I mean that takes some making: too long off the baking tray and it will soften. Too soon and it will still be warm. Never mind the fact that as a bakery there was no protective wrapping to keep it fresh. And I do like a confectioner who knows to go easy on the sugar and generous on the tart; the raspberry jam that dripped out was spot on, in quantity and in balance of fruit and sugar.

Very Very Well Done Rhodes. I forgive you for forgetting our coffee for long enough period for us to be well jostled by various olympic tourists. (In my husband’s words, Rhodes have their own brand of customer service).

There aren’t a lot of seats in Rhodes, and being in a top tourist location, you’ll be lucky even to set eye on one without buying a pair of binoculars and stalking everything four-legged. But it isn’t far from the Cutty Sark and the Thames and so we ate our purchases next to the swirling river surrounded by police, community officers, olympic staff and pretty much no one else.

Rhodes serve no end of goodies… all options piled up on the tills. The coffee is in the top 3 performers on my list and it comes in genuinely and uniquely environmentally friendly cups. Although I can’t remember why. Go and read one of their posters if you really want to know.

As an aside, I know I am an artist and supposed to be all visual whatever, but does anyone know how I can post pictures with the blog in a slightly more sightly manner…

Paul Rhodes Bakery, 37 King William Walk, Greenwich, London, SE10 9HU

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