“It’s all going to be ok… I don’t face a moral dilemma”, a review of the Age Exchange, Blackheath

A Review of The Age Exchange, A Reminiscence Centre (with a cafe) Blackheath SE3

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It’s all going to be ok… I don’t face a moral dilemma. I’m not going to have to lie in order to avoid destroying a charity’s reputation. I was attracted to the Age Exchange Reminiscence Centre by the glassy light interior, recently installed following a well publicised refurbishment. I ran in to sit at the atrium at the back, only to realise I’d missed the leather seated, book-shelved (fake) stoved area. So I went back. How cool is that? The reminiscence centre offers cosy retro for winter, and modern glassiness for summer. I’d never imagined that calling it the Age Exchange was a reference to the interior.

Glassy atrium at the Age Exchange

Glassy atrium at the Age Exchange

Both Interiors - compare and contrast

Both Interiors – compare and contrast

Guaranteed, this makes the Age Exchange one of the top Blackheath coffee shop listings for comfortable interiors. For that reason I would go back. Often.

And look at the dinky lovely toys all over the place. Miniature tea sets. I always wanted one of these.

I started young on this coffee shop mentality.

Retro toys at the Reminiscence centre

Retro toys at the Reminiscence centre

20121224-171201.jpgWhich all leaves me morally free to tell you the truth about the coffee.

It was dire. This was despite the presumably ornamental coffee bean machine on the top of it. How can it be possible to order a cappuccino and find black coffee under the froth? And do those machines use fake milk? After the coffee flavour, milk and consistency, is there anything left to grade about a cappuccino?

Fake stove

Fake stove

One of the exciting thing about the Age Exchange is the library downstairs. It’s a real live (a little little) library, forced out of its original home opposite the Post Office and rescued by some die hard campaigners (I do wish they’d rescued the room occasionally used for exhibitions. Us local artists are now bereft.)

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The cake selection is very slight and could be added to, but satisfactory. We ate lemon cake. It was priced at £2 a slice, which means the re-vamped location has seen a 200% price rise, but this is still way ahead of the local competition.

I couldn’t tell if the staff thought we weren’t really supposed to be there but it didn’t say the ‘old exchange’ and my husband is getting on a bit. He spent the visit eyeing up the toasting forks. We needed something to cook marshmallows on our own smokeless fuel, and they can’t be much use on the fake stove. But we decided that stealing toasting forks from coffee shops (not to mention ones run by charities) is bad.

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Address The Reminiscence Centre
11 Blackheath Village
London SE3 9LA
Telephone 020 8318 9105

“Was it bacon and egg, or bacon and peas… no hang on it was scallops” A Review of Tzigano’s in Blackheath

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A review of Tzigano’s, an Italian Restaurant in Blackheath, SE3.

I was feeling a tad- Italian Restaurant jaded as we found ourselves heading for Tziganos. There are quite a few of Italian restaurants in Blackheath (currently I count six including the chains), and it is easy to assume that they would all be the same. They’re not.

I should be exact, Tzigano’s website says that it is a Mediterranean cuisine rather than Italian.

It’s lovely and cosy inside Tzigano’s. We were happy before we ate a single morsel. The menu itself was a rewarding read, prepared with detailed effort and different inks for different types of food. There was a fabulous set menu with a wine list focussed on flavour types rather than red or white nestling in with the food. There was a ‘hand written’ write up about how Tzigano’s is Italian for wandering gypsies the two chefs who set out on their own to supply us with authentic Mediterranean dishes in authentic surroundings.

I’m afraid that the pictures here will be poor. The lighting was dimmed and we were overlooked by more staff than customers. I believe they were only there to ensure we didn’t photograph the interiors.

All of our drink quandries were settled as soon as we sat down by being offered mulled spice cider. We liked that. It was served in what I thought were cast iron mugs that turned out to be 70’s brown ceramics. I remember my mum throwing those out and I had been glad to see the back of them.

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Oh, and important to note: They have those really big round glasses that every other restaurant snatches away from your table when you order wine by the glass. We laughed knowingly to ourselves as they removed them once we had ordered, only to be surprised when they returned with them full of the wine. I actually got to drink out of a pretty round wine glass. Perhaps they have been reading this blog.

Very round glasses- Tzigano's

Very round glasses- Tzigano’s

We all went for the set menu, there was lamb wellington on it. I don’t know if that is authentically mediterranean, but you can see that this may not have been my top priority when confronted with lamb wellington, right?

For starters I had the scallops with quails egg, and peas. About a zillion years after ordering, they eventually turned up tasting as if they had been sitting underneath heat lamps while everyone else’s mushrooms were prepared. They were rubbery, and the yolks cooked solid through. It was the quails eggs that tempted me to try yet another scallop dish, but as an overall combination I was intrigued: Was it bacon and egg, or bacon and peas… no hang on it was scallops.

Scallops and quails eggs, Tzigano's

Scallops and quails eggs, Tzigano’s

Mushrooms

Mushrooms

Everyone else ordered the mushrooms. They seemed happy. When I asked afterwards, I was told they excellent. I do words. They do smart food-ordering.

We waited for the lamb wellington. We waited longer for the lamb wellington. We reached the all sit around with our hands holding up our chins sort of fed up stage. We were on our iPhones trying to look for date stamps of photos to prove how long we’d been waiting.

The waitress came to tell us how great the lamb wellington would taste. We believed her, but she was worried.

But when the lamb wellington arrived, it was fabulous, unstoppably edible, a bit with potato, a bit with veg, a bit with a little more pastry..

Desserts sounded great. Cheesecake brule sounded like the perfect resolution of the rather irritating habit that cheesecake has of being mostly cheese. However the key turned out to be in the ‘lightly’ bruleed. It was alright. Some chefs just aren’t dessert chefs and should be appreciated for their other skills.

Brûléed cheesecake

Brûléed cheesecake

I think the tardiness of the kitchen might have been a one off. Later customers seemed not to struggle in the same way. And the waiting staff and the man we suspected of being the owner were impeccable (Boulangerie Jade , I love you… But are you listening..?!) both showing a real passion for the food that was being served. They and offered us limoncella shots after the tip question was long gone.

17 Montpelier Vale, Blackheath, London, SE3 0TA

(02088) 529226

“Next Wimbledon I’ll be stocking up on the pesto” a Review of Zero Degrees in Blackheath

A review of 0 degrees, A restaurant and bar in Blackheath SE3

I have an issue with Zero Degrees (yes, it’s going to be one of those days). I am not 100% sure about these fusion menu pizzas: sweet sauces on pizza dough for mains. There are many successful fusion restaurants in the world, but they fuse the menu, not the dishes. For your information: Peking duck in plum sauce belongs on pancakes, not pizzas.

I’m so glad to get that off my chest.

The brewery at zero degrees

The brewery at zero degrees

I was persuaded to give it another chance the other day. After all it’s headline is microbrewery which is actually quite fun. So I went in muttering, “Peking duck pizza- huh?” just quietly enough that the staff wouldn’t spit in my food. Zero does in fact have very friendly staff, they who attentively found a spot away from the children who were there early evening and managed to stop me wandering into a beer VAT on the way to the toilet.

Nice toilets, by the way. Got Dyson hand driers. No I don’t have a picture. Taking a camera to the toilet is odd.

Back at the menus, I advised everyone not to order sweet pizza. They rolled their eyes, and made noises about the peri peri and Thai chicken pizzas. I made scathing noises back. I’ve said how I feel and I don’t want to talk about anymore. In the end a Carne Asana pizza was settled upon.

I had a simple mozzarella and tomato gnocchi. The kitchen must have choked on their over-worked pizzas. Ha! I let then put on black pepper and discovered that there was quite a depth of favour in the sauce. In a good way. It was an extremely rewarding eat.

Tomato Gnocci at Zero Degrees

Tomato Gnocci at Zero Degrees

Then I tasted the Carne Asada. That was good. It was unusual enough for me to retract my scathing noises: wood smoked rump streak, chillies, smoked cheeses, coriander, red onion, avocado salsa.

Pizza at Zero Degrees

Pizza at Zero Degrees

Ok, I have got to say, it was a master piece of a pizza. A touch of heat from chillies, cold from the coriander and flavour, just pure flavour from the rest. Bring on the rice-pudding pizza, Zero Degrees pizzas are fabulous. They really know how to differentiate.

The brewery at zero degrees

And so to the micro-brewery. I liked my beer. Now I’m going to have to cater for the beer-geeks and admit I am not a regular beer taster. But the wheat beer hit the mark, suitably complicated with a mild astringency and a golden glow.. Or was that me glowing after the beer?

I couldn’t take iPhone pictures of the beer in this light, so you’re just going to close your eyes and imagine. (but somehow keep reading). I do find Zero on the dark and loud side, an effect that it exacerbated by the stainless steel interior.

Zero was summed up by the last cocktail on the table. A basil grande, which I believe is unique to Zero? Now, ‘the Apprentice’ and the broadsheets assure me that strawberry and basil, the theme of this drink, this is a dynamic combination. I just didn’t believe them until this cocktail, which was rewardingly sweet and refreshing.

Yep be assured, next Wimbledon I’ll be stocking up on the pesto.

29/31 MONTPELIER VALE
BLACKHEATH
LONDON. SE3 0TJ

“I wouldn’t have ordered glacé cherry icecream. You’d have been ashamed of me if I had.” A Review of Black Vanilla Gelateria, SE3

A Review of Black Vanilla, Blackheath. London

Ok, so i am a stubborn character. This is partly the reason i have resisted recommendations from friends and followers on Black Vanilla coffee. Also Black Vanilla is a gelateria, and not having the time and hands to rearrange a cone of ice cream into an Affogato, I have being buying 2 scoop cones. More seems greedy.

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And add to that, the ice cream in Black Vanilla is ok. Yep, ok. And that’s sad for the only local gelateria I have ever heard of. Take for example, sour cherry icecream. I have a quandary here. I have to remember whether it was cherry icecream or sour cherry icecream. But even without the ‘sour’ in the name, cherry is not without a little tartness, right? With the one exception of glacé cherry icecream. And it definitely wasn’t called that. I wouldn’t have ordered glacé cherry icecream. You’d have been ashamed of me if I had.

Lots of ice-cream at Black Vanilla

Lots of ice-cream at Black Vanilla

So the fact that the maybe-sour cherry icecream was all sweet, also made me pretty cynical about all of these coffee recommendations.

However this is winter. No one ponders icecream at 4pm on a December afternoon (although a surprising number of customers were), and I thought- why not try the coffee? No one would ever know I’d compromised my cynic’s principles.

First sip… Wow… Deep and rich and yet again that slight coconut undercurrent that I encountered in Chapters. Caught in the act, I have to admit this is the best coffee I have tasted in the village.

Coffee at Black Vanilla

Coffee at Black Vanilla

I’d arrived wanting cake, maybe cake with brandy… And I was a little disappointed by the selection.. The quite cupcakes may have been ok, and i have heard good things about the pastries. I sadly skimmed and dismissed the possibility of a crepe, waffles, because when I tasted the crepe that was ordered by my table it was fabulous and lemony and crunchy with sugar. I persuaded my husband to make pancakes shortly after to make up for missing them.

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The white hot chocolate came recommended too.
So that’s how it is, if I fancy good coffee and pancakes, I’ll be down at my local gelateria
Still have cold feet though.

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32 Tranquil Vale, Blackheath SE3 OAX