The window experience differs depending where you sit.

A review of cream tea at the Clarendon, SE3

You’ll have seen the Clarendon. It’s that impressive Georgian hotel right on top of the Heath. Looks like you’d have to be a millionaire to stay there right up until you see the room prices

The Clarendon has been branching out lately: jazz nights, afternoon tea. I approve of all of this, it’s bars and restaurants are always on the quiet side and the rest of the village can be a struggle to find anywhere to sit- especially for a genuinely quiet drink and chat on a Saturday evening…. If a little clincal.

This visit was to investigate the afternoon tea. Also reasonably priced at 12.90 per person – non sparkling (the tea menu, that is, not the person. Both my husband and I are very sparkling thank you very much). And they have “load of teas” according to the enthusiastic waitress, “absolutely loads”. English breakfast, Earl Grey an and loads of fruit teas to go with our “grub” . Lapsang? Oh she’s heard of that one from Costa, but the Clarendon is not as exciting as Costa.

Now aside from her tea expertise, I’d like to add that this waitress deserves a paragraph in her own right for being switched on to customer needs. She gave us the window table (definitely the best table in the hotel… I’ll come back to that), but then had the wherewithal to go and check first if she should close the window, and whether the table was too cold. How many better meals in my life would I have had if they had not been spent shivering?

The window experience differs depending where you sit. If you face the window, you get the vista of the heath, framed by a book case of heritage titles. If you face the restaurant, you look at the shabby navy curtain separating the rooms and keep wincing with the thought that surely it couldn’t be too expensive could it just be to buy new ones from eBay. It just seems so rude to such an elegant building.

Afternoon tea arrived with the standard supply of sandwiches, scones and cake. Oh, and tea, Darjeeeling from Twinings- a basic model for success unless you want to offer a seat of your pants teatime experience). The sandwiches of ham, salmon and egg were in brown bread which surprised us, and the scones too had a golden hue- very different from the bleached white picture in the advertisement. And everything had fresh strawberries scattered over it- a nice touch, as were the attention to detail of removing the crusts, and the fact that every ingredient was notably fresh to the extent that you commented on it. There had been no attempt to hide slightly aged cucumber in the salmon sandwiches. There had been an attempt to hide margarine in the ham sandwiches, with the use of mustard. This wasn’t entirely unsuccessful, but why would any self respecting restaurabter ever cond themselves having to hide margarine? At least stale food started off fresh.

The golden scones were delicious. Really so, fresh and warm and crumbling. I had to ask what made them different, and received the reply that they were really were normal scones but had sultanas in them. Who’d’ve thought it sultana’s in scones? (We had the suspicion that a brown sugar had been used instead of white, but are otherwise at a loss for the difference in flavour and taste).

Clotted cream came in mini jam pots which raised suspicions but it was faultless and there were no dodgy substances in the ingredients list, perhaps clotting was a process to preserve cream anyway? Portions of jam and cream were a little on the mean side. The mini fruit tarts were the only disappointment. Defrosted, or just out of the refrigerator and hence lined with cold custard. We should talk about this sometime- he appropriateness of custard in all fruit tarts. The exotic looking mini cakes on the flyer, coated in chocolate they were not. I don’t mind missing those by the way, they’ve being touted everywhere. Anyway, by this stage in anybody’s afternoon teas I have moved from needing something to soak up the tea to something with which to wash all the food down.

I’d call it a good value and good quality afternoon tea. Is good value what afternoon tea is supposed to be?

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If simplicity yields perfection I’m all good with that

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A Review of The Old Brewery, Greenwich

I didn’t expect to get seated at the meantime brewery. After all it was sunny bank holiday evening, not far from the Thames, and getting seating has definitely been a problem in the past, but I wonder of the novelty’s worn off…. there was the odd available table.

There were other changes. I have to report that the overpriced pub grub menu has been upgraded. Unfortunately we’d already eaten at the market, so this is a non-sampled menu review. (I know- shouldn’t be allowed, but somehow I feel I can still provide enlightenment). Significant improvements seemed to include proper bar snacks along with recommended matching beers: real pub food with matching beers. There was a very small dessert menu, but if simplicity yields perfection I’m all good with that (plus, it makes decisions easier). This is all more pleasant than the days that we would pop in for a drink, struggle for a seat and order rounds of over-priced bread to accompany our meantime lagers until they ran out (of the bread not the lager).

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The strength of meantime is it’s authenticity. It is an own brewery packed into a Greenwich house in the gardens of the old naval hospital, Greenwich university, very near the Thames, with climbing roses (that always make me sneeze) in the redbrick circling walls. Why would you spend a summer evening anywhere else?

That said, it is a genuine pub. You have to battle elbows and assert yourself at the bar. I’m sure I’m too old for this cold stare; I was here first; he’s been waiting for fifteen minutes palava.

The real genius of the upgraded menu was the tasting lager placket. So popular as to be seen on every table. This was effectively 3 one-third pints of meantime beers. Our choice was Pacific pale ale, Yakima red and stout. I am not normally a stout drinker, but this stout was one of the best drinks in the placket- very mellow and chocolatey. It may have been too much for me as a pint, but delicious as a third of a pint. The pacific pale ale started off well somewhat sea like in taste, but seemed the weaker of the set by the end. A beautiful end to summer (yeah, sorry about that- but there’s only so much pretending to be done.)

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It really really was worth the wait. A Review of Villa Moura

Lulas a Villa Moura. Unstoppably lovely

Lulas a Villa Moura. Unstoppably lovely

If you have been a regular reader of the blog lately, you may have noticed that I have been trying to re-live the fishing village dinners of my recent french holiday, memories of chargrilled octopus for ridiculous cheap prices along side simple halves of jacket potatoes.

Well, I think I have finally found it- albeit without the cheap prices.

Having ordered starters, we had a sense of foreboding when Villa Moura placed next to our waiting cutlery a plate of bread that featured a cheap brown roll. We are guessing hovis, or maybe Aldi. This was made all the word by the attempts to warm it, which just dried it out and made it seem stale.

The starters arrived with a type of a grilled bacon like chorizo which initially felt a bit disappointing, but then we tucked into the whole combination of squid and peri peri sauce, and then didn’t really stop until there was nothing that could be swept up with a fork, and then reaching for the bread to mop it all up and thinking… er… maybe not, I am not going to let stale hovis spoil this masterpiece of a dish. Perhaps this is how the anglicised disgust with wiping plates with bread all began. It was never as we might have thought, a belief that such a habit was rude and messy, but respect for not ruining the meal with bad bread.

 

So really, having felt a little disappointed with the scene setting bread, things were looking up.

Things looked down again when we then got so fed up waiting for the plates to be cleared that we cleared them ourselves ands put them at the end of the table, where they were studiously ignored by many an empty handed waiter and waitress. We forgot that that starters were great and started to fall asleep. We asked if our mains were going to show and were given an apologetic explanation about disorganisation in the kitchen, and dinner would be no more than five more minutes.

Robalo con Pinhao... Worth the wait!

Robalo con Pinhao… Worth the wait!

Eight minutes later, filleted sea bass with a pistachio crust cooked in shallots and lemon juice basil and parsley arrived (looking like it had been cooked for about eight minutes) with cooked potatoes and vegetables and similar items that the menu hadn’t mentioned. It was flawlessly delicious. It was what I have been looking for all month. It was worth the wait. Did I really say that? It really really was worth the wait.

Shortly after we finished it the table behind us, who had been in before us, received their main meal.

Many of the desserts looked promising. But it was getting a bit late to spend much time choosing and I had an enjoyable poached pear in red wine, and sampled the creme caramel on the other side of the table. Both arrived very promptly.

Poached pear

Poached pear

This was not the end of the meal. I mean, can you imagine the joy of being able to order truffles with (or for – if you’re that type of person) dessert? The menu offers truffles in quantities of 3,5,8- a quick perusal of the restaurant revealed that we were almost all in pairs- we were compelled to chose the 8. And we were motivated to do this by the truffles we observed on another table, very large round chocolates. However what arrived were the flaked chocolate truffle-type and not all that great. We have our suspicions… It feels like they are working throughout a set of gifts the guests brought.

 

We hadn’t brought chocolates, wine or flowers on our visit. Do you think that is why they never cleared the plates?

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