Some walks from Oxleas Woods SE18

Have you ordered my debut novel, HELEN AND THE GRANDBEES yet? Described by the Daily Mail as ‘Engaging and Uplifting’ its the perfect read for an autumn lockdown.

In stock at all major bookstores, but this link will support local bookshops:

Amazon here:

“If a treat is available it should be indulged,” Pre-lockdown Boulangerie Jade review

So many places in blackheath have been so good at their social distancing that we decided to do the ‘trip before lockdown’ experience, so long as we could be sure it was safe.

Now, a ‘Trip Before Lockdown’ is a very special occasion and should not be undertaken lightly. If a treat is available it should be indulged, because THIS IS THE LAST TIME FOR A MONTH, WHO KNOWS, MAYBE MORE…

That’s right, we visited Boulangerie Jade at the Blackheath Standard and nothing was off the table. Nothing…

So I had a vegetarian breakfast. You know, I never give this credit until it turns up, absolutely bursting with vegetables, slow cooked mixed baked beans, veggie sausages and poached eggs. It’s a real diversion from the same old greasy plate.

Always go vegetarian on this menu.

Treat-dom really kicks in on the dessert front at Jade. I don’t mean a pastry (brekkie) I don’t mean a florentine or nut-cracker (biscuit for your coffee), I mean cream, and maybe sponge or outer-pastry, pastry on the outside only (or submerged in cream) which led me to the rare treat for me of… The Jade Chocolate Moussy Thing (anglicised version of the true name… ah, say it in a fake french accent if that really offends you…)

The Boulangerie Jade Chocolate Moussy Thing

I mean, after that pic, do you really need me to talk about how rich and chocolates it is, how those milk flakes scattered around the dark tempered chocolate…?

Have you ordered my debut novel, HELEN AND THE GRANDBEES yet? Described by the Daily Mail as ‘Engaging and Uplifting’ its the perfect read for an autumn lockdown

In stock at all major bookstores, but this link will support local bookshops:

pic courtesy of book_club_mumma

Review of Wisley Gardens… and environs

In June, we discovered the RHS gardens. Can’t remember why. Think I saw it on someone’s instagram. We packed fake fizz and I made an artichoke and thyme pizza and apple cake and we ventured out into the newly unlocked world, wondering if the toilets would be closed and what we would do if they were. We started with Hyde Hall, and worked our way down to Wisley. We came home with crates of roses and tomatoes fully enamoured of the place, having had the nicest day since lockdown. Readers, we joined their membership. 

Scenes from Wisley Gardens (RHS)… No… that is not me taking a dive…

We’ve since discovered that Wisley gardens are slightly closer, and have been venturing out on Thursday afternoons to enjoy this pretty corner of the South East. The social distancing booking rules actually probably work out in a slightly nicer experience, even though this also means that you have to book in advance and we have had more than one grey rainy day (proving the perfect excuse to show off my rain coat.) and hence we have had quite an opportunity to sample the local pubs and coffee shops and restaurants. 

It began with the Anchor. There are two in Ripley. We’d agreed to meet friends at the first only to find it locked, but ogled the AA rosette menu and committed to coming back (even if our friends did not show). This resulted in a gorgeous meal of scallops, beef tartare and hake. My husband had dessert and I watched. It was Tonka bean creme brûlée, I had one mouthful and it was divine. Then I googled tonka beans. I highly recommend googling tonka beans before indulging in them. We might not for a while. (Note… there is more than one Anchor Pub in Ripley. This was the one not on the canal)

Tonka bean creme brûlée at the Anchor in Ripley

The White Hart in Pirbright was were we ended up after this. I recognised this menu. I recognised the menu from Birmingham. This would have been fine, the menu was nicer than your bog standard so called gastro pub (read burgers, fish and chips) but only just. And most disappointingly the fabulous looking drinks listed in headlines across the menu really weren’t all that fantastic. Great ingredients, too much watering down.  Passed the time, this menu, but was a pleasant environment.

Creme Brûlée in a cup (my husband really likes Creme Brûlée)

More recently was our opportunity to eat at Stovell’s in Chobham. We’d seen this come up before in tripadvisor, but weren’t able to get in. This time we booked in advance… which we seriously reconsidered after thunder and lightening in Wisley raining us off, but leaving us with a gap between downpour and dinner. We hence arrived earlier, resulting in much merriment on the part of the maitre de, who thought it was just that we did not want to leave the car, whilst outside was a pure block of rain. This was unfair. 

The meal at the warming Tudor building of Stovell’s was amazing. The portions were small but filling, this being the shared sea bass (which arrives the same size as it would on the tasting menu) and the alcohol free gin. Scattered with botanicals, this was the best we tasted.

Sea Bass at Stovells

The staff enthused about the piñata dessert, but the Tudor rose ice cream with chocolate mousse seemed more tempting (to the disappointment of the waitress), and on arrival I think I had the better choice, the brightly coloured piñata containing a little too much meringue (or a little too little fruit) to balance the meal. I’m still daydreaming about that mousse.

Piñata dessert at Stovells Chobham

The waitress seemed a little disappointed to be giving us the bill after only 90 minutes. ”I just want to keep you here, she said,” and she praised us for our honesty about the meal. (We weren’t too sure what this referred to. Pointing out that the dessert menu was actually not the dessert menu perhaps? This took little honesty.) however the good news was she seemed to be one of those people who really meant all the gushing things she said, so we went home feeling wholly appreciated.

I have a few places yet to add to this list… Thai, English cuisine, a lovely coffee shop in Ripley so I’ll update this page as they go…

Have you ordered my debut novel, HELEN AND THE GRANDBEES yet? Described by the Daily Mail as ‘Engaging and Uplifting’ its the perfect read for an autumn lockdown.

In stock at all major bookstores, but this link will support local bookshops:

Helen and the Grandbees, Alex Morrall

The Homestead Cafe at Beckenham Place

Beckenham Place (which I have for some reason consistently been referring to as a Palace… c’mon, it has an outdoor swimming lake – that’s palatial) has stolen my heart with a paper cup.

I recklessly ordered a midday mulled wine with my pizza, breaking my ‘lunchtime drinking‘ rule, and my ‘sweet drinks with savoury food‘ rule in one rebellious stroke. The cashier was unfazed and patiently taught us how to collect food and drink in a COVID-appropriate fashion, also instinctively providing my husband with two forks for our Guinness cake – smart man!

I like their queuing system in which your name is called, and there is no one wondering off with your skinny-latte-that’s-so-bespoke how could anyone else think it’s theirs. But most of all I liked what arrived.

(all of this was occurring outside in the open air and so we could have met with four people outside of our household – but we didn’t)

If food blogging was not just a hobby for me, and I was like an influencer, like… I’d have done my nails for this shot. But there we go. I don’t get paid enough.

Do you see that… do you sea the crusting of brown sugar ON A PAPER CUP, and orange trimming. It was utterly delicious as we sipped it in the autumnal sunlight of the courtyard. I finished mine long before we were buzzed for pizzas…

…which I have to say were also really pretty good. According to Homestead’s website these are hand made daily on the premises.

The Guinness cake was gorgeous and moist. Could have been heavier in the cream cheese icing stakes, but not bad. I would have a piccy for you, but it somehow disappeared before I had a moment (like I said, hobbiest, not influencer. I owe no one nothing) My only regret was not also buying a peanut butter brownie.

Don’t forget to order a copy of Helen and the Grandbees based in SE London (use the other sellers option, because Amazon has run out of stock.)

“Engaging and Uplifting” – The Daily Mail

Breathtaking and moving’ Awais Khan, author

Book Cover for Helen and the Grandbees

“Helen and the Grandbees” – ‘Engaging and Uplifting’ – the Daily Mail

Buy Helen and the Grandbees here:

A little diversion for the blog today as my my novel “Helen and the Grandbees” based in south east London has just hit publication date…

It’s a different type of wrtiting from the reviews you’ve been enjoying at It’s still got the same humour, but it tackles some more serious issues: 

‘Breathtaking and moving, Helen and the Grandbees is a novel that bravely explores themes of familial discord, race and love in modern Britain. It is a book that immediately gripped me, compelling me to keep turning the pages well into the night. Morrall writes with confidence, poise, and a sense of humour to match. At times heartbreaking and heartwarming, this is a novel readers won’t soon forget. A riveting debut.’ Awais Khan, author of In the Company of Strangers

Buy Helen and the Grandbees here:

Forgetting your past is one thing, but living with your present is entirely different.

Twenty years ago, Helen is forced to give up her newborn baby, Lily. Now living alone in her small flat, there is a knock at the door and her bee, her Lily, is standing in front of her.

Reuniting means the world to them both, but Lily has questions. Lots of them. Questions that Helen is unwilling to answer. In turn Helen watches helplessly as her headstrong daughter launches from relationship to relationship, from kind Andrew, the father of her daughter, to violent Kingsley who fathers her son.

When it’s clear her grandbees are in danger, tangled up in her daughter’s damaging relationship, Helen must find the courage to step in, confronting the fears that haunt her the most.

Other Endorsements

‘Authentic and tender’ Carmel Harrington

I loved how one Goodreads Reviewer has put it: At its core, this is a sad, heart-wrencher of a story, made even more so as details of Helen’s past are slowly, carefully revealed to us — but what made it such a good read for me was the fact that, at the same time, amidst the ugliness and terror that rule Helen’s life, it’s filled with so much hope and love. Stories like Helen’s, Ingrid/Lily’s, Aisha’s, and Ryan’s often fly under the radar in everyday life, but Morrall gently reminds us of the importance of compassion to others and to oneself.

‘Alex can write; she has a way, a bit like playwright Mike Leigh, of zooming into the tiniest, seemingly mundane physical details of a situation, and in so doing, conveying the complexity, circularity and pattern of relationship and emotion. There is a humanity and a realism about her writing that Is far from commonplace despite the fact that when you read about the people and situations in her storytelling, they are instantly recognisable. Helen and the Grandbees is unbearably sad but because Alex manages the seemingly impossible feat of introducing hope right from the start it is possible to read and read on, with curiosity and enjoyment.’ Dr Kairen Cullen, Writer and Psychologist 

Helen and the Grandbees is a sensitively told exploration of race, mental illness, forgiveness, domestic violence, homelessness, and poverty in 20th/21st century England. Morrall writes from the quirky, stream-of-consciousness perspective of Helen, who I quickly grew to care about, and who must confront her past and her fears when her grandchildren need her most.

Tila Deptford

I’m duty bound to write about Tila.. because despite the food being delicious, there was no one else there… no one to admire the wood fire and the relaxed decor. This is wrong. People are missing out.

There was much to like, the QR code menus, the open kitchens (from which we would have heard if there was a cough…) the wide sunlit windows. – and that menu, oh that menu…. Tila understand flavours… and colours.

My husband chose the pork belly and I had the harrissa chicken, which was a bit of a dieter’s concession, but arrived deeply grilled and flavoured and was perfectly complemented by the quinoa tabbouleh, however inauthentic that may sound.

The only shock was that they were out of miso french toast for dessert. Apparently it ‘flew of the shelves’ the day before… (Friday must have been more busy than Saturday then) which we all accepted on face value and ordered different desserts.

But after the waiter left, it occurred to me that the ingrediants for french toast are hardly rare (neither is miso, either, and sat just there around the corner from the wonderfully diverse ‘world’ shopping options of Deptford, even less so).. so what did Tila not have (bread? eggs?) or did they not trust us with their french toast? Was their french toast chef out? ‘Maybe they are out of caramel?’ suggested my husband. Yep, caramel, that thing that (better cooks than I) make out of sugar. Nope. This was a conspiracy of the foremost kind. Maybe the CIA needed all the french toast in the country (or whatever the french version of the CIA are). Or maybe it was the CIA, and they got confused about France and the UK, because they’re all over there in Europe and generally a bit smaller than the states and so took our toast instead.

Insights welcomed.

We settled for cardamom chocolate slice, which turned out to be a particularly gooey brownie infused with cardamom, like it said one the tin. Extra points for sending this with a jarringly fresh creme fraiche rather than vanilla ice cream or cream.

We left satisfied and surreptitiously checking out everyone else’s plates, you know, for the mysteriously missing french toast.

Don’t forget to order “Helen and the Grandbees” My Deptford based novel

“Engaging and Uplifting” – The Daily Mail

Book Cover for Helen and the Grandbees

“Can we have the tasting menu and swap all the meals..?” A Review of Copper & Ink SE3

I might have reviewed Copper and Ink before, but they are so lovely, persistent through lockdown, constantly encouraging us via twitter, and enduring Uber disasters that they were due a re-run.

And I’m very glad I revisited… They are COVID-Measure-Mega, screens, signs on the door about masks away from the tables – and simultaneously polite and welcoming, dispelling the eating out in a pandemic nerves.

`We had tasting-menu crisis. Basically the tasting menu looked perfect, but so did the whiskey baba, orange and bitters ice cream, with sherbet. (SOME restaurants DO know how to maximise their menu word allowance when coming up with a dish). I mean, opening with whiskey was always going to go well for this dessert. Then we noticed we actually couldn’t eat one of the dessert menu items and asked if we could swap. They really did it. We love them. We got exactly what we wanted. (This was the beginning of a one-sided relationship).

This was now a no brainer, there were no items on the entire two pages that we couldn’t squeeze into the evening, which opened with porcini with herb gnocchi, aged Parmesan foam and cep powder.

These sort of dishes are like mini adventures. Let me try mushroom with the foam, followed by gnocchi with foam… now all three at once… ah, my dish has disappeared some how.

The next course was glazed langoustine tails, razor clams, fennel relish and cucumber ketchup. That’s four iterations to play with.. er… I mean sample in a dignified fashion. It was at this point, that I started to release that my plan of not eating all of each dish, to facilitate completion of the tasting meal, was actually, not a plan.

Here’s the pistachio biscuit, raspberry jelly and pistachio cremeux… Looks aside, I’ve been to many restaurants that ‘look’ as elegantly designed, but few taste as good as they do at Copper and Ink in terms of flavour combinations and quality of execution . (I’m not just saying this because I justify my chaotic homemade cakes with the fact they taste good)

After filling up on a host of complementary flavours and works of art on a dish, I sat back musing on how a germ could possibly reach me from anyone in the restaurant, visualising the little spikey cell floating about and smashing face first into a screen. Nope. There was no way it could reach me unless it developed opposeable thumbs and ambi-turning in this restaurant that’s succeeded in being safe and cosy at the same time.

Have you pre-ordered my novel “Helen and the Grandbees” yet?

Out on October 28th!

Book Cover for Helen and the Grandbees

‘I did not suffer bone meltdown’ … a review of The Lord Northbrook, Lee SE12

I’m starting to find Lee a very attractive eating location. It has wide pavements and the ability to move from transport to eatery without having to wait at pedestrian railings while others in various modes of grumpiness pass by glowering. I’ve been meaning to review The Lord Northbrook for just about forever.

I was a little taken aback to notice it was part of the Fuller’s pub chain, rather than an independent.` So it was with trepidation that we entered the one way system into a cosy room, well lit with extraordinarily large windows for pre-20th Century building, only to find an impressive menu, sensitive to the diversity of modern eating styles and hence with traditional dishes and dishes that were more inventive.

Mostly good, but I call those roasties, rather than the new potatoes described.

The white fish and new potatoes that I did order were warming and delicious and remarkably healthy, simple and traditionally cooked sole in lemon and butter with capers and tartare sauce. Now, did anyone else take a very long time to realise that tartare sauce is actually a really good thing and not just a food that grown ups invented to ruin a good fish and chips?

Even better, I did not suffer bone-meltdown. In the past it has occurred to me that lemon sole should come with a technical ability warning. Well, this night… I passed the test, scraping the fish from the bones like a pro. Sadly socially distanced tables meant there was no one around to applause my expertise. That was a bit of a downer. The side dish of bean and kale was perfectly cooked and dressed, too, arriving with streamers of kale which made me wonder which kitchen utensil had been repurposed in this ‘make kale interesting’ venture.

The tap water comes in Gordon’s Gin bottles. I leave you to decide whether this is actually water or gin. It certainly looks the same and I’ve sampled ‘gins’ that tasted the same.

Gin or water. You decide.

And then to dessert, which I shared. But to be honest, I regretted sharing. It was tiny. And readers, don’t get me wrong, when dessert is good, tiny is good, a little sparkle to end a great meal. Was it good….? Oh yes. The raspberry sorbet was sharp and the lemon tart was not too sweet on on a fudgy base. They went well together. Or you could eat them like I did, pretending I had two desserts, separately. Way to live.

By the end of the meal, we’d finished a whole gin bottle between us. Just like that.

IIt’s just two weeks now, until the release of my Novel ‘Helen & The Grandbees’ with Legend Press. Read the reviews here:

Book Cover for Helen and the Grandbees

A review of Koy SE3

Finally, ownership has been taken of CAU the impressive (triple?) fronted building facing the heath with absolutely everything going for it except for apparently the occupancy of a restaurant that will not eventually go under. It’s now a Turkish restaurant and at the time of my visit had neither website, nor extremely different decor from the previous ownership, and hence I’m finding myself thinking of it as, the new CAU.

I was astonished to discover the lack of a huge sharing platter including all types of mezze on the menu… is this not how Turkish people eat all the time? Is mezze not the Turkish superior equivalent of our soggy sprouts and chips? This meant that we had to order separate starters and although these were listed as small, they were a generous lunch in their own right: Hummus, and watermelon and feta salad and a lot of bread. Somehow over the course of the meal we ended up with 3 baskets of bread, kindly put in a takeaway box by leaving time.

Main courses of course were a variation of shish kebab, we both went for Ali nazik, which was lamb on a bed of aubergine. The only downer here was that the aubergine was cold, hence lowering the temperature of the entire kebab. But the lamb was succulent and spicy. Other options from the menu included steak and salmon teriyaki. This threw me, but my husband reckoned he’d seen such strange sights before. Is this a thing in Turkish cuisine?

I was not supposed to be eating dessert. I was supposed to be dieting, but you know.. baklava. Honey and nuts and filo pastry are healthy, no? So okay we ordered one portion and in the absence of de-caffeinated coffee at Koy, took it home (less the ice cream. Does anyone else not get how baklava and ice cream go together?) only to find that one portion looked extremely large so maybe I’d help my husband finish it. Good Baklava.

Have you pre-ordered my novel “Helen and the Grandbees” yet?

Out on October 28th!

Book Cover for Helen and the Grandbees

A review of Little Sparrow Tea

I may be known as a coffee shop blog, but the reality is that I’m much more of a tea snob. There are many things that annoy me about tea, and you may be practising some of them yourself, so I am declaring this a free-tea-opinion site, and state – NO! Earl Grey was NEVER supposed to have milk in. NO! French tea cafes that sell tisserands are missing the point of tea. NO! Adding sugary flavours to tea is NOT COOL. Taste may be subjective, just don’t ever serve it to me.

Is anyone still reading? Perhaps not, but they’d be missing out on my discovery of the local Little Sparrow Tea who posts delicious and describable teas through the letter box. I ordered a long time favourite – oolong tea. The Oolong that was delivered had a wonderful golden warmth in colour and taste, whilst still retaining the needed astringency of tea. The tiny green black balls of tea unravelled in the water when it boils. And… please don’t tell the producer that I said so, but it stands up to a second brew. No, that wasn’t a very tea-snobby thing to say, was it? See, I am ‘of the people’ after all. (Very Importannt Note: unlike a friend of mine I do not recycle tea bags)

Spicy Cocoa Tea

I also ordered a cocoa and spices tea. This is warming and delicious way of recovering from an overcast day (and actually a sore throat too!) without any sugary or fake-flavour additions.

Have you pre-ordered my novel Helen and the Grandbees yet…? Publication date is getting closer.

Book Cover for Helen and the Grandbees