So maybe I did close my eyes when I read that bit about Comte Cheese- Another review of Cote in Blackheath

Health warning. This article fails to replicate a single accented vowel. Because I don’t know how to type them.

Cote needs a re-review from me, partially because i cruelly judged them on their 9.99 menu last year …. and mostly because I popped in the other night out of convenience and I feel I have more to add.

Being for convenience, i steered clear of steak frites that would ruin my waistline of a weekday, and found myself drawn to the “light bites”- baked crepes, Comte , spinach, peppers, provencale sauce.

Light bite?! (so maybe I did close my eyes when I read that bit about Comte) That creamy tomatoey sizzling enormity of a dish that by the way deigned to include a bit of buckwheat crepe? Delicious though. And that’s from a carnivore.

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Desserts however were not great. Crepes with Grand Marnier could have been the most exciting thing in there, but it was hardly rocking my world. And I like crepes – you may have noticed already (fried carbs).

Chocolate fondant- yawn. And Coupe Noir described on the menu as ice cream with chocolate sauce? Is this not the most boring sundae ever described? Does it not feel it’s missing something, anything from the supermarket aisle: hundreds and thousands, cream, a flake, a wafer…? In fact every dessert came with ice cream and nothing with cream. I’m feeling mean because the staff are charming. They just offered the table next door free pink champagne for their occasion.

Ahhh, when I taste the tarte tatin I want to take it all back. It’s like like apples on a croissant. Warm and buttery. Why didn’t I order coffee? Actually, I could even have enjoyed this without the apple, perhaps earlier in the day, between the hours of seven and ten. But the ice cream is JUST wrong. It was too cold and towards the end merged with the pastry crumbs to make a soggy overly sweet mess. Croissants and ice cream don’t go. Someone make sure cronut bandwagon drivers informed of this before something horrifying is invented.

Fried bits that weren’t calamari

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So this is a quick review of the Bianco43 that has opened in Blackheath in the venue of Dooooom, from who’s opening night we have recently attended.

Now I was worried for Bianco 43. If you see my review of ‘Venice‘, the previous resident of the ex-Natwest Bank, the location seems impossible to fix up into anything with a semblance of sophistication.

But the prettiness of Greenwich’s Bianco 43 has been effectively transposed to Blackheath in all its relaxed beachcomber glory.

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So the opening night was buffet food.. But it was Buffett food that excelled any buffet food to date. It was nice to try out the menu options other than the pizza. There was glorious rich aubergine (link), slices of pecorino, and minature fried pizzas. The real life pizza was good too. Take a look at this areal photo of it coming out of the coals. (If you can make it out in the bad iPhone picture!)

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There was perfect calamari (as noted in the review of the Greenwich location) and other fried bits, tiny little fried balls. Not idea what they were, but very moreish with the prosecco.

The owners are also exceptionally attentive. Massimo went around to meet all his guests table by table, decided to sit with me while my husband was at the bar and then when he decided that my husband wasn’t being served quickly enough had me point him out from the balcony. He went downstairs to tell the barman that he must serve this man as he had a wife sitting alone. I don’t think that this was about how bad my company was… there was a language barrier. (I should note that Massimo would not have know. I am a local blogger).

In summary, thanks to Bianco 43 for the invite and I am definitely a fan.
BIANCO43 BLACKHEATH
1-3 LEE ROAD
SE3 9RQ

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I do concede that I did not actually see a microwave in the preparation of these eggs

A review of the Village Deli, Blackheath SE3

In a virtually empty village deli, I sipped an iced jasmine tea from a pretty little bottle and overheard the only other person in the room order a very specifically crafted haddock dish. Then I smelt said haddock dish being prepared and thought to myself, I must come back when I am hungrier. This might also appease the waitress who was a little contemptuous of my request for ice tea only.

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The point of the deli seems to be breakfast. Neither the sandwich or the dinner menus are half as big as the breakfast menu. It actually starts getting a bit confusing. You mentally flag that they’ve got bubble and squeak – must make sure that I get a dish with that, but then they have pancakes and waffles, and croissants, and a seemingly promising array of fish which was why I was there in the first place. Waffles and bubble and squeak with haddock- does not compute… does not compute..

The seats and tables are like the school canteen, cluttered in together, and requiring heavy manoeuvring in order to just sit down. You have to try quite hard to make the staff smile, and not query where your order has gone in case you upset them.

There also seem to be some very good brands in stock. Union coffee for example, that we baulked at the price of in the maritime museum was 5.99. That seems a good enough reason to scour the rest of the menu.

So anyway, the breakfast: Haddock- great, perfectly cooked, lemon adding a nice dimension. But microwaved eggs? Hard-microwaved eggs, when they should be oozing over the haddock (or the bubble and squeak that appeared on the other plate)? This was very disappointing. I think just as some countries fail to understand tea, some food establishments fail to understand eggs. Please note: Eggs are not just oval protein modules; they are the seed for the cook’s creativity-a biologically inaccurate description, I know.

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I do concede that I did not actually see a microwave in the preparation of these eggs, but if there was no microwave involved, then a whole new level of culinary failure was achieved on the day of my visit: The sense of microwaved food without microwave. I know, people will pay for it one day.

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Our coffee was made with geek level care, and it showed it.

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I really did not like the eggs. But the Village Deli was otherwise a very inauspicious hidden gem and worthy of its cult status. You could dash out of the car park and miss it whilst ‘Cook’ and ‘Jigsaw’ flaunt their bright banners. And that would be a pity if you are prepared to forgo the eggs and just have a delicious breakfast.

(Ok, I’ll stop talking about eggs now).

The Village Deli 1 – 3 Tranquil Vale, London, SE3 0BU

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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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Three Breakfasts, Many drinks. A review of Giraffe in Blackheath SE3

Ok, so the one note I made for the blog whilst eating breakfast in Giraffe was “pepper mill”. That’s it. It sits in black and yellow in the middle of my iPhone notepad and full of promise of significance, a knowingness that those two words would trigger my most valid observation about breakfast in Giraffe.

Things every giraffe knows (apparently)

Things every giraffe knows (apparently)

All promise, and no delivery. Why did I write pepper mill? WHY was I so lazy as to not even to contribute a verb? Readers, please, if pepper mill for you captures the very essence of the Giraffe breakfast experience, comment or tweet ASAP. It’s keeping me awake at night.

In my defence, and in Giraffe’s favour, this could be due to the deeply involving breakfast menu available. Nothing is what you see elsewhere. Well… It didn’t ought to be right? Giraffe is supposed to be quirky in a feel good sort of way.

This is in sharp contrast to the rest of the day’s menu. I have never seen the point of Giraffe’s daytime menu in comparison with the selection from M&S. I have frequently ordered from it and wished I hadn’t. Are there delicious dishes on there that I am missing? Please advise.

Breakfast however came down to ordering three drinks each and three breakfasts between two of us. It was brunch, so that’s how we learnt to live with ourselves. We called the third breakfast (Brioche French toast with compote and yogurt) dessert. It was delicious (it featured fried carbs and sugar- duh!) and the very kind staff let us order it even thought we were strictly beyond the breakfast cut off time by then. But even at that, it was a step below the savoury breakfasts.

Mine was huevous rancheros,: chorizo, black beans, cheese, adobe sauce, avocado & tomato salsa on tortilla- spoilt only by the fact that my poached eggs were hard poached, but otherwise full of exciting flavours.

Huevous rancheros (brunch pizza)

Huevous rancheros (brunch pizza)

Closed pizza

Closed pizza

It did taste similar to the breakfast burrito that seemed to be the same dish but wrapped and with the addition of chipotle (which according to the rather uninformed waitress was sausage- she is not correct.) Believe me, the closed nature of the breakfast burrito lends a more closed taste. I really do mean that – closed, sort of not open like a pizza. Perhaps enviously more complete, but significantly lacking poached eggs.

Fresh lemonade with mint was a must.

Authentic gimmick

Authentic gimmick

Now does that handle on a jar look like a gimmick to you? It is apparently a deeply authentic style and originates from the Southern States. However hard you try it seems impossible to source one with a lid… Which surely must be the only justification for the screw top… Which leads me back to the thought that somewhere, at some point in time, this was a gimmick. Now that it has earned authenticity, it has become an authentic gimmick. Contents were fabulous however.

And then there was the tea. Teapigs? Sorry guys, no. I agree that Teapigs is an expensive brand, but expensive really isn’t quality. I find myself frequently reminded of this when it comes to tea. Earl Grey is often more bitter than it ought to be, so I rushed my ordering and chose Darjeeling. Sadly on arrival I discovered it to be Darjeeling (origin of leaves) Earl Grey (flavouring). Not actively bad, but disappointing. The teapot however is excellent. Why do cast iron teapots make one so happy?

Cast iron teapots. All good

Cast iron teapots. All good

The simplicity of fresh orange juice just managed to be more exciting than the wide variety of smoothies. And the Moroccan mint tea is fabulous. It is not actually made in the Moroccan fashion (by which I mean it takes less than three quarters of an hour to prepare and you can chose to have it without sweetener) but it comes as water loaded with bunches of fresh mint.

Now you may have noticed a rare number of my blogs expose seeming prejudices on the part of the staff. Chapter’s mysterious inability to ever provide us with table bread, for example. In the case of Giraffe, there was a definite balloon distribution prejudice. If you were under 3 foot you could summon a profusion of balloons, just by showing your face. My husband and I? Nada. So Giraffe are prejudiced against tall people.

Seems odd given their name.

58-62 Tranquil Vale, London
020 8463 9155

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Mouthful of cake, swig of coffee. Savour. A Review of Mara Interiors

Now there is a mini-review of Mara Interiors on my blog already. They are actually an interior designers who happen to sell cake and coffee to chat over rather than an actual coffee shop. So it always felt a bit like cheating to write about them. Also, the owner worked out that I am the that coffee shop blogger, which always felt a little intimidating. It’s so much easier to let my opinion run free when no one knows who you are.

However I have had such consistently pleasant visits there that I thought it was worth a revisit. especially as recently they have been moving their cake selections from solely Boulangerie Jade (which you know I love) to one made no other vendors. In particular this week we discovered these tea cakes (I believe the name is)

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Why have I only got a picture of half of a tea cake…? Because I couldn’t stop myself diving in. This blog, you followers, I forgot you all when faced by the tea cakes and the knife to tuck in… So I don’t even have any evidence of the raspberry one to share with you.

Was it good? Yeeeess it was good. But the one you do have a photo of is even better. The honey and lavender one that was in the words of the baker’s husband ‘less elaborate’ with only a layer of thin icing was fabulous. The best, full of subtle flavours and sugar. I liked. Mouthful of cake. Swig of coffee. Savour. Do something else for a couple of minutes. Repeat. It is necessary to get the balance between enjoying the cake and making the experience last as long as possible.

Very good coffee by the way. And sitting in an interior design shop you do get much nicer seats than in many of Blackheath’s options.

180 Westcombe Hill
Blackheath
London
SE3 7DH

Who Was to Know: Not All King Prawns are Born for Chilli and Garlic, A Review of Tzigano’s, Blackheath

The revisit to Tzigano’s was spontaneous (and probably unnecessary) although they had replied to my previous review with a note of sadness that I had missed their proper menu.

This proved a valid concern. Firstly, it had completely escaped my notice that there is tapas to be had in the village… much as i love it. Secondly, this tapas was special.

Now we did have chorizo. You knew that right? It was everything that it should have been. Sardines I think we could have left, but they were rely enjoyable.
Champinones Verde- This is the first time i have tried button mushrooms in basil and Gorgonzola, but what a combination. No really. Very creamy- most obvious flavour was energy Basil, but fantastic merging with the Gorgonzola… Run to your fridges and try it.

And who was to know that not all King Prawns are born for chilli and garlic. (Which are very good things too), what a fabulous surprise that they also come with cognac and cream. Waaaay mellower, not instantly noticeable but very rewarding.

We chose pimientos. We were disappointed that they were not what we had imagined (Pimientos de Padron) more that they were roasted sweet peppers drowning in olive oil. Went great with chicken satay (anyone want to tell me how authentically med that is?)

Desserts were all creamy. One came with coffee liqueur and amaretti, but I was the driver, so I had the hot chocolate. Get that readers. I didn’t have dessert, I had a hot chocolate. Okay I had a spoonful of Gelato Borracho. Coffee liqueur was lovely. Amaretti was under-supplied. Whipped cream was er… Imploding to invisibility. You know what that means right?

Notable and untested were several, I do mean several, cocktails moving to the window seats and all supplying Mediterranean speaking people. Always a good sign for authenticity.

17 Montpelier Vale , Blackheath, London , SE3 0TA Phone 020 8852 9226

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We shared all courses. Except the dessert. A Review of the Hare and Billet

A Review of the Hare and Billet

I’m guessing with all the fuss and publicity around the refurbished Hare and Billet, locals will already know it’s raison d’être: real ales in a gastro pub. You can tell this by glancing in: the elegant interior is also full of people in jumpers, not lipsticked with jangly earrings.

Jumpers only

Jumpers only

The menu is replete with a selection of Meantime brews however the presence of the Meantime Brewery in Greenwich meant that on our visit we were looking for something new. An attentive barman responded immediately to our leaning towards some of the options and muttering their names vaguely by grabbing a sample glass for us to try a few. Phew, ignorance dispelled. Curious Magic Rock was refreshingly unbitter with wonderful citrus flavours and definitely a recommendation if you tend to shy away from beers. Renaissance was heavier and darker.

Curios magic rock

Curios magic rock

We did however spot a problem with the business model. One of our party was dead set on eating chips. And ok, it was a gastro pub, but it was still a pub you know. The vast array of real ales didn’t let it off offering wine, now did it? We had some debate over whether Anya potato might actually be a posh name for chips but it turned out we were wrong, our friend returned with crisps. (Crisps are sold I see… Just not chips..?) and a later google revealed that Anya potatoes are an unusual type of Scottish potato- produced exclusively for Sainsbury’s. A classy touch!

Salad that is not overdressed. (Not in a jumper tho).

Salad that is not overdressed. (Not in a jumper tho).

The food that was available was exquisiteness cooked. Feta and broad bean salad stater was fresh and rich with the flavour of the ingredients rather than the flavour of an over eager vinaigrette. The lamb came with the best slice off potato gratin ever made with a perfect measure of nutmeg.

Check out the nutmeg in that!

Check out the nutmeg in that!

It was expensive. We shared all courses. Except the dessert.

There were strictly only 3 deserts available. Which seemed a little offish to me.
Take a look at the dessert menu to see what the Hare andBillet’s real priorities are…

Pudding, or pudding wine?

Pudding, or pudding wine?

So among the dessert options were Valhrona chocolate cake (I usually find chocolate cake very disappointing); another was bakewell… a concept that will always blighted in my mind by Mr Kipling’s cold and stodgy pastry. The last was boiled orange cake. Now that’s the sort of thing.

Boiled orange cake was tangy, but needed to arrive with something sourer than vanilla icecream that made the whole experience a little sickly.

More thought needed with the choice of side

More thought needed with the choice of side

Cold stodgy pastry is definitely worse than chocolate cake, at least you can eat the icing without an uncouth experience with a glacé cherry, so the 2nd dessert we chose was chocolate cake. Now I do buy that the chocolate cake was good quality. Made of proper chocolate and not labouring under any silly icing pretensions. But it was a bit unexciting.

Average Valhrona

Average Valhrona

There must be a good way to make good quality chocolate cake other than to name it after the manufacturer. It’s not like the chocolate market has suffered under investment lately. Except for Thorntons (but that’s a good thing, surely?) In my experience scotch is a great combo with dark chocolate… And how about the grounding effect of crumbled walnuts in a flourless type…Any local chefs out there prepared to take the bait?

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1 Hare and Billet Rd, London

‘Let’s all eat chocolate icecream because it is so much better than it used to be’ a review of Black Vanilla, Greenwich

A review of Black Vanilla in Greenwich

I don’t think the staff at Black Vanilla in Greenwich are very happy with me.
And that’s without even knowing about this blog.

It went like this: We arrived after a bit of a tourist outing in Greenwich. This had featured the Queen’s House (good art in parts) and the exciting Greenwich market. I’d just been sat by the Thames eating a South Carolina (err, or it might have been a different southern America. state…) hotdog followed by the market’s Churros. Both of these deserve comment, so please see the footnote below.

Needless to say, I wasn’t hungry when I arrived at the oft recommended Black Vanilla cocktail ice cream bar in Greenwich.

Also I was designated drinker. It is imperative to drink when you are designated drinker. Otherwise you would be depriving your other half of the next opportunity, see.

Then you have to consider that I really love Black Vanilla’s coffee; and an affogato (did you know that meant drowned? I only learnt it from the menu at Black Vanilla) would be great with a brandy.

Affogato after

Affogato after

But the hot chocolate kept catching my eye. The hot chocolate came with chocolate icecream in steamed milk. Wowee! We all know that the UK was slow on the uptake with chocolate ice cream, so when people actually started making the real stuff here, everything became a bit ‘let’s all eat chocolate icecream because it is so much better than it used to be’. And some of those Belgian chocolate ones were what we always knew chocolate ice cream should have been.

Let me make this clear: hot chocolate made of cold chocolate ice cream, melting in the cup. And that is chocolate ice cream with promise. Are you getting me?

I’ll never know if Black Vanilla chocolate icecream was as rich as it would need to be to make a really good hot chocolate. I didn’t choose it. (Well, I say never… I do after all have to keep visiting new places to keep you lot happy…) I just let it keep on short circuiting my brain from making any non-hot drink decision.

So in the end, I ordered brandy in Affogato because that would also be great and tick the alcohol box.

I leaned back as the waiter walked away and said, I can’t believe I haven’t picked a cocktail- they make ice cream versions, you know. To which my husband replied he was also in disbelief. That was the catalyst. What had I done? I’d missed ice cream mojito. It was the hot chocolate’s fault for diverting me.

I had to change the order to a coffee and the ice cream mojito. Hence their annoyance.

 

Ice cream mojito

Ice cream mojito

They are very civilised service there. We were offered water in elegant glasses with our order, something that I have only seen at l’Artisan despite all of my travels. It is also a very pretty upstairs room. It’s nice to see the opulence of the original building being enjoyed. And BV have chosen design rather than ‘shove ’em all in’ tables’, possibly to their detriment given the number of people being turned away.

 

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So the coffee arrived, and I won’t bore you on the subject of how great the Black Vanilla coffee really is again. See my review of the non-alcoholic Blackheath branch. But the mojito…. Ahh, the mojito. It wasn’t a long drink; it was served in a martini glass. It was refreshing, green, hapifying. I kept saying “I’m so sorry that I am designated drinker today” to my husband as I licked the sugar from the bottom of the glass.

Note on Greenwich Market Food: Since discovering these churros, a visit to Greenwich Market really means an excuse to eat the Churros with cinnamon sugar and chocolate (nice as creme du leche is, chocolate is a needed low note). There is no such thing as “I am not in a mood for Churros now”. Ever. The hotdog was also pretty pizazz- spicy sausage and all the trimmings in a half wholemeal baguette. I didn’t think I could eat it all, I couldn’t stop myself.