The genius of the mosaic cake was the invisible chocolate chunks

A Review of Hazev, South Quay

Hazev ain’t so far away, guys, over in South Quay on the way to Canary Wharf. And you should go to Canary Wharf every now and then, on the DLR and stuff. In fact we ended up here when we spotted that our meal in Greenwich would be providing insufficient calorie-to-food-satisfaction when it came to dessert, leaving us to fill the cake shaped hole that the starter and main course had built for us.

We have been to Havez before – the restaurant bit, and the food was delicious, served in enormous portions and full of textures and flavours by hospitable waiters amongst opulent decor. And we had peeked at the deli next door, which seemed to be full of cakes with similar benefits.

To be blunt, the deli was full of savoury dishes that made us wish we had not already eaten in Greenwich and unusual non-alcoholic sweet drinks that kicked the virgin bellini from Papa Charlie to the ground. We had tea to accompany our cake though. There were a lot of cakes to choose from and many of them newbies in my cake eating experience, hence it was a tough choice that cake decision. Ultimately we homed in on
Hazev pie.

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This was made of cinnamon, apple and whole almonds that kept their crunch. All of this was case in a soft cakey pastry and while I love buttery shortcrust pastries, cakey pastry does have its place and Hazev pie is definitely one of those places. The second choice was mosaic cake.

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I can’t tell you what made me choose this , because the look of it was unfortunately close to refigertator cake or rocky road, both of which take fundamentally awesome ingredients and ruin them. But I shouldn’t have worried about the mosaic cake. The genius of the mosaic cake was the invisible chocolate chunks that made the texture of the cake spot on.

We’ll be back just for drinks some time.

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Short for Political Correctness?

Why is Papa Charlie called Papa Charlie anyway? Is it short for Political Correctness (doesn’t sound very military) and does that explain why the food served here is not Spanish, or Turkish, or Italian or Morrocan but Mediterranean? Surely a North or a South in the restaurant’s description would help a little bit? I certainly can’t work out which country was represented by the supposedly gourmet Burgers (that quintessential mediterranean food). Sorry, I wasn’t convinced enough to check.

There were some plus points. My plastic menu offered me the chance to resolve some mysteries of previous blogs… I know that you have been on the edge of your seat to know: The kleftico from Rare, that sounded like it was made out of the previous owners and oxo cubes had a descrption next to it (slow cooked lamb on the bone). Okay, so I did already know this. I googled it.

And the second solved mystery was how imambayildi would taste following the marvellous description offered by Efe’s Meze.
I have been kicking myself for not ordering it and here it was on the menu. I ordered right away and it turned out that the waitress could not pronounce it either. The imambayildi was delicious, subtle but a real grower although I think I would have struggled with it’s pure vegetableness as a main course. The whitebait that we also ordered was pretty chunky, overweight whitebait which for me took the attraction off. (Some things are supposed to be an excuse for batter, not provide food in their own right.)

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I thought that a virgin bellini was just about the best thing that I have ever heard of. Because bellinis are great, sophisticated and delicious and very much something that require moderation. I should have remembered that the plus point of bellinis is the champagne, and that the absence of this left you with cherryade and mint, at a bitingly massive mark up. Gourmet challenge for you: alcohol free champagne. (Oo, I can see my readership figures collapsing as I type.)

Besides the bellini hiccup, the starters were in fact very promising and made me try to see beyond the plastic menus with pre-published ‘specials’ (so not so special for today, huh?) and the fact that the decoration is identical to when I reviewed this location as Helva.

But the main courses really took the meal to renewed depths. The chicken guvec (a chicken stew) was definitely made of turkey. (I should note that the date of our visit was the 1st January. See where I am going here?)

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Although the kebabs were genuinely chicken and okayish, they weren’t the cheapest, and the accompanying bulger wheat lacked pizzaz.

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We decided we would not enjoy stopping around for dessert and got the DLR to Hazev for this experience…I’ll update you about that on another blog.

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I have never asked for lobster before

A review of Locale, Blackheath SE3

It seems that sushi is stalking me, trying to taunt me with it’s coldness, or convince me that it is actually the best dish ever. I maybe should have been less publicly mean about it on the blog, but seeing as I’m here: it’s not working Sushi! back off!

The reason for this outburst is that I recently sauntered into what I believed to be an Italian restaurant and was handed a sushi menu. Fortunately I was also handed the more expected grill and pasta menu, so I kind of hid the sushi menu underneath this. In fact, to distract myself even further, I asked about the £15 menu advertised on the road outside, sending the waitress off for some time on a reconnaissance mission,

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It’s probably worth mentioning that the waitress’ absence meant that we were the only people in the restaurant. Yes I really do mean that, 4 of us sat around a table in the middle of the large and spacious Locale. We noted that Locale seems to have had a face lift, as it is now draped inside and out with blocks of green and black. This may explain the sushi, but I don’t quite follow the logic here.

The £15 menu returned to us, offering a half lobster or steak with prosecco which seemed like a pretty good deal. I went for the half lobster.

I have never asked for lobster before, but I was emboldened by the lack of just plain anyone else in the restaurant to see or overhear. “If I order the half lobster,” I said to the waitress, “I might just have to call you up to tell me how to eat it.”
The waitress looked perturbed. “I have served lobster before. But I have never eaten it.” She confided. Then she looked happier. “I will ask my colleague to break it for you.”
Ah… There is a colleague hiding in the kitchen, that made at least 2 other people in the restaurant other than us.

Despite the promise of broken half lobster, the following arrived at the table.

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I looked at the waitress. She looked back. “My colleague. She will break it for you.” She tried to reassure me.

The lobster arrived duly broken and I have to say it really was delicious with a deep grilled almost steak like taste… And lots of green stuff. Sorry, is lobster innard green, or was that pesto? I did however need to use the skinnier of the two implements to pull flesh out of the claw, but this makes me feel like I have learned something new.

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We’d added onion rings onto the order. We didn’t need to, despite the offer menu, there was little in way of scrimping in the portions and I’d indulged in cake at elevenses, (well half past tenses). In fact all offers came with chips as sides. And do you know what? they were really good chips. Do you remember me complaining about how bad restaurant chips can be?
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Well these were fantastic. Unfortunately the elevenses and the onion rings meant that we couldn’t finish the chips. It turns out that there is a chip limit. My husband says he missed this memo.

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I didn’t let the chip limit keep me from dessert. On fact I tried a fair few items to breach the chip limit (to no avail). I went for a simple Affogato which as any pizza express will tell you is ice cream with espresso. I don’t think that we have discussed Affogato here before, but I do like it’s simplicity very much. This one came with a a shot of frangelico as well as coffee, but also came with too much ice cream, not allowing true drowning in coffee, leaving ice (cream) bergs. There ought not be bergs in Affogato in my opinion. And while the addition of frangelico sounded good on the menu, in addition sweet ice cream to offset the bitter espresso, I’m not 100% sure this didn’t crush the sweet bitter balance.

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I left Locale totally unperturbed by sushi (did you get that message sushi?! UN-PER-TURBED) but I have one question that has stayed with me since… Given I was the only half lobster eater in the restaurant, who ate the other half?

1 Lawn Terrace, Blackheath Village, London, SE3 9LJ
Tel: 020 8852 0700
Opening Times:
Monday to Friday: 5:00pm – 23:00pm
Saturday & Sunday: 12:00noon – 23:00pm

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Tough Octopus

A review of Kaspar’s Grill at the Savoy

I have discovered the most magnificent combination: champagne and soda bread. I don’t mean champagne baked in soda bread, which would be daft even if some waitrose supplier’s marketing department eyes just lit up. I mean champagne sipped with occasional bites of soda bread.

I happen to know this due to one of those restaurant vouchers you can get offering champagne three course meal at the Savoy fish grill. Although the Savoy definitely told me off for calling it a voucher rather than a certificate. I don’t think they are going down market. The most expensive wine was £345 FOR A GLASS.

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Now I have mentioned that I love fish, so this place should be my hang out. Look at the decor, the glass emulating curing hanging fish.

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I started with soda bread with cured fish (hence my discovery) which was delicious, and my husband chose wild seabass ceviche, confit octopus, mango which was delicious in appearance and full of great flavours, but the octopus was dead tough.

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Next I made a wrong turning. I misread lemon sole fish and chips to mean lemon sole (which is fish) and chips. Actually it was a rip off version of ‘fish and chips’ (inverted commas make all the difference) which means that the fish was battered and arrived with fries. Now (1) I just came to a fish grill i don’t want a takeaway and (2) don’t ever think you can make fish and chips like a fish and chip shop unless you actually are a fish and chip shop because you can’t. It is a basic law of physics. I don’t know why. I have never proved if through first axioms but I sure have proved it from careful and repeated experimentation.

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I comforted myself with the best glass of sauvingon blanc I have ever tasted (and it came in at a lot less than £345) and a nice side of chilli- broccoli.

Desserts were a challenge. They didn’t look so exciting on paper. You kind of had to hope that they were so well executed they justified the boring descriptions. We went for yogurt and rhubarb sorbet and sticky toffee pudding (the associated attractions being blueberry compote and butterscotch sauce.) We assumed that this meant we had one heavy and one lighter option, but the rhubarb yogurt came drenched with vanilla cream ( hidden in the small print). Who does this? Who disguises their creamy desserts as something that you might pick up from the healthy aisle in the supermarket… if you’re feeling VERY good?

I asked how the decaffeinated coffee was, and the waiter sort of rolled his eyes in sympathy. I ordered it anyway, and it was as fairly reported on by the waiter, soso. I think that the Nespresso machine has ruined this aspect of my life for me. I would not even have expected good decaf coffee in the past. Never again will I enjoy coffee out.

Kaspar’s Seafood Bar & Grill‎
The Savoy
Strand
London, WC2R 0EU
+44 (0) 20 7420 2111

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The mixed Colours of the Meze Glowed At Us

A review of Efe’s Meze, Trafalgar Road

Heard of imambayildi? Me neither. It sounded really interesting the way that Efe’s Meze’s extremely eager to please new management described it. It seemed to feature wrapping and baking and re-wrapping and oil and stuff like that. I wish I had taken notes, because when I went back to pre-book my order (we were a large group) I was bowled over by the meat and fish options. I figured I’d nick some off my friends plates.

Mirror reflecting restaurant lights

Efe’s in Greenwich mirror interior

As we arrived to eat the 6 cold Meze starters were already laid. The mixed colours of kisir, feta/beetroot, acilia ezme) glowed at us, but there was no bread. And there would be no bread until all of my friends turned up. My friends were very late. The dishes carried on glowing at us. I think that this is cruelty to customers, but when I try to find where to report it, I can’t find anyone who will listen.

Efe's Meze table

Glowing Meze

In the end, hunger won over and we just asked for bread, which arrived warm and spongy. The dishes were delicious and unfortunately filling . Round 2 (hot Meze) was petite but enjoyable -falafel, halloumi and cheese borek.

During this time, I have been asked to observe that the wine was served in professional manner, with pre-taste, and then decanted into a carafe. Profuse apologies were also offered for the lack of non-alcoholic beer. This is unusual to me. Normally I find myself apologising for ordering it.

As I think you can probably tell from the state of my blog photos (you’re supposed to love me for my quirky dippiness. You do get that right?), I don’t really go into these restaurants with a sign on my forehead saying ‘I am a local food blogger’, but you would not nave guessed this from the nervous-dash-eager-to-please reception we received. As at that weekend (mid October) Sayit, the manger was very new management.

The best bits, however were undoubtedly the greasy spicy kofte with a kicking after taste and the crispy, spiced seabass, both accompanied by huge bowls of feta salad. At this point the food reached the rarely achieved level of, so-good -I -forgot-to-take -photos. Which I do appreciate is very unfair on you guys. Sorry. See if you can find yourselves a cruelty to blog readers complain line. (Actually also, post me the number, I want to complain to http://helengraves.co.uk for infrequent posting.) The only moussaka was ordered down at the other end of the table so I never saw it, but I was reliably told it had to be prepared from 7am in the morning.

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The only disappointing thing was the dessert selection. Despite details of their preparation sounding mouthwatering, I did not fancy apple pie or tiramisu after that meal. Maybe deserts aren’t that turkish, but what about Helva and baklava? We asked specifically about baklava and were sent on our way with 2 pieces that we weren’t charged for. Honest, I am sure they didn’t know I was planing to blog about them.

And no one, in a party of twenty had the decency to order imambayildi so that I could taste/oggle it. No gratitude. New friends are on order.

170 Trafalgar Rd, London SE10 9TZ
As at the time of this blog, the online menu is ‘in progress’ following the mangement change.

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Fish confusion

A review of L’Insolite, Collioure, France (definitely not SE3)

I have an announcement to make. It is official that seiche is in fact cuttlefish, not squid as most of Collioure will tell you. The second and most important part of this announcement is that Cuttlefish is delicious. Probably the best food going.

These confusions stated in June in L’Insolite, a small, nearly last in row beachfront restaurant at which we thought: looks adequate, just landed, too tired to think. We could translate everything on the menu except seiche. And when told this was squid we ordered straight away.

Trees and fountains in Perpignan

If this sounds very ignorant, I would point out the similarities in appearance of cuttlefish and squid when prepared in a certain manner, both white and ententacled.

What arrived was delicious, simply executed with a salad and a half baked potato it was unforgettable, and left me trawling London for the past year searching for anything so good and failing (with the now closed Villa Moura being the only place to come close, despite a fair fortune being spent on fish).

So needless to say, on my first night back in Collioure, I headed for the self same restaurant arming myself with google translate for the French for squid. This turned out, not unreasonably, to be calarmi. Did you know that all along?

Collioure on the mediterranean

Unusually overcast, but source of great cuttlefist

Stunningly disappointed not to find this on the menu, I opted for the the seiche because the picture of it (now there are pictures) looked like squid, but the English menu described this as cuttlefish. I thought cuttlefish looked like prawns. You great it in London sandwich shops. Oh, apparently that’s crayfish,

I ordered in French only out of politeness, the waiter’s English was flawless, and he replied (in English) ah! Squid! This left us even more flummoxed while we secretly googled under the table, and decided that someone must have told him that this was squid when they saw it, but it was infact cuttlefish (although the word also related to a type of Asian squid) See I’m not so dumb..

All the fish eaters on the table were very content despite some nervousness with the menu. This was a wonder, sea front affordable meal. Followed by a paddle in the sea that you could still see the bottom of in the dark.

Pyranees mountains in summer

Local gorgeous view

They have pre-wrapped muffins. Hmmm. Moving on….

A a review of the Pavillion cafe in Greenwich. Park SE10

BBQ, jazz, beautiful park…. What could be better? That was why the very first free Friday I had in my diary between May and August was going to take up the offer by the Pavillion in the Park of such things, with the Laban students playing the jazz.

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So many hot, but booked up, Friday evenings passed. I thought…. I can’t wait for my musically sun drenched evening, and finally the date arrived, shortly after autumn, at the beginning of August.

The BBQ was moved indoors. Ie. it was a very expensive grill. And you could see a grey sky through the windows.

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The location and design of the Pavillion are beautiful.

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We sat on the first floor where you are sitting high up with the conkers. Although you can’t see the jazz from here, seeing jazz tends not to be the purpose of it (with the exception of Pollock – Jackson, duh!)

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The BBQ menu is slight- but it has something for vegetarians too. Plus there are pizzas which looked gorgeous. And (did I mention?) it is a bit disappointing to eat inside

There are however a disappointing lack of cakes here. They have pre-wrapped muffins. Hmmm. Moving on…. Sadly the smell of baking pizza keeps making you think of cake and look at the pre-wrapped muffins again. Nope. Still not tempted There is icecream, but it’s cold. Oh, and the ice cream window closed by 7pm.

The actual delivery of my hot dog sausage in baguette was a little befuddled. They hadn’t so much as buttered the baguette, or offered any dressing. On request, it took them a while to rustle up any dressings. So it was alright. Would have been better in sunlight.

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We took blankets to a bench overlooking London. That bit was very nice.

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The ginger lamb was just wow. Wow!

A review of eating out at Sun Ya, Blackheath Standard

Pre-planning and much debate is necessary when deciding what to order on an all you can eat menu. Which is tough when you are starving. We considered that ordering 3 mains between the two of us could be justified by sharing hot and sour meat soup. I am glad we shared this. The soup was a soup but it was not all that hot or sour. Also it had prawns in it.

 

I’m going to skip through the starters else we’ll be here all night: they were ok. And the crispy duck was delicious, but crispy duck sits in that rare and fatty selection of foods that is hard to prepare in a non-delicious way.download full film iBoy

 

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What followed was excellent, a flurry of savoury flavours supported by smokey chicken chow mein and special fried rice. The chilli beef, nice as it was, was the low light, a little two dimensional, those dimensions being deep-friededness and chilli. Obviously the Hong Kong style sweet and sour had at least one more dimension (the first 2 being sweet and sour) and along with the crunch of the deep fry and the addition of actual whole vegetables meant that it reached a harmonic for me. (Excuse the mixed metaphors.) And the ginger lamb was just wow. Wow!

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The only catch to all this excitement was that the three main dishes to share arrived about ten minutes before my husband had leave for a meeting. Most of the eating had to be accomplished by me. It was six o’clock on a week day. I quickly calculated that I had 4 hours of eating until bedtime.

So I sat along amongst the fabric flowers and gold wall paper pondering how I was going to achieve completion of the task and whether the waiters thought we’d had a food war (the table was a bit messy) and split up. I have a confession to make. Other than a smattering of rice on the table cloth (a large smattering) mission was completed.

Yes, it showed on the scales

Has anyone heard of Cypriot zivani? A review of Aqua, Blackheath

I’m always unhappy to read a menu where the choice is too obvious, but there was no such unfortunate experience at Aqua Mediterranean Bar and Grill. Even the main courses were exciting in all their lines. Usually I find I have to look at the starters or desserts to stay amused.

Greek Meze starter sounded great to me as a way of combining all the best starters. If you have simpler requirements for your starters, see if you as talk them into serving just the vine leaves with tzazaki which was definitely the best bit of the Meze.

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The open flame and fish menus in particular looked delicious: souvlaki, medallions, kleftiko… Mixed Grill! This is the relatively modest looking mixed grill, that proved totally filling.

Just like this fabulous chargrilled whole sea bream, that I couldn’t stop eating with its contrasting salty tomatoes and artichokes. Oh stop me from day dreaming!

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In fact, it has been a while since I have done such an utterly food focused review, so to pull away from the plates for a section, a comment on the music: we were surrounded by 70’s crooner does 80’s cheese in an inoffensive wouldn’t-your-mother-like-it sort of way.

And on the interior: nice actually, elegant. And lovely to have the skylight to prevent the room from feeling cramped and dark.

The service: Nervous rather than suave.

Anyway, bored of this, back to food: The desert menu did get off to a bad start by offering sticky toffee pudding. Has anyone actually eaten a genuinely interesting sticky toffee pudding? My curiosity was piqued by the selection of ice cream so having the guts to be the exact list that might appear in Neapolitan ice cream.

Baklava is so rare to see on a desert menu. In my book, this is the opposite of Victoria sponge. Pastry rather than sponge, honey instead of jam, nuts instead of cream- but most of all golden depth of flavour rather than creamy inaneness.

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We asked what was Cypriot zivani. We believe that this is a type of grappa but we overheard the waiter asking several others for flavour in order to work this out.

The accompanying coffee was smooth and interestingly sharp at the same time, and what’s more there seemed to be no question that it would come after dessert- none of this daft arriving before dessert, because the barista and chef are not in sync. This is rare. And very good.

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He reads OTHER reviews. A review of Cau in Blackheath SE3

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For all of Cau’s stainless steel interior, (I never liked this sort of interior even in the 80s when it became so popular. I’ve given up trying to give it the benefit of the doubt; hindsight has been given the full length of the rope) it is actually remarkably cosy when you’ve found yourself a nice corner. You’d never know you were in a tin can.

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The menu is a little bit patronising: with insightful suggestions like ‘have a small salad on the side, or a larger one as a starter.’ Don’t bother looking at anything other than the steak here. (so to be honest, don’t bother even turning up unless you are feeling rather flush at circa £39 per dish). I recommend the brazen, very unEnglish approach of ordering one steak to share with your table… or take most of it home for tomorrow. After all, a 500kilo steak is rather generous portion for me, even on greedy days.

We went for two rather interesting sounding sharing items and one steak with the intention of sharing all ‘as mains’ and skipping the starter. This was a strategy to pacify the 3/4’s Englishness that makes up me and my husband.

Empanadas (Classic Argentinian street food. Served with a fresh tomato sauce.) of Spanish chorizo and cream cheese Spinach, ricotta and date were lovely. But the deep fried pork belly, that sounded like a wonderfully unhealthy sort of a step up from a deep fried mars bar, fat with extra fat, was kind of slimy.

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We ordered our steak medium. And the staff recommended a nice matching Argentinian wine.
Here is a picture of the inside of our medium steak

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The charming staff admitted the mistake. (Please note, mistake admitting goes A. Very. Long. Way. in reparation and they went so far as to remove the entire meal, to return it to the table. I was impressed by this entirely proper way of fixing a mistake which (along with mistake-admission) you don’t often see. The staff registered we didn’t want a replacement of the deep fried pork belly, but replaced the finished empanadas. I think they must have known about the pork belly.

The steak returned remarkably quickly. We should have been suspicious at this point. But we are optimists. To give the chef his due (and there is not a lot of ‘due’ left now to be given) the newly cooked steak looked positively charcoaled on the outside, but the cooked effect only went about half a centimetre into the 10cm thick steak. The rest was jelly.

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My husband remarked that he had read of this experience on other reviews before coming. I don’t know what to be most disappointed by, the fact that he hid this information from me, or the fact that he reads OTHER reviews.

We didn’t want to go through the return-rigmarole all over again. The steak was edible, although a long way from medium, or even medium rare for that matter and again reparations were offered.

But may I note two things. This was their signature dish. Had we paid the full menu, we would have paid £70, for effectively a three course meal and drinks for one.
Let’s move on.

To churros! ! You’ll know I love churros: fried carbs in sugar. What could be more delicious other than churros with dulce de leche? Which, guess what? Was on the menu. We ordered some to share.

They arrived crisp and oily and … What’s the polite word…? I think the right word might be rare. Now I do know that the ‘how rare is rare’ when it comes to steak can be up for debate, hence us playing it safe and ordering our steak medium. But who has ever heard of rare churros? Dough is either cooked, or not cooked. In this case, it was the latter. Within its crispy interior was liquidy goo. Oh, we turned really English now. When the staff asked how our dessert was, we said…. “Thank you”.

CAU BLACKHEATH
10-12 Royal Parade, Blackheath, London
SE3 0TL

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