Yeah let’s go to Jamie’s Italian for a real treat

A Review of Jamie’s Italian, Greenwich

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Yeah let’s go to Jamie’s Italian for a real treat, because annoying as it is that ol’ Jamie sponsors just about every clunky kitchen gadget going, I do enjoy cooking from his recipe books, so the food can’t go wrong. Right?

The interior of Jamie’s Italian is enormous. And it is about as cliched as Mr Oliver himself, which for me is slightly annoying but mostly ok. You’d have to draw your own conclusions. For instance, the tea towel napkins: I like. They are strangely comforting. But I don’t like the school canteen glasses. They are a cuteness too far. Also at school they always used to come with unidentifiable solidified grime on them. When I was a kid, any unknown grime was the worst grime: SNOT (or possibly poo, but a little less likely given the circumstance.) Let’s move on from this topic, it’s dinner time.

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Well the menu didn’t look so great. The really flummoxing part was that the centre piece focused on burgers, which surely couldn’t be the the best dish of an Italian restaurant. Where was the gem on the menu? I forced myself to look at the pasta.

The meal started with overly-battered squid.

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This was really disappointing. More and more restaurants seem to over-batter their squid. You can only taste batter. A pretty, but not so funky tasting butternut bruschetta came with it and this was ok. I’m sure the mains will make the hype worth it.

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I have to say that the service was perfect. Our waiter was so attentive. He could sense that we were unhappy with the starters and wanted to correct it, slipping extra bread in our takeaway box, and patient and helpful throughout the experience.

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Spaghetti Alla Norma with aubergine, chilli and basil sounded great. Aubergine is quite a flavour after all. In reality, I’ve had more flavoursome dishes from cheaper Italians. It was a bore to consume. Only force of habit made me continue. I genuinely weighed up that I would not be missing out on the food, by leaving it and taking joy from the potential lost weight.

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The sea bream was pleasant enough, but it is kind of hard to mess up such a magnificent ingredient. They did their best to mess it up. The samphire was woody. Something I would not have believe possible of seaweed/parsley type thing, so to give JI its due, this was an educative experience.

We had fabulous desserts at. Jamie’s Barbecoa in New Change, so we stopped around in case the meal could be redeemed. A cold winter night, we chose warm amaretti and granola crumble. Note, not ‘crumbled amaretti…’ But amaretti crumble, in other words, implying to most people baked cakey stuff that crumbles. In fact this was fruit with granola sprinkled on it. This did have nice flavours, but was not the promised comforting crumble implied by the menu. It felt kind of healthy.

What gets me, what really gets me is that even I can knock out a delicious Jamie 15minute meals in a little under half an hour. His stuff should be chef-proof. So we can’t even blame the chef at JI.

And by the way, the Jamie branded garlic press broke into shards the other day. My Ikea version is still going strong (sorry Deptford Dame!)

I have never written so rude a review. However I feel sorry for the flawlessly charming staff who deserve jobs if JI does not survive, hopefully by boosting the business of the following establishments, they will get recruited there.
If you want to eat out in the Greenwich/Blackheath areas eat out here: if you want Italian in Greenwich eat here: Bianco43
If you want a quality burger (because naturally this is the first thing you think of when visiting an Italian) eat here: Chapters
If you want bog standard Italian chain food, maybe featuring kids (at the table, not in the dishes) believe me, Pizza express and Strada do a better job and frequent good money off deals.

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Brunch at Chapter’s All Day Dining, Blackheath

I’ve reviewed here before if you want my more general opinion on CADD

But we were seeking a brunch menu with some desperation to fill the gaping holes in our stomachs after the morning swim, and we thought Chapters had promise.

Actually, I was pleasantly surprised to discover the menu had been updated and featured some quirky additions beyond eggs Benedict (it’s too rich, people. So is the spinach version, so stop trying to pass this off on me).

Adventurous additions included breakfast risotto. Now where I am on this is (1) really well done Chapters, for thinking outside the box, and (2) Why would I want a risotto (ie heavy meal) interpretation of an already heavy meal of the day. But my interest in ‘the new’ won out and I found myself facing an unbelievably rich risotto dish for breakfast. If you are already a risotto fan, (some say that they are out there) then you might well find this dish perfect. For me, it was a little samey, probably no need to be cooked with sausage in it and with sausage on the side.

Breakfast risotto

Breakfast risotto

Then there was the ‘posh baked beans’ interpretation (not that Chapter’s lowered it self to use that definition) mixed beans in tomato chorizo sauce on sourdough with poached egg. You do see the word that attracted me there, don’t you? This was good, and this is from a lady who orders her fry-ups sans baked beans. I personally thought that there was a limit to the depth of the flavours, but I am always happy to enjoy a meal that has remembered to include of vegetables. (No, that sprinkling of chive and lonely rocket on the last dish does not count.)

Posh baked beans

Posh baked beans

We finished on pastries. We think (based on the croissants ugly appearance but rewarding bite and crumbs) that they were supplied by Boulangerie Jade. Need I say more?

Boulangerie Jade pastries

Boulangerie Jade pastries

A little off piste, and a long way down the A202- A Review of Angels and Gypsies, Camberwell.

Angels and Gypsies has been catching our eye for a while. It’s the leg of cured calf posed within sight of the door way, and the ambient lighting from the stained glass windows, and the curvy writing above the window that does it. Marketeers take note. For all we know the meat was plastic and it still made us eye the restaurant as a future target…
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It seemingly did the job for others too: It took at least three attempts over many months to let us through the door.

It starts with an aperitif. I am not much of an aperitif fan, because much as I like the type of drinks that qualify as apertifs, drinking on an empty stomach gives me a head ache and a yawn and puts me off dinner. If I am missing something here, please put yours suggestions in the comment box below (except for you mum, because if I authorise you as a commentator, your use of this forum to send me emails will suddenly become very public. )

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Having been once enjoyed a recommendation of sherry as a good match for tapas, the menu’s front page full of sherry as an aperitif seemed a very welcome concept… But even better, Angels and Gypsies offered manzanillos which were more local to the food (Jerez) and reportedly full of sea breezes. See breezes, sherry, tapas… Holiday.

We are already on difficult ground here, because it is also wrong ever to go for a Spanish meal and not have sangria. Sangria has been highly sought after on occasion (http://wp.me/p2yXJS-1L) and must not be taken for granted.

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Here are some pictures of the tapas that ensued.

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And though we managed to pass up on the churros, we did go for our common cliche of Spanish almond tart accompanied by white chocolate rum and raisin cheese cake with macadamia nut crunch. And they were good.

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http://www.angelsandgypsies.com/angels/location/

I’ve more than once made the mistake of thinking that I am visiting the Everest Inn for a curry

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A Review of the Everest Inn, SE3

The Everest Inn is on Montpellier. Did anyone else think that it used to live near the Fresh spa? Hmmm, restaurants ought not to be up and moving in the middle of the night when there is no one watching.

The Everest Inn, whilst sounding like a destination to be reached with frost bitten toes in order to drink nutritious hand held stews and whiskey through sealskins, is a Tibetan restaurant. It figures.

I’ve more than once made the mistake of thinking that I am visiting the Everest Inn for a curry. The menu certainly reads that way: The same convention of offering most dishes by the type of meat, and a good chunk of tandoori selections with naan and rice. Plus cobra is on the menu. In reality, if you come away feeling you’ve had your average takeaway, you’ve missed out because the subtlety of the dishes is beyond sticky plastic boxes . It is good food, with an unusual depth of flavour. Brick Lane it ain’t.

Cobra

Cobra

Naan

Naan

Hot towels

Hot towels

Here are the spectacularly presented starters- albeit slight messed up by a mix and match effort undertaken by my husband. That’ll be a chilli prawn found its way from his plate and masquerading as paneer on the side there. All in the interests of maximising information for this review, you understand.

Artistic starters

Artistic starters

So for the main course, I am remembering just how great aromatic fish can be and order the excitingly described Machha Modi Kohla- marinated fish, aromatic spices, mustard, ginger, herbs and yoghurt. In red it stated “most popular villagers recipe from Modi River, western part of Pokhara, Nepal.” I am such a sucker for extra words on the menu even if I am struggling to work out the grammar. I have probably become immune to some of the modern European over-adjectified menus, but Modi river, villages. Ooohhhh.

The dish was undoubtedly aromatic, arriving with chunks of fresh spring onion and a gentle after taste of ginger. So was it the beer, was it the Naan? I did just yearn for something a little hotter- just a crumble of chilli. I did the meal down because I wanted ‘takeaway’.

The next upgrade from your average curry house is the hot towels. These were presented in elegant ceramic containers with water to poor over the dried towels. Glad these came without chilli though.

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“So you want drinks or not?” A Review of Sensuru, Greenwich

So… I asked twitter followers where was worth a dinner visit on the Woolwich Road, and one name came up and one name only Sensuru

To be very specific a high number of names came up but they were all variations of the same place which apparently has changed names a few times.

Seriously I am very interested in knowing what is great in the less celebrated EAST Greenwich before the gloss of the Lifestyle Quarter (with its posters of slim couples who’s hair always floats in a permanent breeze) sweeps it all away.

On a corner with a vivid neon sign, it is hard to miss Sensuru. We slipped in and found it very cosy. I’d actually read that it was ‘first date friendly’. Yes, I can guarantee I was sat discretely, but a rather long way from my husband. so I guess it all depends what sort of ‘first dates’ you guys get up to.

Interior of Sensuru

Interior of Sensuru

Service was hilarious. And it’s not often you can say that. Listen, it’s hard to review service. You winge, and you ruin your own night. I winge in blog form, and it gets you and me into a bad mood. And what sort of service is it that we really want went we winge about the existing service? Glossy upbeat antipodean sunshine? Because let’s face it, that goes hand in hand with chain-like, made on the assembly line food and interiors. Just what is it we want? Do we winge about our mates if they make us dinner and it’s a bit late? Admittedly we don’t pay them for the service, but the night isn’t ruined if they mess up the food.

Why don’t I start with what I got? Three offers of drinks in the space of 3 minutes from 3 different waitresses…. Followed very shortly by an older waitress- possibly the manager or owner saying “so you want drinks or not?” whilst removing the drinks menu and having us usher her back because the previous 3 requests had bullied us into making a snap decision: Japanese tea, sake and water. After this rush of attention, the option to order anything evaporated into the ether. In the end we gave up and we approached a waiter at the bar and asked to order.

So we sound like troublesome customers? I didn’t feel too bad as we were clearly better behaved than the table behind us, that was getting increasingly irate that the staff could not provide him with an iPhone charger as a side to the teriyaki chicken.

Drinks matter to me. Hard or soft stuff. And Japanese restaurants get this right for me. This particular presentation of sake works. That white sphere in the middle is a separate item full of ice. Boring glass though, right?

Sake flask

Sake flask

The Japanese tea came in petite ceramic cups. That’s the main reason for ordering Japanese tea, shortly followed by the fact it just makes you feel warm and healthy.

We’re still yet to be converted to the concept that we should willingly part cash in exchange for sushi (which is cold and only slightly redeemed by wasabi and pickled ginger). I like to go out for a hot meal, so we rushed to the grills section, and the food boxes, with fried bits as starters. Once you were at the grilled section, there were too many nice sounding sauces and bases to be weighed up against each other.

Great tempura bits and nice sauce… Yet again can’t be 100% sure what was within the batter. On occasion prawn, and maybe pumpkin. I am never sure of the motivation behind this combination is cost or err…. health. This recipe can fail with the vegetable making the batter soggy. Here it didn’t.

Tempura

Tempura

More sake. We were offered a top up of tea too, but the waitress didn’t wait for the answer so I never got it.

The grilled beef on garlic and spices was so so and the teriyaki chicken box was better. We put them in the middle of the table and ahead to assist In a more equitable distribution of flavour. As you can see, there is a 3rd dish that has totally escaped my memory. You’ll have to judge its merits on its looks. (Not something I would normally advocate – think of kiwi fruit, for instance).

Rice box and chicken teriyaki

Rice box and chicken teriyaki

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To entertain us throughout the meal, we had the widescreen TV presenting pictures of the meals like a catwalk show. No music though. I am disappointed. I suppose it’s hard to decide what music should accompany the dance of the sashimi.

Sensuru
139 Woolwich Road
Greenwich
SE10 0RG

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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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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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Promises Seafood and Quaintness, and Cycle Paths, A Review of the Cutty Sark Pub

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A Review of the Cutty Sark Pub, Greenwich

Quite some distance from the actual Cutty Sark tea clipper is the Cutty Sark pub, overlooking the bleaker Thames views (including the O2 but amongst the nautical cottages like a village corner tucked away from the sugar factory and mobile phone factory (and Paul Rhode’s bakery where they do the real actual cooking stuff that appears in their coffee shop). This feels more Dickensian and Whistler-en than the Trafalgar that famously hosted one of Dicken’s character’s weddings. (But did not host my wedding due to the terrible state of it when we came to view the ballroom).

It also promises seafood and quaintness, and cycle paths, and a huge anchor sculpture. Having returned from a holiday in a French fishing village, this was going to be my ‘pretend I am still on holiday’ meal. It was clam linguine advertised on the board outside that closed the deal, sounding like a light lunch that I may or may not precede with lighty battered monk fish cheeks.

The interior is well suited to the exterior. Tastefully reminiscent of all things Georgian and full of bar snacks that looked like canon balls (scotch eggs and pies.) No insult in the words cannon balls in this context.

The menu looked good too. I was pleased to see Billingsgate fish pie. It would have been a terrible oversight to serve fish quite so close to such a famous fish market and not even try. And it sources its bread from Paul Rhode’s bakery, which must save it a fortune in delivery costs. Dressed crab, rock oysters and other fishy specials sat happily next to burgers.

It was just a pity that the food did not remotely live up to the context.

The ‘lightly battered monkfish’ was in layers of batter thicker than the monkfish itself, and as a starter, this grease level detracted from us even desiring a main course. The main courses themselves were not too bad. Posh chicken Kiev with celeriac mash and truffle oil was actually pretty decent which we hoped would make up for the disappointment.

 

Lightly? battered monkfish

Lightly? battered monkfish

But when we got to the desserts, it was the same again. The rhubarb fool arrived unmixed, actually being rhubarb compote with thin layer of cream on top, although the cinnamon crisp went down well. And the enjoyable Bakewell tart arrived with clotted cream instead of the listed clotted cream ice cream. Is that a big deal? Well you tell me. I think it is a big deal in a restaurant that asserts it is passionate about food, because this would have meant that the combinations, textures and hot/cold sensations should have been designed with the ultimate in mind. And while the Cutty Sark Tavern did not make these claims so much as some other culprits, the menu and environment did imply it.

Clotted Cream

Clotted Cream

I have to tell you, this really hurts. Everything about the pub was perfect, except the delivery. Wistful river gazing, half a pint of beer, fireplace (summertime- no idea if it was real) appetising sounding-menu, Georgian authenticity, charming staff.
But food cooked without passion.

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