Brunch – actually lunch

A review of The Ivy, Blackheath

Sometimes you don’t want the carbohydrate bomb and crowds that Gail’s has to offer when you fancy a last minute lunch in Blackheath. That’s what led me into the new Ivy, Blackheath – for what the menu called brunch. It had to be done sometime.

The Ivy in Blackheath is kind of different from Chapters that it replaced, full of quirky 1930’s glamour and jazz. But the glistening atmosphere, initially at odds with laid back Blackheath vibe (that I never before noticed was laid back…) was actually quite enjoyable for its efforts. The walls were crowded with exciting engravings of old maps and scenes from South East London. The Hand Made Food interior is going to have to up it’s game if this is what dining in Blackheath has become.

The glistening interior at The Ivy in Blackheath

Art at The Ivy, Blackheath

The menu seemed a little full on with heavy dishes for the lunchtime/brunchtime slot, but there were some gems. Despite my intention to flee carbs, I ended up with pancakes.

Pancakes at The Ivy SE3

(That’s because I started with truffle arancini which I say is enough of a savoury meal to start with.) and an English Spritz cocktail with Earl Grey gin  which despite having a tea-ish name, can’t be bought at Gails, so I feel quids in.

Earl Grey Cocktail

The non-alcoholic tea selection was good, and I had nearly ordered an Oolong tea, but the sight of that Earl Grey gin on the drinks derailed me. I found the cocktail a little pasty, but my other half was thrilled with his virgin mary.

My pancakes, loaded with cream and berries, were fine enough and not too sweet, but the point of pancakes in my opinion is to taste the batter, and here they were quite overwhelmed with condiments.  I  really shouldn’t have ordered coffee and cream as well as flourless cappuccino cake, because there are only so many courses and drinks that can come with cream in one sitting, but hey, I had Earl Grey gin to soak up. That’s why I had to apologise to the waiter for not being able to finish his chef’s very fine food.

Steak and eggs at the Ivy, Blackheath

Flourless chocolate cake

My other half’s dessert

The downstairs of Chapters, having been a dining area is now replaced by mysterious underground rooms. “The ladies is the seventh door you will walk past,” said the waiter. No really he did, as if to invite me to ask, what could the other rooms be…? And I’m still left with that question. Is this a novel way of convincing customers to return, as if a little bit of the mystery might be unveiled?

Yorkshire Pud justification

https://www.thewhiteswancharlton.co.uk

Sunday lunch at the White Swan was a bit of an unexpected trip for me. Otherwise  I would have ordered the beef with Yorkshire pudding – obviously. As it was, I had eaten more than my fair share of beef brisket the previous night and really didn’t fancy anymore, yorkshire pud justification, or no Yorkshire pud justification. Even I have my limits.

I went for chicken, with a sigh and revelled in the cosiness of the White Swan. We ate around a genuine open coal fire on old sofas, one of which was malting feathers (we didn’t ask… although  I will say that we were at one point told that the chicken had run out and then a chicken was found, and it was after that that we saw the feathers. Just saying.)

Through the window, the beer garden looked impressive with a decorated hut-like-construction at the very end so it seems well worth a revisit in the summer. I also heard good things about the live music offerings.

My chicken meal, was nice enough. It wasn’t a beef roast though. I hungrily hovered over my husband’s beef roast until winning half a Yorkshire Pud, and a description of an exceptionally well cooked beef.

Staff operated on a ‘the customer is always irritating’ philosophy, curtly advising us half way through our main course that the starters were on their way. Clearly asking for starters at the start was just plain passe… Still, I may well go back to this not quite local local.

Venice isn’t Local , but…

 

So, this is not a local food review, but having recently returned from an anniversary trip to Venice, here are some food photos to enjoy…

Exotically dressed pasta, in Italian, rather than English sized portions:

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Pasta at the Guggenheim

Every guide book told us to go to the fish market early in the day as the boats came in to get the real fish market experience. Whatever. We reached there at 10am. It was stunning, although we were laughed at for taking pictures.

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Delights at the Fish Market

…And Cafe Florian on St Mark’s Square is apparently the oldest coffee house in Venice, and is full of beautiful (if kinda gaudy) interiors. The catch is, there are too many people in there to see anything but the ceiling. And you have to eat quickly to avoid being herded out by a door man.

The tea, affogato and (not very Italian) sacher torte were however delicious.

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Sacher Torte and other Treats at Cafe Florian

“Shopping ain’t my bag” A Review of L’orchidea

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“Shopping ain’t my bag” A Review of L’orchidea by blackheathcoffeeshops A Review of L’Orchidee in Westfield Shopping ain’t my bag, so you will not be shocked to learn that I have only just visited Westfield in Stratford despite its proximity … Continue reading

Is there anything as rustically beautiful as an Oyster?

A review of the Oyster and Steak Bar in Waitrose Canary Wharf.

I know you don’t come here for reviews of supermarkets, but even if you find them very boring you will be in them very often. It’s not reasonable to expect me not to have an opinion no them when I eat from them so frequently.

I think we were shopping in John Lewis, which was why we ended up in Waitrose Steak and Oyster Bar. We were entangled in a rather expensive affair about the wrong type of wine glasses in the right boxes at a till on the upper levels that made us want to sit down and relax relatively soon.

To be honest, the view when coming to sit down was a little grubby. This was a late lunch, but it seemed that no one had cleaned up before the visitors preceding us. The menus were also a little wrinkled. The other disappointing thing about the menus, was the lack of a steak and oyster combination. I mean, maybe steak and oyster isn’t ‘a thing’, but it becomes ‘a thing’ in your head when you go to a bar that is called a steak and oyster bar. There was a degree of surf and turf, but it featured lobster rather than oysters.

So we ordered 6 oysters to share. Followed by steak. This seemed the only appropriate response to the crisis.

Is there anything as rustically beautiful as an Oyster? If I tried to paint one with photographic perfection, it would still look like I had messed up the paints.  And these oysters were pure seaside. I always put the proffered lemon or chilli on them, and then decide that really they are best eaten just alone.

There was a veerrry long wait for the steak. Perhaps the chef had read my review of Cau and thought that he should charcoal my steak to be sure not to receive the same verdict. We could see the chef breaking open packets of Waitrose steaks to cook. I had thought that there was a good range of sauces, and went for chilli and garlic butter, with just a little regret that I did not choose tarragon butter as my husband did. However these arrived as discs of butter (yes, they had said butter) and I think that sauces would have been vastly superior. But both steaks were excellent.      Who can account for the amount of daytime champagne drinking that occurs at a steak and oyster bar? Is it the oysters have a knee-jerk relationship with champagne. (Oysters don’t have knees, so this doesn’t make a lot of sense). I really wanted champagne myself, but I have learned that day time drinking is not for me and on this occasion my sensible side won out.  

  Just so you know, the wine glass debacle has resulted in me having white glasses and red glasses. This feels a little too snobby for me, really and I am still trying to come to terms with it.

I don’t care if it makes me fat this week, I HAVE A COLD.

A Review of The Viceroy in Chalrton SE7

Have you ever had one of those streaming cold write off days, when even if you were at home it was a waste of a day because all you can do is lie  in bed and resent your immune system? Yep? And that feeling that only a curry appeals as you believe only this has the power to blast through the veil around your sense that doesn’t let anything else in (the other exception being whisky and brandy which are vastly preferable to strepsils). So why did we visit the Viceroy in pleasant Charlton on an Tuesday evening? BECAUSE I HAD A  COLD. (Still do actually. Sympathy welcome).

This also means that midweek calorie concerns are off the table. I don’t care if it makes me fat this week, I HAVE A COLD. Did I mention? So no caution was to be exercised over the ordering of popadoms. Has the hotness of lime pickle been diminished? I have noticed this at quite a few places lately. When I first tried this exotic delicacy as  a student Exeter I was physically punched in the mouth. Who changed? Me or the pickle? Will I get to keep the mango chutney when the assets are divided, or will even the chutney mean nothing to me in the absence of pickle?  I feel sadness. Maybe even regret.
I enjoyed the mango lassi, but was it actually a desert drink. The waiter seemed to think so too, as he looked confused at my choice to have it over popadoms. It was a good combo tho, the fatty crisp popadom and the sweet yogurt drink. Almost forgot I was lactose intolerant, but I didn’t seem to suffer too much for it.
Service was a little bit ‘in your own time…’ which was a bit odd as we were the only people there for the first half hour so it can’t have been busy-ness that held them back.
The Rogan Josh was pleasant, brimming with wedges of fresh tomato, but we think they left the chilli out, not to mention the ginger. It didn’t quite burn off our colds. The prawn dhansak added some needed kick to make up for it.
dishes of curry

Rogan Josh and Sag Aloo

I am not a fan of peshwari naan. I usually like sweet and savoury combos but not this one. Too stodgy maybe? But my husband is always letting me choose plain and my husband was being very nice to me despite the fact he also had a cold, so it was really his turn to choose the naan. Sharing it was actually a challenge. I tried to rip it which felt more authentic. It resisted me as if I was ripping a frisbee. I decided to throw ‘authentic’ to the well people and took a knife to the naan. It didn’t help. When we eventually hacked through the bread, I discovered I have not changed my mind about disliking peshwari naan and let husband finish it himself.
 
I never come away from The Viceroy feeling cheated. In fact given the insignificance of the bill I come away feeling flush. But I don’ t come away feeling as if I have had the most magnificent meal either. Just pretty well contented.

I wish had gone straight for the petit fours..

A review of Boisdale’s at Canary Wharf.

http://www.boisdale.co.uk

 

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The menu at Boisdale’s said that the haggis in its starter form would be a mini haggis. It was not. My starter was an enormous portion of magnificent haggis (with neeps and tatties) wafting calories into the air. There’s nothing like haggis to exude energy. If it hadn’t been that you have to put the energy into it in the dirt place, by feeding a sheep for some years and then boiling it’s innards for a further year, I’d suggest it as an alternative to nuclear power. It’s like a red hot coal fire in a plate. The traditionally served dish hit the mark- a little more fulsomely than intended. Even better was the accompanying 15year Glenfiddich. I really hadn’t expected the ‘accompaniment whiskey’ to be so complicated with such strong smokiness and honey notes. We were far from alone in choosing this dish, many Haggai came through the door in the course of the evening in the hands of the waitresses with short tartan skirts.

Fortunately the pie that was delivered by the rather stereotypically Scottish man (can this have featured. in the recruitment ad? ) arrived later was no bigger. This was wiLd veniSon, cLaret & BLack waLnut pie. I was a bit disappointed not to find any walnuts, but alongside the flavours of the accompanying braised red cabbage, pickled wild damsons, cinnamon this made a great balance of savoury and sweet.

At this point the band took a break. Oh yes, I should have mentioned the live band. Because actually if you eat in the Boisdale’s restaurant, you have to pay for a ticket to the band too. And we had paid for good seats. On a Tuesday night this turned out to mean that we were right under then noses of the band, and there were no other customers to be seen within about 50m of us.

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Which sounds great if you like live music, even better if you know and love the TJ Johnson Band which has a very good rep. The fact was, it was really embarrassing. I winced every time that they caught my eye as I stuffed food in my mouth. I felt that my propensity to eat rather quickly was under scrutiny. And even worse. They didn’t clap when I finished a course.

No hang on, that’s the wrong way around. Even thought they watched us intently, we were supposed to clap them. But it felt kind of artificial when no one else was around and we just sort of cringed when we should have clapped.

They were so comfortable on the stage that we kind of assumed that they would take this in their stride, but actually after a whole, they took longer and longer breaks, and at the end of one song, one stood up, put his hand to his eyes and peered around as if to say ‘is there anyone out there?’
We aren’t corporate customers who didn’t come for the music, bemoaned my husband. We paid for this table… Perhaps we should have said, ‘get that man more of what he’s drinking’ but do people say that in real life? 

The dessert worried me as it landed in front of me. The visual proportions were wrong for a dish that was well thought through.

The description of lemon and bourbon with cranachan promied richness and tartness whipped up together. Well, there was creaminess, to be fair the cranachan was delicious, and there was one tart raspberry. But ultimately there was no real kick for what should have been dramatic combinations. A waste of calories.

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I wish had gone straight for the petit fours, which came in portions of eight (way forwards…) and were made up of some particularly nice mini citrus tarts and jellies.

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And then the whiskey menu. All 50 odd pages of it. Fortunately I had forwarded this list to my husband as date night pre-reading a couple of days earlier. (Who says marriage spoils the romance?) and he had got his head around the scotch pages. I personally had contemplated the Japanese whiskeys but it felt like a cop out in a Scottish restaurant. We chose Ballechin Oloroso Sherry Cask Matured. Now would we have really known if they had swapped the content… We….ell, they were as described in the menu, and my husband recognised the flavour of mine from a visit to the distillery.

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As we Politely left our seats at the end of the night, the band acknowledged us sadly. Dear TJ Johnson band if you are reading this, I am so sorry. I applaud you inside.

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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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