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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have you pre-ordered my novel “Helen and the Grandbees” yet? https://www.amazon.co.uk/s?k=Alex+morall&ref=nb_sb_noss

Out on October 28th!

Book Cover for Helen and the Grandbees

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gin or water. You decide.

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

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

IIt’s just two weeks now, until the release of my Novel ‘Helen & The Grandbees’ with Legend Press. Read the reviews here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Helen-Grandbees-Alex-Morrall/dp/178955991X/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Alex+morrall&qid=1602249828&sr=8-1

Book Cover for Helen and the Grandbees

A review of Koy SE3

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

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

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

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

Have you pre-ordered my novel “Helen and the Grandbees” yet? https://www.amazon.co.uk/s?k=Alex+morall&ref=nb_sb_noss

Out on October 28th!

Book Cover for Helen and the Grandbees

A review of Little Sparrow Tea

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

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

Spicy Cocoa Tea

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

Have you pre-ordered my novel Helen and the Grandbees yet…? Publication date is getting closer. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/54882686-helen-and-the-grandbees?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=IvFwpCIJQx&rank=1

Book Cover for Helen and the Grandbees

“Things haven’t been the same” A Review of post-lockdown walks in SE London

It’s fair to say, things haven’t been the same lately. Summers are usually a feast of street food; “oh, we’ll diet tomorrow (assuming there’s enough money in the bank for baked beans) restaurant trips“ and ”I haven’t seen that flavour gin before, that counts as a special occasion… slurp” moments.

And, as you’ve almost certainly observed, I’ve been diligently reviewing local takeouts for you. Not that we’re averse to eating out. We’ve had some unfortunate experiences in pubs better not named, but we’re spontaneous eater-outers, not, let’s plan and book before all the socially-distanced seating has gone people

I’ll put my hands up and admit that I have slightly leveraged this opportunity to lose a little weight, only to discover your average meal out has a frightening amount of calories.

But it’s a moment to consider, what is Blackheath Coffee Shop Food Blogger for? What does it mean anymore if I’m not always finding an excuse for cake, coffee and just a tiny little bit of tasting menu here and there. Just what do we do all day, when we’re not WFH?

Discover the pretty parts of south London for walking of course.

Hall Place has proved a particular favourite. It’s combination of wide fields, and cultivated gardens are much less uptight than Greenwich Park… and much less crowded too. Top tip, you can do the Green Chain Walk from here. One day, I might.

Ducks in Hall Place, Bexleyheath
Ducks in Hall Place, Bexleyheath (not to be fed)

And alongside the Thames has some particularly romantically bleak scenes, beautiful in moody Whistler mists as it is in storming sunlight.

Thameside, coming up to Erith. I need to paint this scene sometime
Thameside, coming up to Erith. I need to paint this scene sometime
The remains of the Woolwich Acquatic Centre. Complete with Heron
The remains of the Woolwich Acquatic Centre. Complete with Heron. I wish they’d reopen it for swimmers.

Have we missed anywhere? We’re considering Beckenham Palace Park but can’t tell if it’s only a swimming pool or not. (Not that I am remotely averse to outdoor swimming).

Have you pre-ordered my novel “Helen and the Grandbees” yet? It’s also set in south east London


Book Cover for Helen and the Grandbees

 Don’t wait for publication date… there might be a run on books by then!

“Stocked with all sorts of things that a home-cook might want to buy.” Charlton and Blackheath’s Expo International Supermarket

So you might have noticed, Expo International Supermarket as you drove along Charlton Road recently, partially because of its load up of kitchen roll in its otherwise empty windows not all that long after a kitchen roll shortage

Or you might have noticed the piled up crates outside the front.

or on a good day, you might only have noticed the huge wedges of watermelon inviting you to cool down during the recent heatwave.

I am truly divided on my view of the supermarket, because what it is, is very well stocked with all sorts of things that a home-cook might want to buy. ALL the spices, ALL the pulses, and without the sort of, aren’t-I-a-posh-out-there-cook prices to match. The meat counter at the back is magnificent, although somewhat scaled back since opening as I think we all failed to take the hint. (Eg. I should buy that sometime, mmm,… how much are those eggs…?)

And any place that sells halva and balklava is all good with me.

The interior is very clean. But those crates outside just look grotty, and those staff who don’t know what social distancing is, despite it being clearly labelled on the floor. And who really wants to see kitchen roll in the windows of the main road when there isn’t a run on toilet roll. 

Intrigued to know other people’s thoughts. I know its got its fans….

Have you pre-ordered my novel “Helen and the Grandbees” yet? https://www.amazon.co.uk/s?k=Alex+morall&ref=nb_sb_noss

 Don’t wait for publication date… there might be a run on books by then!

Book Cover for Helen and the Grandbees

Tapas by Takeaway, A Review of The Hill SE10

My recent cooking efforts are hitting a wall, everything’s made from scratch down to the pitta and the baked beans, and just recently I’m thinking, surely eat out food once a week can’t be that bad…And hence, this week I sampled for you, tapas by post (well, okay Deliveroo)

As the past few months have probably taught you, a takeaway can be an unrewarding experience for its lack of ceremony and tapas may actually be one of the best examples of this, as dishes that you forgot you ordered turn up randomly throughout the event, bringing with them a strange refreshed new menu effect. Tapas at home, however, pretty much lands on one plate, all at once, especially when still endeavouring to remember that we’re still advised to treat all deliveries as if they’re contaminated.

Yes, that is a tentacle of octopus hidden there… and it’s all mine

On the other hand, you don’t have the moment when you eye the bill suspiciously thinking, I’m not sure the waiter ever bought that dish, or maybe they did, or maybe it was the yellow one with chewy bits. (Usually it turned out to be the green one that you thought was sauted cabbage, but was in fact dyed corn.) Or that moment when your friend definitely takes more chorizo than you.

The Hill delivered a wonderfully oily fiesta of favours, in the form of cerviche with stinging vinegar, red onion and sweet corn. It look so inauspicious and yet we ended up carefully draining the dressing in the bottom of the takeaway box to use throughout the week. Despite tasting amazing, when eaten with the sweet potato chips, this had more than an echo of fish and chips to it.

As with all tapas, however it comes down to one thing. The octopus was tender, and looked great on the plate, the cerviche was dancing, the padron were perfectly grilled and seasoned… but the chorizo was hands down the top of the list. I’m going to have to stop ordering it with tapas so that I can start appreciating the rest of the meal.

Anyways… looking for some Deptford based eating recommendations to chime in with the pending release of my Deptford based novel ‘Helen and the Grandbees.” Anywhere you’d recommend…?

Don’t wait for publication date… there might be a run on books by then!


Book Cover for Helen and the Grandbees

“Dead Cultured”

A review of live streamed performances from ROH, Glyndebourne and National Theatre

Lockdown has made me dead cultured like. So many theatres are offering ‘live at home’ performances, I now attend two to three plays, operas or ballets a week… and there’s no interval-ice-cream, or post-event-tube-crush involved. To be fair, sometimes there just isn’t any ice cream.

Both Glyndeborne and ROH offer weekly programmes complete with English subtitles (kind of essential for me), stunning voices and sets.

Opera has always been a difficult one for me. As a novelist I struggle with opera plot holes, or if not ‘holes’ exactly whole events that seem crucial to the plot just never appearing on the scene, leaving you wondering, “how did that person end up over there?’ (La Boheme being a key culprit!) You also have to prep yourself up for a good deal of cringeable misogyny, especially if it was Mozart’s choice of libretto. How do the singers manage to throw out those anti-women lines without the tiniest eye roll? (My need for subtitles could be working against me here.) Then, on the arrival of a stunning aria in the middle of a scene, all is (temporarily) forgiven. The Queen of the Night’s aria in the Magic Flute for example, could only have been improved by youtube overcoming its recurrent lip sync issue on the live stream.. and actually not by my husband’s google discovery (after sparkling wine) of a marmot singing said aria. I won’t stop you from googling this. But I would point out, you will never listen to it with the same ears again if you do.

Not all opera is sexist by the way. I found Rusulka at the Glyndebourne festival last year, genuinely empathetic. (Okay. I cried. ALL THE WAY THRU. And only stopped for the picnic in the intermission).

Glyndebourne Cosi Fan Tutte (very sexist)

And as for dance, of which the ROH has provided much, I had no idea. I mean, I Had No Idea. Being quite bookish, I’ve always assumed that dance would be more understood by the grown up version of the girls at primary school who were always skipping classes to wear sparkly outfits and be picked up by coaches when they could have been learning about full stops and exclamation marks. And don’t start me on “The Sleeping Beauty” where the whole plot line gets sorted in the first 5 minutes and we’ll all have a jolly good dance about it for the next hour or so nonsense (or were Tchaikovsky’s dancing cats prescient of the social media age..?). But the Winter’s Tale and Metamorphoses have been genuinely mesmerising. This approach also overcomes ROH’s major flaw, its contempt for most of its audience, as supposedly ”affordable” seats actually mean ’painful to watch’ seats, or ‘we’re going to design a set where you could otherwise have seen the action, but now can’t’ seats (presumably to justify a high premium on the stalls).

I’m relieved that the national theatre offerings have grown up a little since the beginning of lockdown when it was all treasure island and tiny tots. Small Island (one of my favourite books of all time) was a great adaption.

Have you pre-ordered my novel “Helen and the Grandbees” yet? https://www.amazon.co.uk/s?k=Alex+morall&ref=nb_sb_noss

 Don’t wait for publication date… there might be a run on books by then!

Book Cover for Helen and the Grandbees

“Some artisan butters are just plain distraction from butter’s real magnificence..”

A review of Banquist delivering all elements of ‘Michelin star meals’

This whole stuck at home business means that I haven’t so much saved money exactly, as managed to stick to the budget we were always supposed to stick to. Just as I thought I could be on to something, and actually afford some new clothes,  Banquist turned up in my instagram feed, offering a ‘Michelin meal experience’ by asking a top rated chef, in this case Josh Barnes, to pull together a menu, and deliver the ingredients (including wine and cheese courses) at an agreed time. They’re pitched as an upgrade to the usual meal kit options you might have heard of, as the entire meal to dessert and petit four is offered, along with the matching wines,

Things started to look worrying, when on booking I was asked how I’d rate my own cooking ability and I recklessly awarded myself an eight out of ten. Hey – no one was looking!  Then I wondered if I would fail miserably to bring together such an impressive sounding meal. However, this turned out to be nothing to fret about as the more complicated  sauce and oils came prepared in wonderous sheets of plastic that reminded me of how I always thought chemistry classes ought to be.

Here is the main course of seared Icelandic cod, parmentier potato’s and samphire, lemon purée and oil of wild leeks. At this point, particularly the parmentier potato point, I should admit that this is partially a review of my husband’s cooking – There’s no way I would have prepared such neat and small cubes of potato. In fact when I read the recipe it briefly crossed my mind that I could save a lot of faff by just baking the potato. Briefly, right? I gave myself an eight above. I meant it.

He hummed as he cooked. I’ve been using cooking as a chance to get up from my WFH desk, so he has been deprived of cooking lately. Please note: Banquist makes you hum.

So I even had a chef, just no waiter. 

The sauces combined well: just as we were thinking that the cod needed lemon, the lemon sauce came through. But the cleverest part of the meal turned out to be the matching wine (Torres SAN Valentin Parellada, 2018). I’m often disappointed by supposed wine matches, but this basque wine really did complement the meal all the way through the cheese course, and the dessert. 

Sorry about state of garden. Husband got furloughed, and hence house had to be rebuilt from the bottom up.

What a normal takeaway or cook at home pack misses is the little details, the extras that breeze by and add up on the bill without you noticing. The difference here was that these all came included (except for that waiter… I did double check the paper shreds) and they were worth every penny, including a mega red, swirled seaweed butter. Some artisan butters are just plain distraction from butter’s really magnificence, but this left us searching the house for bread on which to spread it, or oatcakes, or frankly, cardboard would have done it. 

What you do have to do, is take a moment for the ceremony, lay the table properly, make sure everything is delivered in order. These are the details that are easy to miss but could ruin the experience. 

However we do need to talk about cheesecake. I have to indulge a cheesecake rant every now and then, cheesecake can be stella or it can be a bland sugary disaster. I blame banquist for this particular rant. I had no choice. I didn’t know they were going to send me cheesecake. If I had, I might not have ordered the cheese platter as an extra. The good news is that the cheesecake lived up to my epic and oft cited cheesecake standards, the suspiciously sweet looking strawberry compote was en-depthed (yes – that’s a thing) with elderflower, locally grown elderflower according to the notes (get them,) and arrived in jam pots. Good thing that my family’s gift-giving habits had resorted to, ‘I don’t think they have long handled teaspoons yet’ levels. But, oh… I am so sorry to say it, the base was a little too sweet. I think it would have worked perfectly if the dessert had been a little more cheesecake shaped, but being at the bottom of a jam jar, the sweetness was not so evenly spread through the rest of the dessert, and proved a disconcerting end.

Fortunately this was redeemed by three great cheeses, more opportunity to dig into that seaweed butter, and homemade truffles. Here’s the thing, the bill was agreed before we sat down, but we ended up with free jam bars and free seaweed butter.

Still no waiter, though.

Have you pre-ordered my novel “Helen and the Grandbees” yet? https://www.amazon.co.uk/s?k=Alex+morall&ref=nb_sb_noss

 Don’t wait for publication date… there might be a run on books by then!

Helen and the Grandbees by Alex Morrall