Trying to keep fit and eating cake

A review of Rhubarb, the cafe at the Glass Mill gym, Lewisham

I never expected to review a cafe in a gym. A gym cafe always felt like a slight upgrade from the vending machine back when I had swimming lessons. (I was never ever allowed anything from the vending machine.)

Rhubarb though is a real surprise, one sleek corner of the light bright reception of the Glass Mill Swimming Pool, with a counter piled with cake. My advice? Don’t touch the flapjack. It looks good and is sitting next to a brownie, which always helps because in the effort to choose between traybakes, you find yourself imagining good flapjack in your mouth. Do this at Rhubarb, and you will be disappointed. Sorry Rhubarb, the truth hurts.

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I don’t think that this will cause too much concern. The Earl agree tea loaf is excellent. The lemon and blueberry cake melts in the mouth, soft and crumbly and neither too acidic or too sweet. And the other cake options look just great- all the traditional list blooming with a bakery haze. The blackboard says that they had baked all the cakes on site. Where did they find this baker and how did they convince them to work in a swimming pool?

It took us ages to identify the breakfast menu, but it is there and it is not tack. I’ll be honest, having to find the menu amidst the burger filled (and cake) menu in a GYM, and seeing only oats-so-simple with 25% sugar (people do know that oats are simple even when they come out of a sack, right?) led me to expect microwaved bacon and cheese rolls. I was judging harshly. Thick cut white or wholemeal bread swamped in mushrooms and herbed scrambled egg arrived on our place. We’ve even gone so far as to ask if they will do poached eggs (like i said, this is a health suite) So far we’ve been refused.

Tea pigs darjeeling Earl grey in a pot with a glass, was very refreshing. Which is strange, because I seem to remember being quite mean about it at Giraffe. sorry Teapigs, we should chat and make up over a cuppa.

Is it newness? It might be, but I have to say that the bright daylight lit interior with neon pops of colour is wonderfully clean. Which is more than can be said of the changing rooms later in the day… But I am veering dangerously off piste. I’d tell you about the swimming pool, or justify my food choices after a swim but that would take this blog toooo far from it’s titled home. I’d have to start reviewing computer hardware next.<

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

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

Things every giraffe knows (apparently)

Things every giraffe knows (apparently)

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

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

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

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

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

Huevous rancheros (brunch pizza)

Huevous rancheros (brunch pizza)

Closed pizza

Closed pizza

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

Fresh lemonade with mint was a must.

Authentic gimmick

Authentic gimmick

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

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

Cast iron teapots. All good

Cast iron teapots. All good

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

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

Seems odd given their name.

58-62 Tranquil Vale, London
020 8463 9155

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Starbucks is over the road (for anyone who doesn’t get it.)

Hand Made Food interior (or is it Handmade food?) Blackheath

A review of Handmade Food in Blackheath SE3

Once upon a time I thought a Bacon and Egg sandwich was just that: a Bacon and Egg sandwich. Possibly I would worry about whether it was made with butter or margarine. And I would put up with margarine if that was what it so happened to be, in the same way that I might put up with a chip in the mug of tea served with fish and chips… because this is greasy-spoon-food right? And you’ve got to eat greasy-spoon-food in a greasy kind of a way? Well it turns out that I was wrong.

I was enlightened one day after walking into Handmade Food before 12pm. I had been there before. They do such a good line in cakes (there isn’t a single cake that is worth overlooking here)  that I had rarely diverged from this option. But on this particular cold morning, I saw that they served bacon and egg sandwiches… er… admittedly for a fiver.

If I tell you that the hand made food bacon and egg sandwich is worth every penny of that fiver.. and more pennies still, would you have me institutionalised? Well before you ring for the ambulance… go and try it. I do not know what makes the difference. Good bread, perfect width of slices; butter (HMF was never going to be a margarine sort of a place); fabulous bacon and egg which I assume has been carefully sourced. But it is as if each egg had been considered with each bacon slice and each type of bread.

Have with coffee. HMF seems to vary in its coffee allegiances but I have yet to be disappointed. Starbucks is over the road, for anyone who doesn’t get it.

I will have to get back to you on the deli, the cakes, coffee surroundings and service some other time. But there is one terrible truth that you should know about HMF. Despite a clear interest in the arts, they have never exhibitied my paintings. Never. Not even when I smiled at them when I paid for breakfast/elevenses/lunch/tea/caketime/mid-mid-morning snack time etc.

It’s ok. I’m not offended. And it goes to prove how objective my views are that I continue to say nice things about them,  and their coffee and their expensive bacon and egg sarnies…

Is anyone enjoying their outdoor olympics tent, by the way? Seeing the menu I am desperate to try and get there before it all closes down.

 40 Tranquil Vale, Blackheath, London, SE3 0BD