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?

The Most Important Meal of the Day

A review of Boulangerie Jade SE3 on the Blackheath Standard

http://www.boulangeriejade.com/welcome

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. This has nothing whatsoever to do with the opinions of nutritionists. Breakfast is really the most important meal of the day because it is the downright most funnest. At what other time of the day can one  eat cake and pastry as a main course, or instead choose spicy eggs, or maybe all of the above because there are no rules on courses, all washed down with the biggest of coffee bombs, because you don’t have to worry about caffeine keeping you awake?

Or maybe you choose cereal. I don’t judge you. I I feel pity.

Boulangerie Jade in the Blackheath Standard understands breakfast with its  suitably diverse menu leaving you flummoxed (and hungry) for a good chunk of time while you debate whether you are going down the savoury route or the sweet route.

I went for the Mackerel tartine.

Mackerel Tartine at the Boulangerie Jade on Blackheath Standard

I’m a big fan of mackerel me. This was pleasant, and different, which is what I’m always looking for, but maybe not full of the huge flavours i was craving. There was horseradish as promised in the accompanying creme fraiche, but only just. and only discernible after having a good glug of water to clear the palate.

Another time I’m trying that considerably unhealthier sounding toulouse sausage roll. Here was my husband’s choice:

Service from our initial visit has upped its game. Losing the frosty looks if you glance at a waitress about your twenty minute delay on your eggs, and the arrival of bacon that does been cooked to the beer mat consistency plus the constant implication that your presence is generally really really annoying being welcome improvements. So the harsh trip advisor status may yet improve.

My only disappointment was the constant promise that the cakes (from the Jade bakery) were on their way. It has to be said, Jade cakes are very very good cakes – all the ones I have tasted. They were on their way through out the whole meal. They were still on their way when we had to give up and leave and go about their business (with a sourdough loaf of course). Not all of my business is sitting in coffee shops you know.

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

I hope that wasn’t fraudulent procurement of seating.

A review of Plum Tree Cafe,

They kept telling me to go to the Plum Tree cafe for brunch or cake. Then I was confused because others told me to only go to the plum Tree cafe for it’s evening switch to eastern food, which doesn’t appear advertised not the website. But the opportunity that came up was brunch. Our anniversary since you asked.

An eclectic warming interior of partial scaffolding invited us in, but despite a lot of seating… There were no places to sit. We were not allowed in the tree house. It’s that whole height prejudice all over again. Fortunately the Plumtree cafe can boast lovely customers, two of whom let us share their table. This was on the condition that we could confirm that we were nice. I said that we were. I hope that wasn’t fraudulent procurement of seating.

Interior at Plum Tree Cafe

Interior at Plum Tree Cafe

Now you may have noticed that despite being a coffee shop blogger, I am a little precious about some teas… Earl Grey being one. Which I’m sure all you cultivated people know should come without milk. (and don’t put the spoon bak in the sugar after stirring). So I was a little surprised to find myself being stared at in astonishment for ordering a London Fog. (Earl grey, steamed milk and vanilla) it had been so well branded and appetisingly described on the blackboard that the milk plus bergamot (ie citrus!!with milk!! Might curdle!!) combination had completely passed me by. Delicious too, really sort of warm and err… Foggy.

So to brunch- which must always be accompanied by cake if adequate quality is available. Nice menu. Hard to put a interesting twist on brunch sometimes, I think. A form of fry up with Buck’s Fizz doesn’t always justify the title. (Giraffe has some great options). Plumtree’s credentials were confirmed with avocodo on sour dough with lime and rocket. Appetising, refreshing, and dare I say it, healthy (although this adverb is always dependent on which health sect you adhere to.)

Avocado lime on sour dough

Avocado lime on sour dough

A crucial discovery was made on the ordering of this breakfast. As my husband went to pay, a lady holding a bowl of brown contents happened to comment that it was very important that the right ingredients featured in the cake I order to allow it to have the right moisture/crumbly texture. It boded well. We decided to take a long time over breakfast, so that we would be there when the cake had finished its baking.

Pretty interior

Pretty interior

While this initially appeared to be an advantage, it turned out to make cake-decision modelling even more complicated than normal. Normally I write off the chocolate cake early on. This time I was foiled because I knew with what passion it had been prepared. Emergency action was justified. We bought 3 cakes…. one for the road. Really, we had a long journey ahead to our spa hotel in, ahem, just down the A2.

Enjoyed the plum flapjack and both the chocolate cake and the ginger cake were bursting with their own flavours. Which is quite right too. This is what a real cake should do – like a Matisse painting – no pretending that big splash of blue is anything other than joyful unmitigated blue unspoilt by conventions of perspective. Or in this case, ginger. I think it compares.

241 Greenwich High Road, London, SE10 8NB

Matisse worthy cake. Note how it has been carefully cut for Shari g

Matisse worthy cake. Note how it has been carefully cut for Shari g

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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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