No Consideration for Dieting Food Bloggers

A review of Royal Teas, Greenwich.

Royal teas has always sounded like an intriguing name for a vegetarian cafe. The ‘royal’ bit, yep well it is located on Royal Hill, the teas bit, yep full of teas (more about that later) but the combination of royal and teas sounds like a cream tea destination, and yes it does do cream tea… which is vegetarian…. But it isn’t Vegetarian (that’s a capital ‘V’ there just in case it’s too early in the morning to tell) in the way that is indicative of the aubergine hanging over the words Royal Teas on the logo. Get what I’m saying?

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You know what else? Being located very close to my beloved Buenous Ares cafe, It has taken me 11 years of Greenwich, Blackheath living to get thought the front door. This is not just because the Argentinian location is definitely not vegetarian, but that it has cake and a sofa that I know about.

There were some fabulous looking all day breakfast options, including an Americana tortilla of beans and cheese and eggs. My only reason for passing this by, was that I had already had 2 eggs for breakfast.

We ordered smoked salmon baguette,

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houmous and crudities and deep fried halloumi.

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Where are we on deep fried halloumi? My personal opinion is that cheese is mostly fat, so putting extra fat on the outside can’t really change that too much. Have a smaller piece if it bothers you? We had a long wait for both of these items, but they were delivered with the most gorgeous fresh and colourful salad, which given the affordability of the meal was impressive.

The lapsang souchong we ordered along side was very watery to the extent I could taste water more that I could taste lapsang. Tea should never taste of water right? One might consider its ability to make water taste of something other than water to bite the raison d’être of tea. The charming proprietor balked not at actually opening a new packet for us, from which new cups were filled.

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And here is the best part: A Cake Filing System.

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What a great way to showcase cake! Especially in a quaint cottage interior like this one. I want one of these built into my quaint cottage rectory fields. I might have to throw out the washing machine to make room for it, but it needs no plumbing.

We went for ginger cake. This was full of dried fruit and was unexpectedly offered hot with ice cream. The heat made the ginger creep into your nose (this was a good thing). Despite sharing we were given 2 scoops of ice cream (no consideration for dieting food bloggers), which seemed to me to be dairy vanilla, but to my husband clotted cream. Enlightenment welcome.

Royal Teas
76 Royal Hill, SE10

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Hoping that I remained anonymous, A review of Jamie’s Italian Deli

I admit, I slaughtered Jamie’s Italian in my last review. Even Italian friends told me they thought about going there and changed their minds after my review. So it was with some trepidation that I ventured in last week, hoping that I remained anonymous and was not about to be chased out, Why did I return, you ask? Well, OBVIOUSLY because there were some really good looking cakes in the window and my last review was not about cake. Let’s separate things. Let’s say that this review is about the deli at Jamie’s Italian. My last review was of the restaurant that constitutes Jamie’s Italian. And believe me, I stand by it.

Here are are the good looking cakes:

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By going in the ‘other’ (non restaurant entrance) this is what you are faced by: Actually quite tempting, fell for the whole, 3 cakes between 2 people isn’t that bad thing, even when following focaccia. Focaccia was really great, oily and be speckled with olives.

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But the cakes are kicked by the local competition. The lemon tart was so-so (that’s in the ‘cosi cosi’ way, not the ‘Soooo’ way) lemony- no real sting? And the plum tart was really an almond tart, that wouldn’t want to be disrupted by the sourness of a plum, but without the amazing things that a dedicated almond tart could be.

This, however is a nice environment. You just have to let yourself forget you know it is inauthentic chain decor. And don’t pity the poor homemade pasta for how it is about to be cooked. This isn’t too hard, it is pleasant on the eye.

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The Upsides to Being Miss Marple

A Review of eating out at Montpelier’s, Blackheath SE3

Nice coffee and traditional English cakes make for frequent visits to Montpelier’s.

And some of those traditional English cakes are exactly what they should be. There must have been upsides to being Miss Marple, after all. Other than the mystery solving smugness, she must also have eaten some really excellent traditional English cakes to justify a life in beige.

It’s been a while since I waxed lyrical about chocolate brownies and flapjack so I reckon I’m allowed a moment of repetition here: The best flapjacks crumble, oh they are lovely. They drop soft gold crumbs on your plate to make the flapjack eating experience last beyond the last bite. They have a crispy top and crust to maximise the texture experience. And they are absolutely perfect at Montpellier’s.

Take a moment, here. Reflect on great flapjack.

However in the case of chocolate brownies, there is more than one way to bake perfection. And the method of perfection sourced by Montpellier is this one where it is rich and crumbly and where the taste of a well sourced chocolate shines through.

This time I sat amongst the chintz hinting interior and ordered flapjack and coffee and walnut cake. I’m not sure that this is a criticism, but you had to concentrate to taste the coffee in the coffee and walnut cake which was all frothy butter ice cream (and walnuts plus a touch of cake). It was well made, but perhaps I should have chosen what i know I like best. And I possibly ruined it by ordering peppermint tea rather than coffee due to my delicate disposition (that must be regularly topped up with cake.)

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Service has become more friendly in recent years. I feel much less ‘processed’ as a customer and they smile at you these days. They are also good at solid lunches of the jacket potato or ploughmans variety. It is one of the few places lucky enough to have a continental pavement terrace for the summer.

As you can see from the picture, there is also a plentiful supply of ice cream, although Boulangerie Jade’s selection is so delicious, I seldom experiment with others.

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I do hope Miss Marple found good ice cream too.

Montpeliers
35 Montpelier Vale, London
020 8852 5258

Mouthful of cake, swig of coffee. Savour. A Review of Mara Interiors

Now there is a mini-review of Mara Interiors on my blog already. They are actually an interior designers who happen to sell cake and coffee to chat over rather than an actual coffee shop. So it always felt a bit like cheating to write about them. Also, the owner worked out that I am the that coffee shop blogger, which always felt a little intimidating. It’s so much easier to let my opinion run free when no one knows who you are.

However I have had such consistently pleasant visits there that I thought it was worth a revisit. especially as recently they have been moving their cake selections from solely Boulangerie Jade (which you know I love) to one made no other vendors. In particular this week we discovered these tea cakes (I believe the name is)

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Why have I only got a picture of half of a tea cake…? Because I couldn’t stop myself diving in. This blog, you followers, I forgot you all when faced by the tea cakes and the knife to tuck in… So I don’t even have any evidence of the raspberry one to share with you.

Was it good? Yeeeess it was good. But the one you do have a photo of is even better. The honey and lavender one that was in the words of the baker’s husband ‘less elaborate’ with only a layer of thin icing was fabulous. The best, full of subtle flavours and sugar. I liked. Mouthful of cake. Swig of coffee. Savour. Do something else for a couple of minutes. Repeat. It is necessary to get the balance between enjoying the cake and making the experience last as long as possible.

Very good coffee by the way. And sitting in an interior design shop you do get much nicer seats than in many of Blackheath’s options.

180 Westcombe Hill
Blackheath
London
SE3 7DH

Ham sandwiches with jam- A Review of With Jam and Bread

http://www.withjamandbread.com/home/4567838228

People have been raving about With Jam and Bread. It’s a good title, you have to admit, echoes of the nostalgia of Nigel Slater’s toast. It’s a bright studio space with pops of art and uncomfortable red seats and is a welcome addition to the Lee high Road.

Interior if With Jam and Bread

Interior if With Jam and Bread

It is in fact an art gallery coffee shop, with the sort of art I would actually buy as opposed to strange collages that started off with a good corner, but had to make up for the rest with thick confused splodges of paint. Nine out of ten for atmosphere. I think this is why it is is such a favourite.

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With jam and bread turned out to be a description of the sandwiches. I did anticipate that my ham salad sandwich would come with bread, but I was taken aback by the oodles of strawberry jam soaking through it.

Ham sandwich with bread... And jam

Ham sandwich with bread… And jam

Actually, this proved a rewarding combination. Afterall, people eat honey roast ham. I could even see it working with goats cheese, egg (maybe I’m getting carried away), but I just would have preferred to know before I ate.

They have the decency to name their coffee source on the chalked up boards. Which tells me that they respect coffee. The 2:20 charge said they respected it a touch more than maybe I did. But the flavour suggested that respect was a distant affair, a conceptual respect for coffee that did not get close to intimacy. (It wasn’t bad, just wasn’t amazing),

The cakes also were so so. Particularly the almond croissant. Croissants are not to be messed with, they should be light, crumbling and crunchy. By no stretch of the imagination should they be squished, stale or made with margarine. Like I said, the almond croissant at With Jam and Bread was so so, possibly on the squished side. The lemon poppy seed was no better. It was a generous slice, but it was kind of stodgy.

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The tea, on the other had made up for it all. But not all that respected, appearing on the menu as leaf tea, with no variations led me to expect nothing but English breakfast until I ordered, and a vast array was rattled off. The pot arriving was both sophisticated in look and taste. There’s nothing like pouring endless cups from fresh steaming leaves and thinking, just thinking.

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I am going to get a lot of stick for this… A Lament for a Lost Starbucks (and some alternative recommendations)

I am pretty sad to see Starbucks bite the dust in Blackheath. I would have been sadder to see it go had it actually been allowed to use the downstairs for seating.

Ok, so it sold chilled cakes and thought that coffee was interchangeable for brown coloured perfume.

But it started the whole cafe culture thing. There were the days when I would sneak out of my creative writing college in my 15minute break for nothing less than a Starbucks latte to bring back to the classroom and slurp to the annoyance of my more grown up colleagues. And while I am obviously far to cultured to ever err… regularly buy a high street coffee now I have aged, I’ve still been known to pop in for a gingerbread latte (with even more subterfuge than when I go for a McDonald’s breakfast.)

Starbucks still has a few gems: eggnog lattes, and cinnamon rolls. it was in Blackheath Starbucks that I first read of the ‘Save the Con’ campaign.

Apparently the closure was all over licensing. Which at least means that, despite all appearance to the contrary, the village is not going to die in the strangle hold of betting shops and estate agencies. But it will suffer. It is hard to get a seat in the village at the weekend and sometimes you think you might not be bothered if the trip does not come with cake and coffee. (Because all trips are really about cake and coffee… or haven’t you been listening?) And another high street women’s clothing chain feels soulless, even as a woman, who really likes clothes.

And i would also like to note the good grace with which it departed, (even if it was a PR ploy)offering the residents of Blackheath free coffees in its dying days.

I hope the other coffee shops have hired baristas with skates on to meet the morning commute requirements of Blackheath station. Recommendations for alternative coffee for commuters I received from fellow tweeters:
Most like Starbucks: Giraffe (I have not reviewed Giraffe)
On the way to the station from Lee: Petit Boulangerie Jade (rumoured to open 7:30) My first ever coffee shop review!
Good Coffee: but differs from Starbucks Hand Made Food (you’ll laugh at the title of this review) and also Chapters
Exceptionally Good Coffee, but not open early, Black Vanilla
I’ve tweeted Black Vanilla that earlier opening hours would go down well (and probably make them a huge amount of money), bu t they do not fear my coffee shop reviewer power and haven’t actually replied. I was about to do a glowing review of their Greenwich location too. Sniff!
Highly recommended (but yet to be reviewed by me): Blackheath Deli
Coming from Blackheath Standard, Mocca
Costa has also been mentioned, but I can’t really side with that I’m afraid…

“It’s all going to be ok… I don’t face a moral dilemma”, a review of the Age Exchange, Blackheath

A Review of The Age Exchange, A Reminiscence Centre (with a cafe) Blackheath SE3

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It’s all going to be ok… I don’t face a moral dilemma. I’m not going to have to lie in order to avoid destroying a charity’s reputation. I was attracted to the Age Exchange Reminiscence Centre by the glassy light interior, recently installed following a well publicised refurbishment. I ran in to sit at the atrium at the back, only to realise I’d missed the leather seated, book-shelved (fake) stoved area. So I went back. How cool is that? The reminiscence centre offers cosy retro for winter, and modern glassiness for summer. I’d never imagined that calling it the Age Exchange was a reference to the interior.

Glassy atrium at the Age Exchange

Glassy atrium at the Age Exchange

Both Interiors - compare and contrast

Both Interiors – compare and contrast

Guaranteed, this makes the Age Exchange one of the top Blackheath coffee shop listings for comfortable interiors. For that reason I would go back. Often.

And look at the dinky lovely toys all over the place. Miniature tea sets. I always wanted one of these.

I started young on this coffee shop mentality.

Retro toys at the Reminiscence centre

Retro toys at the Reminiscence centre

20121224-171201.jpgWhich all leaves me morally free to tell you the truth about the coffee.

It was dire. This was despite the presumably ornamental coffee bean machine on the top of it. How can it be possible to order a cappuccino and find black coffee under the froth? And do those machines use fake milk? After the coffee flavour, milk and consistency, is there anything left to grade about a cappuccino?

Fake stove

Fake stove

One of the exciting thing about the Age Exchange is the library downstairs. It’s a real live (a little little) library, forced out of its original home opposite the Post Office and rescued by some die hard campaigners (I do wish they’d rescued the room occasionally used for exhibitions. Us local artists are now bereft.)

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The cake selection is very slight and could be added to, but satisfactory. We ate lemon cake. It was priced at £2 a slice, which means the re-vamped location has seen a 200% price rise, but this is still way ahead of the local competition.

I couldn’t tell if the staff thought we weren’t really supposed to be there but it didn’t say the ‘old exchange’ and my husband is getting on a bit. He spent the visit eyeing up the toasting forks. We needed something to cook marshmallows on our own smokeless fuel, and they can’t be much use on the fake stove. But we decided that stealing toasting forks from coffee shops (not to mention ones run by charities) is bad.

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Address The Reminiscence Centre
11 Blackheath Village
London SE3 9LA
Telephone 020 8318 9105

Advice needed: Why is clafoutis, please?

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A review of Paul Rhodes Bakery in Greenwich

Advice needed: why is clafoutis please? (That was a ‘why, not a ‘what’.) And why does it sometimes have an ‘s’ on the end and sometimes not?

I understand that clafouti(s) should theoretically have a place in the patisserie collection. It features berries and custard; both very nice things; and eggs, very clever things; and pastry which features butter and butter is one of the fundamentals to life worth living. Euclid said so, go look it up: Book9. But why is the combination of these things so unbelievably like the unfortunate conclusion to a school diner.

We didn’t choose the clafoutis at Rhodes this time. We had coffee and cake, and a sandwich. That’s the order we thought of them in, not the order we ate them in. (Yes, we are now bankrupt and do welcome contributions – paypal details follow shortly.) This week we ordered a cheese straw too. The cheese straws at Rhode’s bakery are good.

Rhodes used to have their very own rude French man. Genuinely free insults for all visitors. This was a masterpiece on their part. He was a tourist feature. But he started mellowing. Falling in love, maybe? He needed to choose if his love life was threatening his art; you will no longer find him there. Now they have a selection of kids who don’t actually know what they sell:

Me:  “I’ll have the Rhode’s Classic,”

Staff: “Eh?”

Maybe the lad just couldn’t hear me and I was brought up not to say “what”. But my suspicion is that I confused him by calling the sandwich a the Rhode’s Classic, a Rhode’s Classic and not just a cheese toastie. This didn’t bode well.

The Rhodes Classic differentiated itself on the price tag by being made with sour dough. Actually it was just a cheese toastie with larger than normal quantities of tomato. I’ve had dull sandwich experiences more than once here. Believe me, the place for startlingly good sandwiches is Boulangerie Jade. It’s a pity, because Rhodes’ breads (that require more money than you should be carrying loose change in Greenwich) aren’t bad.

Unusually I wasn’t in a cake mood and had a raspberry shortcake.

We like that raspberry shortbread. It was constructed like a large jammie dodger without cream. Don’t stop reading until you’ve heard the rest…

Oh, Rhodes, where do you get a crunch as good as that shortcake had? I’ve never experienced such crunch before. I mean that takes some making: too long off the baking tray and it will soften. Too soon and it will still be warm. Never mind the fact that as a bakery there was no protective wrapping to keep it fresh. And I do like a confectioner who knows to go easy on the sugar and generous on the tart; the raspberry jam that dripped out was spot on, in quantity and in balance of fruit and sugar.

Very Very Well Done Rhodes. I forgive you for forgetting our coffee for long enough period for us to be well jostled by various olympic tourists. (In my husband’s words, Rhodes have their own brand of customer service).

There aren’t a lot of seats in Rhodes, and being in a top tourist location, you’ll be lucky even to set eye on one without buying a pair of binoculars and stalking everything four-legged. But it isn’t far from the Cutty Sark and the Thames and so we ate our purchases next to the swirling river surrounded by police, community officers, olympic staff and pretty much no one else.

Rhodes serve no end of goodies… all options piled up on the tills. The coffee is in the top 3 performers on my list and it comes in genuinely and uniquely environmentally friendly cups. Although I can’t remember why. Go and read one of their posters if you really want to know.

As an aside, I know I am an artist and supposed to be all visual whatever, but does anyone know how I can post pictures with the blog in a slightly more sightly manner…

Paul Rhodes Bakery, 37 King William Walk, Greenwich, London, SE10 9HU

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