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

I’ve more than once made the mistake of thinking that I am visiting the Everest Inn for a curry

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A Review of the Everest Inn, SE3

The Everest Inn is on Montpellier. Did anyone else think that it used to live near the Fresh spa? Hmmm, restaurants ought not to be up and moving in the middle of the night when there is no one watching.

The Everest Inn, whilst sounding like a destination to be reached with frost bitten toes in order to drink nutritious hand held stews and whiskey through sealskins, is a Tibetan restaurant. It figures.

I’ve more than once made the mistake of thinking that I am visiting the Everest Inn for a curry. The menu certainly reads that way: The same convention of offering most dishes by the type of meat, and a good chunk of tandoori selections with naan and rice. Plus cobra is on the menu. In reality, if you come away feeling you’ve had your average takeaway, you’ve missed out because the subtlety of the dishes is beyond sticky plastic boxes . It is good food, with an unusual depth of flavour. Brick Lane it ain’t.

Cobra

Cobra

Naan

Naan

Hot towels

Hot towels

Here are the spectacularly presented starters- albeit slight messed up by a mix and match effort undertaken by my husband. That’ll be a chilli prawn found its way from his plate and masquerading as paneer on the side there. All in the interests of maximising information for this review, you understand.

Artistic starters

Artistic starters

So for the main course, I am remembering just how great aromatic fish can be and order the excitingly described Machha Modi Kohla- marinated fish, aromatic spices, mustard, ginger, herbs and yoghurt. In red it stated “most popular villagers recipe from Modi River, western part of Pokhara, Nepal.” I am such a sucker for extra words on the menu even if I am struggling to work out the grammar. I have probably become immune to some of the modern European over-adjectified menus, but Modi river, villages. Ooohhhh.

The dish was undoubtedly aromatic, arriving with chunks of fresh spring onion and a gentle after taste of ginger. So was it the beer, was it the Naan? I did just yearn for something a little hotter- just a crumble of chilli. I did the meal down because I wanted ‘takeaway’.

The next upgrade from your average curry house is the hot towels. These were presented in elegant ceramic containers with water to poor over the dried towels. Glad these came without chilli though.

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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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The Turkish Coffee Arrived and it was not Nescafe, A Review if Helva in Greenwich

Helva Interior

Helva Interior

There’s nothing like Meze. It solves all of your menu woes… You don’t have to pick, just have a bit of everything. The Meze however at Helva was only of starters, cruelly evading the exciting grills also on the menu, so we did what every self respecting food fan does, and ordered the mixed grill too. The waitress looked confused and after a pause asked us if we wanted both at the same time. Then she pulled over an extra table, so that she would have room for all the Meze.

2 tables of Mexe

2 tables of Mexe

Personally, I think that without the deep fried stuff… Calamari, whitebait, this would not have been such a difficult job to eat in its entirety. Deep fried halloumi could stay though. This was one of the best specimens I have tried, lightly herbed and with lemon juice. Also exceptional was the flavour of the garlic mushrooms and the bread so light it was inline savoury brioche- as if it had been steamed in the cooking. The lahmacun, mince sauce on flat bread was also finished pretty quick. The humous was not as good as the one that I made (on the advice of Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem). My husband said this before I did, btw.

Light Turkish bread

Light Turkish bread

The iskender, the mixed grill, was exactly what grills should be, and in this instance came with yogurt, butter and bread sauce. Why would that taste so good? Have i ever served cornflakes and milk and Rice Krispie sauce with my grills? No. But after tasting this combination, maybe i should. The cankaya- (turkish wine) however was nothing much… But given the brave decision of the menu not to have a single Sauvignon blanc, I gave it a shot.

Iskender

Iskender

We did a respectable job of finishing dinner. I say respectable, although there was an almost indecent speed of completion in our part. Just a bit of whitebait and 2 slices of bread remained. It was like the loaves and fishes in reverse.
We didn’t even have the manners to decline the dessert menu. (Actually these were just thrust upon us, depriving us of the chance to make jokes a out how greedy we were being and thus divert from the fact that we were being greedy).

My oh so noble attempts to remain authentic led me to a turkish dessert and a turkish coffee. The Helva arrived looking unexpectedly like polenta and with very little taste of sesame. I was quite taken aback by how different it was from every other helva experience have ever had – even in Turkey, and even now i am wondering if it was an elaborate ruse to assess whether i knew anything about turkish cuisine and hence pass off the nescafe as turkish coffee.

My husband ordered only ice cream and was disappointed by the neopoliatan options available. We think he offended them with his lack of turkish attempts, because while mine was sparkling with hundreds and thousands, this was what arrived for him

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He went on to make a Home made (table-based) affogato

The Turkish coffee arrived and it was not nescafe. It had the sand like texture and deep flavour that turkish coffee always has, but sadly far too much sugar than was drinkable after such a huge meal.

27-31 Greenwich Church St, London
020 8858 8658

Leave Trifle in the Seventies! A Review of The Guildford Arms

We decided to risk the Guildford Arms. I say ‘risk’ because our on our last visit we had a very uncomfortable experience there. Admittedly we arrived late and not too sure we wouldn’t be turned away. However on being welcomed, a rush job was done with our meals – especially the partially cooked potatoes, making the whole visit a pretty disappointing expense. This was a pity as we have never experienced this at the sister restuarant, ‘Inside’.

Fake candles

Fake candles

Ah but everyone deserves a second chance. Even if they seem to spend more time and effort advertising and writing in the local glossies than actually cooking.

I like muted blues

I like muted blues

The environment at the Guildford arms was very pleasant: a wood clad room and jazz. They even had really clever fake candles that flickered in a frosted glass. Although I did wonder why they are needed. Is the cost of wax prohibitive these days? Are the papers full of reports of restaurants burned down by escapee candles? Equally mysterious was the two cubicle toilet with one elongated sink. It was very sophisticated in appearance, but if the two cubicles were used at similar time, there’d be a queue for the single tap. Watch our for that.

I began by enjoying a very rich roquefort souffle, but then a scan of the mains menu presented a challenge. It didn’t leave me in a quandary of which exciting meal to pick, so much as trying to infer what possibly could have something exciting lurking underneath the dsecriptions. While I very much enjoy ‘traditional with a twist’ (see the Rivington review) the menu at the Guilford arms was very traditional with a very subtle twist, almost too subtle to notice. We were not entirely forsaken to a single flavour: corn purée accompanied the guinea fowl and blue cheese with the steak. In fact following the long agony between starter and main (what is with these waits?) the roast guinea fowl with bacon and beef fillet with supplement arrived and were delicious. It’s hard to describe what went so right with these dishes- clearly not their descriptions on the menu. Both were hugely reminiscent of a good English roast. I mean of the standard that your good cook friend would make you rather than an £7 a head carvery plus plate design and elegant portion sizes. I appreciate that sounds like I have missed the point, but I would go so far as to say (on this occasion) that they were absolutely and without reservation flawlessly cooked, taking the dishes to their best possible performance.

Beef with supplement

Beef with supplement

Guinea Fowl

Guinea Fowl

This very traditional seems to be defining Guildford’s market. I had a sneak peak at it’s more popular sister restaurant Inside’s menu, and they at least tossed chorizo into one of the meals. This is probably more my style. Mark’s and Spencer have my demographic tagged.

Fortunately the dessert menu presented more sparky selections – oh that trusty course ‘dessert’. Some of them extended to the odd spice, albeit in the traditional combinations of ginger and rhubarb or vanilla and cream. The ginger and rhubarb was a brilliant balance of the two flavours- a rare achievement having sampled many attempts at this combination, many overdo the ginger. But this being part of a trifle, I had to fight through clouds of cream to reach this harmonious performance. Leave trifle in the seventies. The only part worth keeping is the sponge fingers in jelly. The other dessert was creme brûlée with cardamom shortbread. For those of you who think that shortbread is best served with caramel and chocolate on top you need to try this- a way more sophisticated twist than millionaires shortbread.

Clouds of Cream

Clouds of Cream

Creme Brûlée

Creme Brûlée

Desserts compounded the reality that the small portions were large enough. We were now completely satiated. I ordered a black coffee to finish with. Think it was an Americano, but I can’t get excited.about the difference between this and a filter coffee. Can you? It came with such rich stiff frothy milk in a jug on the side that it quickly evolved into a cappuccino. I have no faith in my own convictions. We were warned that the truffle on the side came with cognac.

I thought that was kind.

This review was of the restaurant upstairs.
The Guildford Arms, 55 Guildford Grove, Greenwich SE10 8JY

“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

“Was it bacon and egg, or bacon and peas… no hang on it was scallops” A Review of Tzigano’s in Blackheath

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A review of Tzigano’s, an Italian Restaurant in Blackheath, SE3.

I was feeling a tad- Italian Restaurant jaded as we found ourselves heading for Tziganos. There are quite a few of Italian restaurants in Blackheath (currently I count six including the chains), and it is easy to assume that they would all be the same. They’re not.

I should be exact, Tzigano’s website says that it is a Mediterranean cuisine rather than Italian.

It’s lovely and cosy inside Tzigano’s. We were happy before we ate a single morsel. The menu itself was a rewarding read, prepared with detailed effort and different inks for different types of food. There was a fabulous set menu with a wine list focussed on flavour types rather than red or white nestling in with the food. There was a ‘hand written’ write up about how Tzigano’s is Italian for wandering gypsies the two chefs who set out on their own to supply us with authentic Mediterranean dishes in authentic surroundings.

I’m afraid that the pictures here will be poor. The lighting was dimmed and we were overlooked by more staff than customers. I believe they were only there to ensure we didn’t photograph the interiors.

All of our drink quandries were settled as soon as we sat down by being offered mulled spice cider. We liked that. It was served in what I thought were cast iron mugs that turned out to be 70’s brown ceramics. I remember my mum throwing those out and I had been glad to see the back of them.

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Oh, and important to note: They have those really big round glasses that every other restaurant snatches away from your table when you order wine by the glass. We laughed knowingly to ourselves as they removed them once we had ordered, only to be surprised when they returned with them full of the wine. I actually got to drink out of a pretty round wine glass. Perhaps they have been reading this blog.

Very round glasses- Tzigano's

Very round glasses- Tzigano’s

We all went for the set menu, there was lamb wellington on it. I don’t know if that is authentically mediterranean, but you can see that this may not have been my top priority when confronted with lamb wellington, right?

For starters I had the scallops with quails egg, and peas. About a zillion years after ordering, they eventually turned up tasting as if they had been sitting underneath heat lamps while everyone else’s mushrooms were prepared. They were rubbery, and the yolks cooked solid through. It was the quails eggs that tempted me to try yet another scallop dish, but as an overall combination I was intrigued: Was it bacon and egg, or bacon and peas… no hang on it was scallops.

Scallops and quails eggs, Tzigano's

Scallops and quails eggs, Tzigano’s

Mushrooms

Mushrooms

Everyone else ordered the mushrooms. They seemed happy. When I asked afterwards, I was told they excellent. I do words. They do smart food-ordering.

We waited for the lamb wellington. We waited longer for the lamb wellington. We reached the all sit around with our hands holding up our chins sort of fed up stage. We were on our iPhones trying to look for date stamps of photos to prove how long we’d been waiting.

The waitress came to tell us how great the lamb wellington would taste. We believed her, but she was worried.

But when the lamb wellington arrived, it was fabulous, unstoppably edible, a bit with potato, a bit with veg, a bit with a little more pastry..

Desserts sounded great. Cheesecake brule sounded like the perfect resolution of the rather irritating habit that cheesecake has of being mostly cheese. However the key turned out to be in the ‘lightly’ bruleed. It was alright. Some chefs just aren’t dessert chefs and should be appreciated for their other skills.

Brûléed cheesecake

Brûléed cheesecake

I think the tardiness of the kitchen might have been a one off. Later customers seemed not to struggle in the same way. And the waiting staff and the man we suspected of being the owner were impeccable (Boulangerie Jade , I love you… But are you listening..?!) both showing a real passion for the food that was being served. They and offered us limoncella shots after the tip question was long gone.

17 Montpelier Vale, Blackheath, London, SE3 0TA

(02088) 529226

Did you enjoy that? The waiter asked. He mocked us.

A Review of Barbecoa, restaurant in New Change, the City of London, London

http://www.barbecoa.com/

(No… it’s not South East London, but it’s easily accessible via South Eastern to Cannon Street (south Eastern dependent) so go out and be adventurous.)

It all began with the bread course. This dish definitely deserved the word ‘course’. We had a four course meal, the first course was bread. Three breads to be exact. The first we were told was a naan, but it was like a pancake with sesame seeds. It was lovely, you know, in the way only warm pancakes can be. The malted bread had a solid sweet crust; and the ciabatta was toasted in a robust olive oil. I am sure toasted, not fried, strange as that sounds.

Many exciting flavours of bread

Many exciting flavours of bread

The butter came with salt crystals… Well ok, salt crystals aren’t actually all that practical, but this bread course was about the visuals, sparkling gems scattered on the creamy yellow butter. Mmm creamy yellow butter.

Did you enjoy that? The waiter asked. He mocked us. He laughed at his own joke before we could answer. How could anyone not enjoy it? And we did eat it rather quickly.

My mandarin fizz was lovely, the Campari rounding off the otherwise sharp citrus flavour; but I should have had this as an aperitif; it was not so great with food. I switched to a Rioja. Smoothest I’ve ever tasted.

Nice for starters

Nice for starters

Starters (the course that comes after the bread course) are definitely more interesting than the mains, but it was the piccalilli that pulled me to the shredded pigs ear… Oops, I mean cheek. I had reservations. I shouldn’t have. Piccalilli perfection- just the right spiciness, the right saltiness of pork shredded into a cake.

mmm

mmm

The Calamari and avocado (not guacamole, avocado you know) was good too.

Incredible Calamari

Anxious to finish off the rest of the pig (ok, actually I was embarrassed to have pork  for both starter and main) I overlooked the various impressive sounding steaks. More often than not, I like something a little more tangy, so the pork featured again. Coleslaw and shredded pork in BBQ sauce (wooweee) and market salad and about 2 chips in duck fat. Two chips was all I could squeeze in and there were better things than chips on the table. Coriander was the ultimate fresh garnish on this flavour feast. Oh, it was so good I came over all alliterative. Market salad is another one of those dishes with a name that just don’t sell it, but was replete with all kinds of fresh leaves and herbs and uncluttered with dressing.

JO Pork Waffle coleslaw

(Incidentally, the dish working so well with coleslaw reminded me of a recipe on the excellent and exciting food stories blog which I have tried to reproduce, got a stomach bug and had to watch my guests tucking in happily with the homemade caraway bread as I held my stomach soulfully and spent the next 4 days losing half a stone).

The interior of Barbecoa seems to have been carefully considered at the architectural point before any restaurant occupied it.  St Paul’s Cathedral is visible from almost every side. From the main shopping centre a pathway hides customers from potential customers. Draped sliced black cylinders hang from the ceiling and there is one of those endless wine racks that you always wish your dining room wall slash house is big enough to accommodate.

Wine Racks

Dessert? we had to. The first mouthful passion fruit brought with it a Pavlovian disappointment after the would-be-lemon tarts at Mara’s ; but that memory faded as the creamy really genuinely cheesy substance inside kicked in, and then the gooey base. Yes- gooey base. Own up who eats cheese cake for the base, well… A normal base in this cheesecake would have been pipped by the exceptionally cheesy cheese part, but in reality the cheese was pipped again by the base. The caramelising of the pineapple took the edge of what can otherwise be a leetle bit of a hyperactive pineapple taste. And those white scoops nestling on top weren’t ice cream. They were white chocolate swirls.

White Chocoloate Cheesecake

The Other Dessert

The Other Dessert

Please I can’t eat anymore. But I have to.

JO BBQ

20 New Change Passage, City of London, Greater London, EC4M 9AG

“I found myself gazing enviously at the plates of the competition” Review of Bella Vista, Blackheath

A Review of Bella Vista, Italian restaurant in Blackheath, London SE3

A sophisticated looking glass of coke modelling the Bella Vista Interior.

Where do you stand on ordering food where you do not understand every word on the menu? I don’t normally let this bother me, but we found ourselves giving the waitress at Bella Vista the third degree on the meaning of Chicken Involtini. After much intense study of a largely Italian menu, she was stood patiently as we gradually, over the course of half and hour, rejected that option.

(We think it means Kiev, by the way, but Involtini sounds so much nicer.)

But I had one major objective at Bella Vista and one only. On our last visit I had found myself gazing enviously at the plates of the competition – er, I mean other diners, who were eating arty pasta dishes, with the accompaniment draped elegantly across the pasta, rather than stirred in. It looked great. Surely it would also taste great. I wanted to know what such an exciting work of art would taste like. I really had to study and understand it, the Mona Lisa of the food world.

I focussed. I forced myself to ignore all the other dishes (they were calling out to me). I eventually dived for Paccheri Amatriciana. After all, it featured words ‘giant pasta’ and ‘pancetta and pecorino’ and I have a strange compulsion to order pasta with a balance of meat, vegetable and cheese to maximise enjoyment potential. Also pecorino is pretty fab.

Here is a picture.

Lovely stringy pecorino

Lovely stringy pecorino at Bella Vista, Blackheath

Now, this is lovely stringly chewy exciting and with inch sized cubes of pancetta … but not visually brilliant… Not in the way that the competing diner’s dinners were anyway. I could have eaten Involtini, or fish grill.

The fish grill of a competitor diner

Next time I call ahead.

As an aside, I ordered a Gorgonzola, parma ham and figs for a starter. Cheese and figs. Is there anything I can add? In their efforts not to overdress food, the Italians wouldn’t have added a thing. Well, except for the parma ham, and the rocket, umm… and the olive oil..

I’d also recommend frito misto, a fantastic alternative to just plain white bait.

There is much on line about how Bella Vista is authentic home Italian cooking. I have only once experienced home Italian cooking, about 5 years ago, and I only remember the cantuccini and trying to work out the recipe in translated Italian. So I can’t really vouch for this. I could however believe it. The food and menu are actively exciting, albeit not kind to non-Italian speakers. The frito misto is a great twist on just plain whitebait with lemon and salt. Instead of a bread dish, we received yellow fococcia drizzled in oil, compliments of the chef. I’ll hear none of your ‘jumped up bread wrapped up in words to pretend it’s something special’ lines, thank you very much. The focaccia had an advantage for being served warm but it was light and not a smidgen too oily. It was shaming really, much better than my personal foccacia attempts.

Good Foccacia at Bella Vista

The interior is sophisticated. The addition of campari bottles stacked up upon one another does not assist when I am not a lunchtime drinker.

We moved to Boulangerie Jade for dessert, and had the traditional lemon and chocolate tarts, as previously reviewed. The staff were suitably icy. This balanced out the pleasantness of the staff at Bella vista.

Back at Boulangerie Jade for dessert

Bella Vista Cucina Italiana Restaurant , 3/5 Montpelier Vale, Blackheath SE3 0TA

“The burger was brilliant, really really burgery” a review of Chapters All Day Dining, Blackheath

A Review of Chapters All day Dining, SE3

I really want to hate Chapters All Day Dining. I want to hate it because of its mass self-publicisation in the local free glossies. I want to hate it because on a Saturday evening it is full of fake tans, big zirconas and bleached hair posies who manage to make champagne look tacky.

I nearly really did hate it, because of its really unjust bread policy. Everyone around us was offered warm baked bread except for us. And this is not the first time. We cannot work out why we consistently fail to meet the deserving to be given bread when we have ordered.

So the food has yet to come, but I am well on track to achieve hatred of Chapters (with the exception of a good glass of grapefruit juice), and all my plans collapse into failure after the first chip. The first chip was undercooked… glee! But the burger was brilliant, really really burgery, and so were the rest of the chips and rocket and parmesan salad.

And the dessert list is irrestistable. Often, at chapters, it is resistable just to prevent the death by desesrt experience. However it really does call you in. I struggled between Lemon Posset with Pistachio shortbread, and cherries in the right corner, and sticky toffee pudding with apple sorbet and pecan crunch in the left corner. I chose the latter. A rare choice for me actually. Pity they served it with creamy ice cream instead of apple sorbet. So after much deliberating as to why it wasn’t as quirky as expected and re-consulting the menu, we sent it back and got it back much smaller… and much later.. we think they must have run over to Black Vanilla to top up.

This was an unfortunate mistake, but I have to note that they were impossibly apologetic and helpful about restoring the billed item to its intended glory.

Ok, I’m a coffee blogger, I should talk about the coffee. Rating here is five out of five – a very strong coconut undercurrent, managing to be flavoursome without being over bearing or stomach emptying. Fabulously stiff foam on both the cappuccino and the machiatto and a pleasant absence of chocolate sprinkled on top. That is a little naughty on their part – many people’s definition of a cappuccino includes the chocolate, but we both prefer without. And great leaves. Even in the tiny macchiate. Now how do you do that?

I have one complaint (after they dealt so helpfully with my other complaints). This isn’t all day dining. We came in at 2pm and were given a brunch menu. The substance of which was serious DINNER food, steaks, duck confit etc. Maybe I am supposed to know this from the use of the word dining, but it is not quite the view that is conjured up by the title.There was the odd brunch type thing on the starter menu, but there was nothing in the following all day kind of categories of brunch, tea, lunch, light bites. Many restaurants don’t, but they are not called all day dining.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not asking for sandwiches, or ciabatta… believe me I really am not. But given the celebrated inventiveness of the institution, could we not have some quirky ‘light bites’. I think even soup of the day to come with bread of the day; more inventive charcuterie dishes.. Le Pain Quotidien manage a good selection if you are looking.

Strangely, while they never featured on the menu, there was a tray of fresh scones and unusual tray bakes on the bar. Perhaps they were only for the people who qualified for bread.

The coffeeshop blogger may have to take her leave a little of the coming months. She has made the most of the summer (it started so late, and died so young) and is now skint and more than a little chubby.

Chapters All Day Dining

43-45 Montpelier Vale
Blackheath Village
London
SE3 OTJ