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

I have eaten so many almond cakes that weren’t this almond tart

A Review of The Hill in Greenwich

The Hill sits at the bottom of Royal Hill, and i have to be honest I was a little too prejudiced by its previous incarnation to go out of my way for a visit. On a journey home from Peckham, it was only after passing a road to Greenwich and watching it disappear into the distance like a lost eating out opportunity, that made me think of eating out and taking the Royal Hill and the restaurant it ended with.

See the cakes on the counter

See the cakes on the counter

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The Hill suffers a little from its change in status because it appears to be a restaurant squashed into a pub, and that’s a pub with a very different agenda from sunny mediterranean food. As we entered, we saw tapas menus on the side and smiled. however on being seated, the menu we were handed had no tapas.

However there were good signs – the charm with which the staff found us a late seat with no booking; and the cakes sitting on the bar. This included an average looking chocolate cake which might actually have tasted more than average. But I had a suspicion that the blond looking cake was almond tart of a kind I have only yet enjoyed in Mallorca. Mixed olives and flat bread also boded well.

Tasted good too

Tasted good too

Flat bread

Flat bread

Well firstly the starter was great. Chargrilled squid being a far superior alternative to calamari, and chorizo going well with errrr… everything. I do mean everything.

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I chose the pork with apple mash. Sounds traditional, huh? Well, it was so much more than. There were other flavours in the mash. And hidden under the two fillets of pork, was yet another fillet of pork. Frankly I couldn’t eat it all. I gave it to my husband. He obligingly shared his which I remember being impressed by… Perhaps you can tell me want it was? I normally photo the menu to joke my memory. I forgot.

Sorry, I remember enjoying it. No idea what it was

Sorry, I remember enjoying it. No idea what it was

Note the piece of pork hiding

Note the piece of pork hiding

I also recommend ratatouille. Ratatouille can go one of two ways, barely distinguishable from washing up, of a diversity of flavours (this was the latter, by the way. Hence the recommendation).

At about this point the chef burst out of the kitchen and arrived grinning at our table to ask if we had been here before, and were we local, and point out that we now knew where they were. This was far from cringing, we though about the meal so far and thought to ourselves in a rather satisfied way, yeah, we do know where you are and we should come back.

And the critical question was the dessert menu.this was on the mark. The chocolate cake turned out to have a fancy name “Selva Negra” does that change anything? (I’ve been hurt so many times.) Fortunately there were way too many fish in the sea (aka dessert menu, and not really fish either) for me even to consider it for long. I’d pretty much already decided on the almond tart, but the actual dessert menu left me angsty: Don Pedro (ice cream with walnuts and whiskey – yeah, whiskey…) pancakes, and my perpetual weakness- CHURROs!

Errr... You caught me trying to hide a churro just there

Errr… You caught me trying to hide a churro just there

I have eaten so many almond cakes that weren’t this almond tart. And they even stayed on the ball with the ice cream. I’d have celebrated them for that almond tart alone but the cinnamon ice cream that came with it was the absolute brilliant balance of subtle comforting flavours.

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Yeah, I was sad that there was no tapas. But I felt somehow consoled.

020 8691 3626
89 Royal Hill, Greenwich SE10 8SE

‘Let’s all eat chocolate icecream because it is so much better than it used to be’ a review of Black Vanilla, Greenwich

A review of Black Vanilla in Greenwich

I don’t think the staff at Black Vanilla in Greenwich are very happy with me.
And that’s without even knowing about this blog.

It went like this: We arrived after a bit of a tourist outing in Greenwich. This had featured the Queen’s House (good art in parts) and the exciting Greenwich market. I’d just been sat by the Thames eating a South Carolina (err, or it might have been a different southern America. state…) hotdog followed by the market’s Churros. Both of these deserve comment, so please see the footnote below.

Needless to say, I wasn’t hungry when I arrived at the oft recommended Black Vanilla cocktail ice cream bar in Greenwich.

Also I was designated drinker. It is imperative to drink when you are designated drinker. Otherwise you would be depriving your other half of the next opportunity, see.

Then you have to consider that I really love Black Vanilla’s coffee; and an affogato (did you know that meant drowned? I only learnt it from the menu at Black Vanilla) would be great with a brandy.

Affogato after

Affogato after

But the hot chocolate kept catching my eye. The hot chocolate came with chocolate icecream in steamed milk. Wowee! We all know that the UK was slow on the uptake with chocolate ice cream, so when people actually started making the real stuff here, everything became a bit ‘let’s all eat chocolate icecream because it is so much better than it used to be’. And some of those Belgian chocolate ones were what we always knew chocolate ice cream should have been.

Let me make this clear: hot chocolate made of cold chocolate ice cream, melting in the cup. And that is chocolate ice cream with promise. Are you getting me?

I’ll never know if Black Vanilla chocolate icecream was as rich as it would need to be to make a really good hot chocolate. I didn’t choose it. (Well, I say never… I do after all have to keep visiting new places to keep you lot happy…) I just let it keep on short circuiting my brain from making any non-hot drink decision.

So in the end, I ordered brandy in Affogato because that would also be great and tick the alcohol box.

I leaned back as the waiter walked away and said, I can’t believe I haven’t picked a cocktail- they make ice cream versions, you know. To which my husband replied he was also in disbelief. That was the catalyst. What had I done? I’d missed ice cream mojito. It was the hot chocolate’s fault for diverting me.

I had to change the order to a coffee and the ice cream mojito. Hence their annoyance.

 

Ice cream mojito

Ice cream mojito

They are very civilised service there. We were offered water in elegant glasses with our order, something that I have only seen at l’Artisan despite all of my travels. It is also a very pretty upstairs room. It’s nice to see the opulence of the original building being enjoyed. And BV have chosen design rather than ‘shove ’em all in’ tables’, possibly to their detriment given the number of people being turned away.

 

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So the coffee arrived, and I won’t bore you on the subject of how great the Black Vanilla coffee really is again. See my review of the non-alcoholic Blackheath branch. But the mojito…. Ahh, the mojito. It wasn’t a long drink; it was served in a martini glass. It was refreshing, green, hapifying. I kept saying “I’m so sorry that I am designated drinker today” to my husband as I licked the sugar from the bottom of the glass.

Note on Greenwich Market Food: Since discovering these churros, a visit to Greenwich Market really means an excuse to eat the Churros with cinnamon sugar and chocolate (nice as creme du leche is, chocolate is a needed low note). There is no such thing as “I am not in a mood for Churros now”. Ever. The hotdog was also pretty pizazz- spicy sausage and all the trimmings in a half wholemeal baguette. I didn’t think I could eat it all, I couldn’t stop myself.

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

Taking duck pancakes for granted. A Review of the Watermargin at the O2

A Review of the Watermargin at the O2, Greenwich.

This will be a photo less experience, so If your head starts to hurt from too many words without pictures to explain, please remember I am actually an artist and check out my paintings on alexpaintings.com

The reason this will be a photoless experience because I had no intention of reviewing The Watermargin. It was just a convenient location for a large group of friends to meet that would not discriminate on wallet/purse volume. And the O2 is kind of soulless. My blog is not supposed to be about soulless places.

It’s very good for both these things. Pay per person on entry and order from the bar… Absolutely no fights over splitting the bill versus leaving tips that make the waiters think they are super waiters.

However, the fact that we were at something more than a big white famous tent, hit me when I saw the garlic prawns. Up to this point I had taken for granted the duck pancakes, which is wrong of me i know. No one should take duck pancakes for granted, especially when one of your friends declares with delight. “This is the fullest of duck duck pancakes I have ever had.” shortly followed by a crunch. But I suppose that we had just assumed that duck pancakes would be part of the course.

Steamed pork dumplings were good too. I felt very noble picking these up. The. fact that I had one of those completely justified all of the deep fried stuff I had afterwords.

But back to the prawns: king prawns large, juicy and dripping in garlic oil. Seemed as fresh as they had come straight out of the Thames (the unpolluted salt water part – you don’t know that bit?) and worthy of any gourmet pub… Without a courgette or tomato swimming in it, to bulk it out in a “we both know that i am not a prawn, but hopefully you are talking to your friends too much to notice.” And available in any volumes that you choose to indulge in.

There is also a grill stir fry where they don’t appear to bat an eye if you approach with just about every combination of their good quality surf and turf available.

It hurts. You do know that the best way to enjoy ‘all you can eat’ is by picking an item per course and staying there? I always tell myself this. But faced with diversity of seafood, chicken and pork in every sauce going, makes this an impossible objective.

I would like to commend the Watermargin on the availability of vegetables. There were three dishes of Chinese prepared vegetables dressed chinesey. Pak choi and broccoli in chilli (they actually got me eating broccoli, can you believe that?)

Dessert will always be a thwarted objective at a Chinese meal.. Do you order dessert with a takeaway, or just crack open the Baileys? You’re too full, and what constitutes Chinese dessert anyway? Well, apparently the Water Margin authority states that it is miniature Swiss rolls, profiteroles, jelly, fresh fruit, jelly beans and ice cream. (Now given the pictorial approach of Chinese writings, I wonder what is Chinese for a Swiss roll, I imagine something that looks like a minature galaxy). I never got to eat most of these. I was waylaid by a caramelised banana fritter (see- it had banana in it) that was fabulous. So fabulous I waited ages before leaving in the hope that some room wold appear in my stomach to allow me to go back for more. No such hope, gaps in the stomach did not return until lunchtime the following day. Might go back next week.

“Sadly for me La Salumeria does not consider it’s remit to bake cakes” a review of La Salumeria, Greenwich

A Review of La Salumeria, Greenwich Italian Deli SE10.

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It’s winter and we’ve decided that La Salumeria the Italian deli on the Woolwich Road needs heated floors and a foot rest. Anyone want to run with that idea in a coffee shop anywhere? It’d be a close competition behind an open fire. Are there any open fire establishments in Blackheath/Greenwich? Please advise in the comments box.

Anyway, that aside (and we can’t really hold it against them when no one else offers this service)…

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Sadly for me La Salumeria does not consider it’s remit to bake cakes. Not too unreasonable: No bakery. And after all, just look at this selection. Do you blame them?

Deli selection at La Salumeria

Deli selection at La Salumeria

Nonetheless, my visit was too early for savoury food and there are frequently a number of modest looking tray bakes there. There is always spogliatelle (which I always thought were called lobster tails, can anyone enlighten me?) I went instead for ‘the tray bake with coconut on’. Result! I was advised it contained white chocolate, which sold it to me. But the impressive feature was crispness of the extremely delicate pastry leaves, with not a hint of sogginess in sight/taste.

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Can I confess I went for a hot chocolate rather than a coffee? It was a cold day and that boosts the sugar cravings. If they’d wanted me to rate the coffee (which from recollection, is good) they needed to supply heated floorboards to reduce hot chocolate desire. It was an exceedingly fine hot chocolate- no pretensions (unless you count the glass cup).


I am being kind of mean to La Salumeria. This deli started as a shop that also sold cappuccinos…. The seats were added later, so they are simple, nestled amongst the black and white posters of tourist Italy. But I love them. In reality La Salumeria is a treasure trove of store cupboard delicacies. Waitrose pasta selection be shamed… Nothing in Jamie Oliver can beat me now...

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Treasure Trove of everything

Treasure Trove of everything

Address: 184 Trafalgar Road, London SE10 9TZ
Phone:020 8305 2433

L’Artisan Greenwich Review: “Does what it says on the cover: A Craftsman of food”

A Review of L’Artisan Delicatessen , Greenwich SE10

Imagine piles chocolates and biscuits; meringues and croissants and tarts and different iced cakes.

Ok stop now and listen to what I am saying.

Responding emotionally to plenty is a reaction designed for survival, right? And Tesco’s and Paul Rhode’s Bakery (and a few other venues on the food-selling spectrum) know how to hit that button hard – the shelves replete with diversity and colour. Other restaurants go for plush interiors.

Don’t pretend you’ve never used that ‘nice toilets’ line on a night out.

So I’m going to ask you to put a check on that gut reaction. It would be too easy to dismiss the humble interior of L’Artisan: 3 small red gingham-clothed tables, and some shelves and a fridge. The location is a walk away from tourist Greenwich, hovering uncomfortably east of the (gasp) university and in the section that seems to be competing gambling shops and genuine African or Asian dishes (which I shall be investigating on your behalf).

Dismissing L’Artisan for these reasons would be a mistake.

The view from inside L’Artisan Greenwich

L’Artisan values food. To be specific, it values the food experience. On a very dreary afternoon, we visited, chose something simple, (because we thought this was just a coffee shop) and in response the owner (let’s call him L’Artisan) responded by kicking the door stop out the way to block out the busy road, neatly laying cutlery and a napkin and turning on the classical music. We got the message: Food is an important experience; don’t take a single bite without relishing it even without flash surroundings.

On our second visit, we ordered Quiche with Salad. Perhaps like me, you wonder what the big deal is about quiche. It reminds me of cold weddings in village halls, alongside the winter salad. I have had good quiche lorraines from some of the chain French delis, but while nice they can be little laden with oil. At L’Artisan, the quiche was perfect. Fabulously flavoured with leek and ham and so very light. Served with due care sprinkled with olive oil and black pepper, due attention ascribed to the detail.

The side salads were excellent. My husband raved about the spiced beetroot with herbs. I enjoyed the pickled cabbage.

We finished with a very generously sized lemon drizzle cake. Again, not a heavy cake which lemon drizzles often can be.

They asked, can we get you anything else? They weren’t up-selling. They just thought we might like a glass of tap water to rehydrate after our coffee. Like I said, attentive.

Plat du Jour at L’Artisan

Beautiful pear tarts came out of the kitchen as we went to pay and leave. Are these what you serve in the afternoon, I asked the owner. No, I was told. He proudly runs out of food throughout the day. The batch was arriving now, because everything is cooked on the premises and cannot be supplied to demand. He does fresh soup every day and a different Plat du Jour for takeaway with salad… I quietly wished to myself that I worked next door to L’Artisan.

The deli shelves offer the kind of things you always used to find in a French Hypermarche. The deli shelves offer the kind of things you always used to find in a French Hypermarche – don’t you just love those little spongy biscuits that used to come with a fruit or chocolate filling? And what was with those rich looking bottles of Syrop? They don’t just have Kia Ora on the continent, you know.

There are no pretensions here, behind us was a jar of alphabetti spaghetti (albeit dried and without tomato sauce). And the fridge was largely empty. I honestly don’t know if this was just because they sold out, or if this was all they were able to offer today thank you very much – but it lent to the assurance that whatever was still in the fridge it was made with the highest love.

A shelf of cheese that puts supermarket selections to shame. (Although I came over all English and skipped the unpasteurised offerings.)

And you kind of think – ok, no amuse bouche (would be odd in a deli) but L’Artisan has taken pride in his work down to the last detail, and looked after you as well as in any flash restaurant.

Seriously, these people are doing something special here. Really quite special. If there is any justice in the world I would say they are going far.

If you want to make the most of a visit to L’Artisan, we also visited the quirky Green Parrot Gallery, (opposite the auction house) and it’s not far from the North East corner of Greenwich Park. A few shops closer to central Greenwich is the unbelievably helpful Theatre of Wine.

L’Artisan 93 Trafalgar Road, London, SE10 9TS Phone: 020 8858 0918

Fried Carbs. Hot Fried Carbs. Hot Fried Carbs in sugar.

A Review of San Miguel restaurant and tapas bar, Greenwich SE10

Question is, would I ever have visited San Miguel if the San Miguel Twitterer had not challenged my lunch choice of cold mussels? A choice by which I still stand, you should know.

I might not have, because San Miguel is based in the heart of the Greenwich where the students and funky shoe shops make it all just so colourful, that the duly colourful Spanish bar doesn’t quite stand out. But their website told me they cooked homemade tapas, and churros… so I was going to find search them out.

San Miguel feels authentic. Partially because it is unashamably Spanish, being full of genuine Spanish articles that seemed such wonderful exotic holiday keepsakes for our parent’s sideboards in the 70’s; and partially because it was full of Spanish speakers – staff and guests. I was impressed, if not to say slightly intimidated. I came to sound off about whether I enjoyed lunch, and now I have to concede that my personal opinions might just not be Spanish enough.

Paella was an option on the menu, but so was Tapas. And tapas is a wonderful thing. It means that you can (1) not make up your mind from the menu and have everything, and (2) (where all tapas dishes are the same price) pick all of the meat rich ones. This is a clever thing to do because restaurateur had priced in the assumption that you would have some vegetable dishes, so you can feel smug that you got good value for money (albeit slightly bloated).

Mmmmm… (one on the bottom right is spinach scramble).

I was floored at San Miguel: (1) The menu was so extensive that had to get our iphones out and make a shortlist in order to knock some of the options off; and (2) Not all tapas dishes at San Miguel were the same price.

But the food, atmosphere and service were so good, I forgave them.

Fabulous and undersold on the menu was the spinach and mushroom scramble “revuelto de Espinacas”. Does that sound appetising to you? We ordered it because we thought we should order some vegetables. The scrambled eggs with spinach and mushroom, however had another depth of flavour altogether – coconut…? This was the dish we saved till last… even after the flaming chorizo.

Hmmm, flaming chorizo. A great Spanish food now with a slightly caramelised coating (thanks to the flaming.) Look real flames (hadn’t expected that from the menu description either.)

Makes a slightly caramelised outside to one of Spain’s best ingrediants

We also chose scallops. Don’t often see those on a tapas menu so even though I am getting slightly irritated by every Michelin-wannabe plonking pan-sear-fried-diver-caught scallops on their over-written menus. Scallops are great, but they are easily described with one word and do not make a chef great. (I’ve cooked scallops; that says it all). However, back to San Miguel: Scallops wrapped in bacon; no pretentions; great.

The staff were actually lovely, all of them, not a single gripe; risking burning so that we could photograph flaming chorizo; piling their arms with more dishes than I was trained for silver service and allowing us to eat churros even in the day time (and why not?)

Oh yes… churros. I hadn’t mentioned them. Fried Carbs. Hot Fried Carbs. Hot Fried Carbs in sugar with hot chocolate on the side. (Why aren’t Churros more famous?) The San Miguel Churros were a particularly thin brand that I would have preferred with a rich black coffee, but maybe that’s just not Spanish.

HOT FRIED CARBS IN SUGAR

HOT FRIED CARBS IN SUGAR

San Miguel Tapas Bar & Restaurant: 18 Greenwich Church Street, London SE10 9BJ

Peas have been Upgraded

A review of Nando’s the Restaurant in Greenwich Pier

If you can spot the sangria I am going straight back

If you can spot the sangria I am going straight back

I was happy to be going to Nando’s this week and in turn to blog about how great it was in an I’m-not-a-food-snob sort of a way. Sunday evening brought disappointment number one: they had run out of sangria. Oh, yeah. The world was ending along with the Olympic Closing Ceremony… there was no Sangria at Nandos.

It has been a souless few days since then. Peering into restaurant windows, seeing the Mexican on the Heath advertising that they now serve San Miguel beer on tap… and thinking, “but not sangria?” (they probably do, actually but I was busy right then).

You may have been led to believe that sangria was invented to go with something other than peri peri sauce. You should rely less on Wikipedia for your facts.
It’s long, it’s mellow, not too sweet, and is actually better than beer in many circumstances – especially ones featuring hot food. The Brahma beer I had instead might have been great, in fact it was the beer I used to enjoy with a Nando’s before I discovered sangria. But it wasn’t sangria.

Disappointments two and three were shared amongst my friends, who found that their loyalty cards were no longer accepted, and that the halloumi had run out. (Can anyone explain to me why this last oversight was a problem?)

I did enjoy my a quarter chicken medium-hot with ratatouille and a good fair chunk of my husband’s chosen side dishes including ‘rugged pea mash with whole peas, parsley, mint and chilli’. Isn’t it great how peas have been upgraded since they were something convenient to have with fish fingers? Is anyone else sure that they are never ever going back there?

I finished with an elegant Portuguese tart. This is one of the great simple eating pleasures in life and is also done very well at Boulangerie Jade. Such a tart cannot be soggy. It must be crisp, flakey and custardy or else it is nothing but a bland mash of wannabe carb. Nando’s tart hit the mark. I had it with black coffee in huge pool of a cup, hence drowning my non-sangria-d state. I tasted some of the bottomless frozen yogurt, but on the whole, I’d be skipping most the dessert menu.

The Nando’s on Greenwich pier virtually sits underneath the stunning Cutty Sark, and has with huge windows overlooking the Thames. On a hot deep blue evening, this location is something else, even if you have no hope of getting a seat in the roof garden.

Nando’s Greenwich Promenade, King William Walk, SE10 9HT

A little bit of ciabatta-nose-up-turnedness

A review of Red Door Gallery & Cafe in Greenwich SE10

In the forest of teapots, in the land of Red Door; underneath the greater luminary (the 70’s paper light shade) and the lesser luminary (the ornate pre-victorian one), my husband and I did eat 2 sandwiches (one each) and a slice of chocolate cake.

Greater and lesser luminaries

We were strangely uptight. Was it my husband’s work weighing on his mind, or was it the lack of cake for sale? (We arrived very late in the day). Or was it because the seats at the front of the cafe were facing the barista/waitress/owner as if we were on a panel interview? There were 3 of them and two of us. So I guess that makes us the interviewees.

There were other seats. There was a throne like sofa facing in the opposite direction, but then they might have spotted me taking sneaky pictures of their interior to report back to you. There was a lovely sunken tea room at the rear (I do mean lovely, not remotely lose-able oneself in, but some how labyrinthine nonetheless.) but that was full.

On our other side, sitting in the pretty window bay we were swamped by paparazzi. Thousands of tourists stopped to take photos of us. I had no idea this blog was so famous.

What am I saying? Of course the blog made the big time. It’s great. The only catch is that I think these people didn’t realise it was BlackheathCoffeeShops blogger in the window… I think they were just taking pictures of the pretty facade. Rude really.

We made 2 good choices having fluffed the seating plan. Mine was a smoked salmon, cream cheese basil bagel. Now how many times have you eaten smoked salmon with pesto and never thought to eat it with fresh basil? What is it about smoked salmon? Does it go with everything, likea sort of fabulous socialite of the food world who’s a little bit wet on her own?

My husband chose the goat’s cheese and sundried tomato ciabatta. I have to admit to a little bit of a ciabatta nose-up-turnedness  going on here. I would rather choose good bread than something a bit stodgy with an Italian name – as if that changes anything (Bognor Regicci; Johnito Majorato). But you knew when I said “Goat’s cheese and sundried tomato” that we were talking something good, didn’t you? And they didn’t fluff it neither– not the singlest drip of intrusive spread or overactive dressing.

Tea arrived in an enamel teapot, nice touch, and poured into my grandmother’s teacup. Well it’s been a long time, but one generation’s faux pas is another’s cutting edge so I sipped. I believe the contents were Twinning’s Earl Grey. This is good.

Can you see the enamel teapot hiding behind grandma’s teacup?

There is no theme to the ‘gifts’ and arts and crafts on the wall. Some I loved, some I err… I did not. I think the point is that Red Door is a work of art in its own right. It’s a sketch book of a coffee shop, rough around the edges with sparks of brilliance made all the more intriguing by demonstrating the thinking behind the art (ooo – I think I will plug one of my pages here … about time I got something selfish out the blogging process. For sketch book – click here (NOW! – no excuses)).

We were instructed by our interviewers that we could only order dessert when we had finished our mains. Finishing the main course was not a problem or hadn’t  you been reading up until now? It was unfortunate that we were so late for the full cake selection which left us with chocolate cake. This was referred to by the owner as ‘you would like a slice of that monstostiy would you?’. Chocolate cake is not what I would normally choose but the cake was light and fresh with no pretensions of ‘death by’; and gratifyingly 2 different types of icing (one within, one out) both meltingly soft. So the cake box is ticked too.

Service was also quirky and fun. No pretensions

Red Door Gallery

10 Turnpin Ln, London, Greater London SE10 9JA, UK