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

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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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Ratchada’s has a waiter to melt your heart.

A Review of Ratchada in Blackheath/Lee

Anyone remember the Naked Chef? It was published 13 years ago. No, I didn’t believe it either until I took a look at the pictures of Jamie Oliver on it and wondered why a school girl was writing recipe books. I was browsing a copy of the Naked Chef for meal inspiration the other day, when I came across a fragrant green chicken curry recipe. Just a decade ago and the accompanying write up reads as follows: “I was asked to make this by my sister’s husband who’d eaten something similar in a Thai restaurant. I looked up a lot of recipes and they all seemed quite different..” Ah bless. Not only did Jamie seem much more modest in those days, but it seems we didn’t really do much Thai food at the beginning of the 2000’s. Life was all Seattle coffee shops and biscotti. These days Thai food references are getting close to Indian references for recognition: red curry, green curry and pad thai. Jamie’s recent 30 minute, 20 minute and 15 minute meals are all full of Thai-inspirations.

Fragrance, though. Isn’t that just the word for Thai food? Even more true than for Turkish delight. This word made me think about Thai food for a Saturday lunch and it had been a very long time since I had visited Ratchada on the Lee Road. (Not the Lee High Road!)

Ahh… now, Ratchada’s has a waiter to melt your heart. He would come to collect dishes and ask if we’d like to see the dessert menu. When we said yes, he put all the dishes back down and went to get the menu before returning to pick up the dishes again. All of it was done with the gentlest of smiles. I wonder if he only normally serves takeaways at lunch time. It was a little quiet. We tucked into our fragrant dishes, underneath red and yellow lanterns and accompanied by Magic on the radio… with ad breaks that discussed how easy abdominal cramps could be dispelled with one pill. At that point we decided to close our ears, even if it did mean no more relishing of eighties cheese.

Ratchada knife and fork

Opinion on the food came down to the accompanying sauces and whether they were they our favourites. The spiced fishcakes starter came with sweet chilli sauce loaded with peanuts. That was good. Actually, the spiced fishcakes were very good- perfumed and with a texture way beyond fishlike. The chargrilled mussels came with something sourer, and unexpectedly hot. The mussels were not particularly chargrilled, either, nor spiced and a little disappointing.

Ratchada starters

Ratchada starters

For mains I chose a red curry- full of (more) mussels and more squid and prawns, with a fruit bowl sized bowl of rice. I love Thai red curry – hot and rounded and slightly sweet with streaks of cream, and the seafood was swimming in it. The first few mouthfuls were amazing, but by the end of what was admittedly a large portion- I could only taste the sweetness and was looking at my husband’s plate to break the monotony.

Pork Grill

Pork Grill

Thai Salad and sticky riceThe back up dish was pork grill and sticky rice. The rice was fun, as it slipped all shinny out of the bag. But the dish really came down to the tamarind sauce to make it exciting and opinion was divided. It’s difficult to opine, when I have never eaten a tamarind. (Has anyone who grew up in the UK?) I didn’t mind it so much. There was something of a chocolate undercurrent with sour high notes.

Apple fritters come with honey, sesame seeds and dairy ice cream topped with hundreds and  thousands. Personally, I would have subtracted the honey and the sesame because, as I have explained to you all many times, fried sweet things are good, very good, in a simple way.  The waiter said banana fritters as he wrote it down, so we explained that it was apple fritters we were ordering. Then we explained that we were asking for apple fritters again after we had taken the first bite of banana fritters. He was touchingly apologetic. The ice cream was a good quality vanilla, and the hundreds and thousands seem compulsory in a lot of ethnic food. (Birmingham may have made curry a national dish, so who’s to say Bangkok can’t do the same with hundreds of thousands).

Banana er I mean Apple Fritters

If you are looking for something lighter than the rather significant dining options in Blackheath, Ratchada was enjoyable enough to recommend that you all take a (very small) hike down the Lee Road to eat out and surrounded by some quirky shops that are worth a nose. From recollection it has a lovely atmosphere in the evening.

Ratchada Thai Restaurant, 129 Lee Road, Blackheath. SE3 9DS