“We logged high levels of aubergine all over the menu,” A Review of Bianco 43

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There are two Bianco43’s in Greenwich. This has been confusing me since an Italian friend suggested meeting there (before deciding she was actually gluten intolerant) and I was intrigued as to how we could fit in at the takeaway only Bianco 43 that I knew of in Lassel Street. This was actually a bit daft of me, because Bianco 43 the restaurant is kind of hard to miss on Greenwich Church Street near the Cutty Sark (number 43 in keeping with Napoli traditions of restaurant naming).

We sailed in on a Monday evening, expecting dead quiet, and were genuinely impressed to find it pretty full at such an antisocial time. The beachcomber interior of white walls and pale wood was glowing in the sunny evening and we sat upstairs to analyse the menu.

We logged high levels of aubergine all over the menu (the desserts were on a different page) Now it has taken me a long time to appreciate aubergine. I have even goaded Yotam Ottolenghi into taking the subject up with me on twitter. (Oops, is that a name on the floor?) But just lately I have been converted. Smokey deep and comforting aubergine; relatively uncelebrated, lush. So high aubergine readings are a good thing

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I went for fried smoked cheese with sweet and sour aubergine (scamorza alla piastra con caponata siciliana in agrodolce- I did not order it in Italian.) which was delicious, two smokey flavours together.

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But I should have thought ahead. Pizza’s were split by pomodoro (tomato sauce based) and bianche (not tomato sauce based). Pizza is always tomato based, I thought- I will have bianche. Foolish. This meant even more cheese, albeit with small studs of basil embedded in it. Both pizzas came in authentically rough ovals, oozing with giant pizza bubbles. I bet you won’t find bubbles like that in vision express*. I wish there had been more green stuff. More something not cheese. I struggled. I swapped a slice with my husband. His capricciosa was full of deep flavours. It was loaded with convincing mole hills of ham offset with artichoke and olive, real olives with real stones. I tasted my husband’s valpolicella (which went way better with my pizza than his because it cut through the oil, but did he offer to drive? Did he?) but after cheese for starter too… there was no way that so much cheese could be finished in one night.

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A distraught waitress ran over to check if everything was ok, and seemed only too pleased to respond with an offer of boxes to take away. I can’t decide if we started a trend here, or whether it was a sign of belt-tightening times, but many boxes followed ours. (It was great cold the next day, by the way).

The other dish on the table was superior calamari. Only recently have I realised that not all calamari is made equal, which is strange for something apparently so simple. This dish was unusual in not being remotely rubbery and avoided a flaw i have recently begun to notice of calamari being overly deep fried. It came with a side of deep fried courgette. I am less keen on this addition. I can also vouch that it was not rubbery… But it would be kind of strange if courgette were rubbery.

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It was a bit embarrassing to ask for the dessert menu after the box incident, but hey it was dessert, we got over it. The waitress didn’t bat an eyelid. Although we were given two knives and one spoon for the 2 desserts, no doubt to make us feel less embarrassed by our faux pas. The inability to picture some of the desserts held us back. Could chocolate cream cake outweigh my previous chocolate cake disappointments? Was the tiramisu the way I like it? We chose well, readers. Very very well. The owner flashed a smug smile at the choice of cannolo, sweet ricotta in deep fried pastry with a grainy texture and crunch to the pastry, and fruit filled sorbert (sic) – which turned out to be fruit with sorbet in and not a wounded Albert with lots of fruit inside. FFS was lemon sorbet- proper tart, mango sorbet in lime – mmm and spectacular walnut sorbet in a walnut shell. Shipped in from Naples, so the owner told us.

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Coffee? I’m starting to feel the pressure. How many times can I describe really good coffee? It was really good coffee. Smooth, flavoursome.

Bianco 43 covered the cost of this meal. I am sure I saw a skip in my husband’s step as we left.

* yes. I know. It was deliberate.

43 Greenwich Church St, London
020 8858 2668

Cliffs of Pork Belly – A Review of Venice Restaurant in Blackheath

A Review of Venice, Italian Restaurant in Blackheath.

I was drinking peppermint tea in The Railway pub when I thought to myself: I’d like to visit Venice tonight. Now please don’t make the mistake that I made with fellow tweeters of thinking that I mean the second most cannalled city in Europoe (the first being Birmingham. No really. Google it), a mistake so unfortunate it read like a bad joke and attracted a number of “boom booms”… I mean the new Italian restaurant that replaced the other new Italian restaurant, that replaced the Indian, that replaced the Tibetan which replaced Flame Bar… Which I believe (before my time) replaced a Natwest bank. (I may have missed some steps here).

Venice was pretty empty. We sat alone amongst the plastic vines desceding from the ceiling. The courses were generously sized. We started with sardines to share…. Of which came 4- nicely mariantated and quite impressive, and made us wonder what was yet to come.

Sardines

Sardines

Venice Interior

Venice Interior

Which was cliffs of pork belly. I do mean cliffs. Take a look.

Pork belly at Venice

Pork belly at Venice

And I would like to add that it was poor perspective on the iPhone that makes the accompanying veg and potatoes look vaguely relative in size. Still, unlike your average penny-squeezing bistro, the sides came free with the mains.

I chose king prawns in spaghetti with chilli and basil. Hard to get wrong, right? Some bright fresh ingredients that are guaranteed to taste good… Or in the case of Venice taste really really bland. Ok I fished out a chilli, so unless it was disguised horse meat all of the key ingredients technically featured in the dish. But they did not taste of anything. Not even garlic. In fact, after sampling the pork belly which was rich with garlic and rosemary, I couldn’t really face returning to the pasta. It felt like a waste of calories if you know what I mean…

Prawns, basil, Chilli

Prawns, basil, Chilli

So the verdict on the mains is really rather confused: excellent and dull at the same time. I was chided by the waitress for explaining my feeling on the prawns on invitation, rather than before I had finished.

Now I do like Italian desserts. One of my issues with the recent branding of Pizza Express is that it neglects the Italian dessert menu. There were some tempting offerings on the Venice menu, and I spent a while deciding between cannolo and cassata, only to be told they were both out of stock. So was Tartuffe. We were left with profiteroles, tart tatin and treacle sponge. We…ll at least the first 2 were from the same land mass as Italy. (Although not Sicily where most of the desserts were actually intended to originate from.) Fortunately we were rescued from just having an amaretto shot at home by spotting semi-freddo, but it wasn’t really what we’d had in mind.

Semi Freddo

Semi Freddo

Service was very friendly, although an inability in to wipe the table after it was pointed out that the dessert menus had landed in gravy was a little cringe-worthy. Does anyone else feel uptight about dessert when they know that forks, elbows and fingers are centimetres from landing in gravy? The pizza man was also very helpful, he was dressed for cooking, rather than waiting and looked a little apprehensive when he noticed we were searching for a coffee when he was the only member of staff left- but met the challenge abley and charmingly, delivering a bitter and rich blend that we much enjoyed.

1-3 Lee Road, SE3 9RQ

“Next Wimbledon I’ll be stocking up on the pesto” a Review of Zero Degrees in Blackheath

A review of 0 degrees, A restaurant and bar in Blackheath SE3

I have an issue with Zero Degrees (yes, it’s going to be one of those days). I am not 100% sure about these fusion menu pizzas: sweet sauces on pizza dough for mains. There are many successful fusion restaurants in the world, but they fuse the menu, not the dishes. For your information: Peking duck in plum sauce belongs on pancakes, not pizzas.

I’m so glad to get that off my chest.

The brewery at zero degrees

The brewery at zero degrees

I was persuaded to give it another chance the other day. After all it’s headline is microbrewery which is actually quite fun. So I went in muttering, “Peking duck pizza- huh?” just quietly enough that the staff wouldn’t spit in my food. Zero does in fact have very friendly staff, they who attentively found a spot away from the children who were there early evening and managed to stop me wandering into a beer VAT on the way to the toilet.

Nice toilets, by the way. Got Dyson hand driers. No I don’t have a picture. Taking a camera to the toilet is odd.

Back at the menus, I advised everyone not to order sweet pizza. They rolled their eyes, and made noises about the peri peri and Thai chicken pizzas. I made scathing noises back. I’ve said how I feel and I don’t want to talk about anymore. In the end a Carne Asana pizza was settled upon.

I had a simple mozzarella and tomato gnocchi. The kitchen must have choked on their over-worked pizzas. Ha! I let then put on black pepper and discovered that there was quite a depth of favour in the sauce. In a good way. It was an extremely rewarding eat.

Tomato Gnocci at Zero Degrees

Tomato Gnocci at Zero Degrees

Then I tasted the Carne Asada. That was good. It was unusual enough for me to retract my scathing noises: wood smoked rump streak, chillies, smoked cheeses, coriander, red onion, avocado salsa.

Pizza at Zero Degrees

Pizza at Zero Degrees

Ok, I have got to say, it was a master piece of a pizza. A touch of heat from chillies, cold from the coriander and flavour, just pure flavour from the rest. Bring on the rice-pudding pizza, Zero Degrees pizzas are fabulous. They really know how to differentiate.

The brewery at zero degrees

And so to the micro-brewery. I liked my beer. Now I’m going to have to cater for the beer-geeks and admit I am not a regular beer taster. But the wheat beer hit the mark, suitably complicated with a mild astringency and a golden glow.. Or was that me glowing after the beer?

I couldn’t take iPhone pictures of the beer in this light, so you’re just going to close your eyes and imagine. (but somehow keep reading). I do find Zero on the dark and loud side, an effect that it exacerbated by the stainless steel interior.

Zero was summed up by the last cocktail on the table. A basil grande, which I believe is unique to Zero? Now, ‘the Apprentice’ and the broadsheets assure me that strawberry and basil, the theme of this drink, this is a dynamic combination. I just didn’t believe them until this cocktail, which was rewardingly sweet and refreshing.

Yep be assured, next Wimbledon I’ll be stocking up on the pesto.

29/31 MONTPELIER VALE
BLACKHEATH
LONDON. SE3 0TJ

“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

“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