Short for Political Correctness?

Why is Papa Charlie called Papa Charlie anyway? Is it short for Political Correctness (doesn’t sound very military) and does that explain why the food served here is not Spanish, or Turkish, or Italian or Morrocan but Mediterranean? Surely a North or a South in the restaurant’s description would help a little bit? I certainly can’t work out which country was represented by the supposedly gourmet Burgers (that quintessential mediterranean food). Sorry, I wasn’t convinced enough to check.

There were some plus points. My plastic menu offered me the chance to resolve some mysteries of previous blogs… I know that you have been on the edge of your seat to know: The kleftico from Rare, that sounded like it was made out of the previous owners and oxo cubes had a descrption next to it (slow cooked lamb on the bone). Okay, so I did already know this. I googled it.

And the second solved mystery was how imambayildi would taste following the marvellous description offered by Efe’s Meze.
I have been kicking myself for not ordering it and here it was on the menu. I ordered right away and it turned out that the waitress could not pronounce it either. The imambayildi was delicious, subtle but a real grower although I think I would have struggled with it’s pure vegetableness as a main course. The whitebait that we also ordered was pretty chunky, overweight whitebait which for me took the attraction off. (Some things are supposed to be an excuse for batter, not provide food in their own right.)

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I thought that a virgin bellini was just about the best thing that I have ever heard of. Because bellinis are great, sophisticated and delicious and very much something that require moderation. I should have remembered that the plus point of bellinis is the champagne, and that the absence of this left you with cherryade and mint, at a bitingly massive mark up. Gourmet challenge for you: alcohol free champagne. (Oo, I can see my readership figures collapsing as I type.)

Besides the bellini hiccup, the starters were in fact very promising and made me try to see beyond the plastic menus with pre-published ‘specials’ (so not so special for today, huh?) and the fact that the decoration is identical to when I reviewed this location as Helva.

But the main courses really took the meal to renewed depths. The chicken guvec (a chicken stew) was definitely made of turkey. (I should note that the date of our visit was the 1st January. See where I am going here?)

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Although the kebabs were genuinely chicken and okayish, they weren’t the cheapest, and the accompanying bulger wheat lacked pizzaz.

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We decided we would not enjoy stopping around for dessert and got the DLR to Hazev for this experience…I’ll update you about that on another blog.

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I have never asked for lobster before

A review of Locale, Blackheath SE3

It seems that sushi is stalking me, trying to taunt me with it’s coldness, or convince me that it is actually the best dish ever. I maybe should have been less publicly mean about it on the blog, but seeing as I’m here: it’s not working Sushi! back off!

The reason for this outburst is that I recently sauntered into what I believed to be an Italian restaurant and was handed a sushi menu. Fortunately I was also handed the more expected grill and pasta menu, so I kind of hid the sushi menu underneath this. In fact, to distract myself even further, I asked about the £15 menu advertised on the road outside, sending the waitress off for some time on a reconnaissance mission,

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It’s probably worth mentioning that the waitress’ absence meant that we were the only people in the restaurant. Yes I really do mean that, 4 of us sat around a table in the middle of the large and spacious Locale. We noted that Locale seems to have had a face lift, as it is now draped inside and out with blocks of green and black. This may explain the sushi, but I don’t quite follow the logic here.

The £15 menu returned to us, offering a half lobster or steak with prosecco which seemed like a pretty good deal. I went for the half lobster.

I have never asked for lobster before, but I was emboldened by the lack of just plain anyone else in the restaurant to see or overhear. “If I order the half lobster,” I said to the waitress, “I might just have to call you up to tell me how to eat it.”
The waitress looked perturbed. “I have served lobster before. But I have never eaten it.” She confided. Then she looked happier. “I will ask my colleague to break it for you.”
Ah… There is a colleague hiding in the kitchen, that made at least 2 other people in the restaurant other than us.

Despite the promise of broken half lobster, the following arrived at the table.

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I looked at the waitress. She looked back. “My colleague. She will break it for you.” She tried to reassure me.

The lobster arrived duly broken and I have to say it really was delicious with a deep grilled almost steak like taste… And lots of green stuff. Sorry, is lobster innard green, or was that pesto? I did however need to use the skinnier of the two implements to pull flesh out of the claw, but this makes me feel like I have learned something new.

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We’d added onion rings onto the order. We didn’t need to, despite the offer menu, there was little in way of scrimping in the portions and I’d indulged in cake at elevenses, (well half past tenses). In fact all offers came with chips as sides. And do you know what? they were really good chips. Do you remember me complaining about how bad restaurant chips can be?
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Well these were fantastic. Unfortunately the elevenses and the onion rings meant that we couldn’t finish the chips. It turns out that there is a chip limit. My husband says he missed this memo.

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I didn’t let the chip limit keep me from dessert. On fact I tried a fair few items to breach the chip limit (to no avail). I went for a simple Affogato which as any pizza express will tell you is ice cream with espresso. I don’t think that we have discussed Affogato here before, but I do like it’s simplicity very much. This one came with a a shot of frangelico as well as coffee, but also came with too much ice cream, not allowing true drowning in coffee, leaving ice (cream) bergs. There ought not be bergs in Affogato in my opinion. And while the addition of frangelico sounded good on the menu, in addition sweet ice cream to offset the bitter espresso, I’m not 100% sure this didn’t crush the sweet bitter balance.

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I left Locale totally unperturbed by sushi (did you get that message sushi?! UN-PER-TURBED) but I have one question that has stayed with me since… Given I was the only half lobster eater in the restaurant, who ate the other half?

1 Lawn Terrace, Blackheath Village, London, SE3 9LJ
Tel: 020 8852 0700
Opening Times:
Monday to Friday: 5:00pm – 23:00pm
Saturday & Sunday: 12:00noon – 23:00pm

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“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

“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

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