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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Mocca Coffee Shop, It replaced Fosters. Easy to tell.

A Review of Moca, coffee shop and deli in Blackheath Standard

I have been neglecting Moca: I visit. I eat at Moca with friends who ask me if this will appear in the blog … and somehow it never does.

 

Perhaps this is because it took me ages to actually try the coffee. It’s never been a coffee moment when I land there. It feels unjust for a coffee blogger to opine without actually trying the coffee.

Or maybe I just can’t think of anything to say about it. it’s neither ‘out there’ or ‘back here’.

It’s at a sort of at a moderate distance.

Actually, they do serve Portuguese tarts. Portuguese tarts are great.

Actually, they do serve Portuguese tarts. Portuguese tarts are great.

I can provide a brief history of Mocca. Moca replaced Foster’s. It’s easy to tell: it now has a big shiny red banner instead of a run down yellow banner. However more importantly, this change in ownership replaced peculiar little polystyrene cups with some frothy brown and white stuff in with cappuccinos, REAL cappuccinos and lattes. I don’t quite understand why they used to be so bad because the last owners were Italian and did have a propa cappa maka. But I do have the absolute recollection of actually binning a cappuccino from Foster’s one cold morning.

Well, I can assure you all that the change in ownership means that everything has undergone a thorough upgrade, with smart brown seats and semi-deli provisions. I think they even use butter on their sandwiches now. The sandwiches are nice. There are freshly squeezed juices of all mixes on demand and flatbreads with interesting fillings. In fact all of the savoury offerings have proved enjoyable, served by the upbeat staff, albeit in occasionally freezing conditions (because they open the back door to cool down the kitchen).

Moca Interior

Moca Interior

I recently discovered the another reason why I had not reviewed Mocca. Other than the litle bite sized italian sweets, the cakes are nothing special. And cakes are meant to be special, right? Even if you are a Victoria Sponge eater (and I judge you not for your undemanding taste buds) the very name, Victoria (that’s Victoria as in big time monarch of the British empire- wore lots of big dresses) implies special. You don’t want to look at the cake counter and think, yeah well maybe next time. And I do at Mocca. I feel adequately nourished for lunch, and walk away thinking, at least the waistline hasn’t grown.

Two more great places for coffee and more at Blackheath Standard.. With reviews
The Scullery http://wp.me/p2yXJS-gd
Mara interiors http://wp.me/p2yXJS-c7

Mocca Coffee Shop, It replaced Fosters. Easy to tell.
A Review of Moca, coffee shop and deli in Blackheath Standard I have been neglecting Moca: I visit. I eat…

“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

“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

“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

 

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