Life is best lived by ending a meal with your favorite bite.

Le Bouchon

Both of my favorite meals in France were eaten in rustic restaurants, with people drinking wine from elegant carafes, and Le Bouchon absolutely aims to channel this image in it’s bijoux location opposite the Mary Evan’s picture library. It’s pretty successful in doing this actually, especially on a Sunday evening where a singer and a guitarist strum whimsical French and English tune and the sun streams through the windows. We had not eaten before arriving and we knew that we would have to order food to accompany any drinking that needed to be done.

We anticipated cheese and ham platters, but what was a delight to find was that Le Bouchon offered a choice on every element of the platter. You could pick your own cheese and deli meat, each detailed on the menu and you could have as much or as little as you liked. We both ordered tapenade, which arrived with the equivalent of a small loaf of bread each, with dark rich olive dip that was hard to put down. Next came the cheese (with strawberry jam) we’d chosen Comte*, mature goats’s cheese, with a creamy depth that went well with the jam, and the best: a spongy and richly flavoured Ardechois bichonne, encased in mould. The meats were duck saucisson and Bresi (cured beef, smoked for 8 weeks), both curling on the edges with dryness and herbs.

 

 Now, since childhood, my mother has wisely ingrained in me the truth that life is best lived by finishing any meal with your favorite bite. This presents challenges when there is too much food, like in cream teas when you don’t actually have room for the spectacular looking cake at the top of the cake tray, after your sandwiches and scone with clotted cream. But Le Bouchon presented a different challenge…. It was not possible to decide which bite to end on. In fact, I relegated the Comte as ‘first finisher’, but I regretted it… with its extra dryness and maturity reminding me that this was not just any old version of one of my favorite cheeses. Having assigned Ardechois bichonee as the cheese finalist, the whole assessment had to be reconsidered in the light of the saucisson. My husband suggested that the Bresi was the best of the two, I committed to believe him and not think about it anymore at risk of frying my brain with the decision, and totally forgetting about the tapenade.

We ate all of this with a Bordeaux, and my husband had a St Chinian, Languedoc. Now, I have to remind you this is not a wine blog, but we both found the Bordeaux to be great alone, and less good with food, and the opposite with the wine from Languedoc. Yes, we sipped from each other’s glasses in order to know this. Every other table had a carafe, which looked temptingly romantic, but we just don’t drink enough to justify it. This didn’t cause the slightest of problems for the bar who opened fresh bottles for each of our glasses, and then resealing them immediately with a resealing machine.

The only flummoxing thing about Le Bouchon was the existence of ‘cake of the day’ on the menu. Cake is not the first thing I think of to complement wine (although, now I come to think of it, an olive oil polenta lemon and thyme cake might just do the trick) but my brain is hardwired to default cake as the most desirable item on any menu. But there was no further cake information to be found. There was no cake on the tables around us, or in a display stand or written on the blackboard behind me. It’s rare, but I looked around for a sign of cakeness for a few seconds, and then forgot all about cake amongst the wine and the deli.

*Sorry, I do not know how to add French accents on my keyboard. French accents abounded at Le Bouchon, though. Adding to the authenticity.

Multidimensional viewing

A Review of Gail’s Bakery in Blackheath SE3

Sometimes I am lazy. Sometimes the likes of Jamies’s Italian and Cau hit the streets of SE3 and SE10 but take me a whole six months to get around to visiting (not that either of them were worth it). But I was a little spurred into action by the heaving contents of the ginormous Gail’s Bakery. It looked like I was about the only resident of Blackheath who had not visited the Bakery within three days of its opening. This just was not on!

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So despite being on something of a health drive at the moment, I forced myself through those doors and to the delightful view within.

The three layers of Bakery layout is a very clever design. Now I know that this is very similiar to the design that was Prime Videos (but different from India Jane, I think?), but for a Bakery it creates wonders – Multidimensional viewing: look up, see happy baked-food-eaters, framed by the hanging wares of the bakery. Look down, see the evidence of onsite bakery with gratuitous piles of appetising breads to one side. Look in the middle, and you get sandwiches, patisserie cakes, breads, baked things. There is a significant message here: there is bakery going on all around. Don’t be left out. Get in quick.

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So in summary, our plate held a buttery light fruit cake with cinnamon and almonds. I ate the marzipan separately (never grew up, see). Marks out of five: 4. And a ginger nut that verged on a little cake. It was ginger nutty, invitingly brown and crystallised with sugar. Marks out of five: 5. We ate it with a capuccino that was nice and flavoursome.

We came home with a tiny buttery (i know I already said it) Mexican wedding cake that seemed like it should be olive oily, but had that nice understated not too cakey element to it; what should have been a quinoa sourdough, which although delicious seemed to contain large seeds that did not resemble quinoa – any enlightment to offer me Blackheath? and a sausage roll that in the words of my husband, did compete with the sausage rolls from Hand Made Food. You heard it here first. (Really you did, I scanned the Bugle’s blog to make sure there was no reference to sausage roll).

3 Blackheath Village
London, SE3 9LA
Opening hours
Monday-Friday 7am – 8pm
Saturdays & bank holidays 8am – 8pm
Sunday 8am – 7pm

The Upsides to Being Miss Marple

A Review of eating out at Montpelier’s, Blackheath SE3

Nice coffee and traditional English cakes make for frequent visits to Montpelier’s.

And some of those traditional English cakes are exactly what they should be. There must have been upsides to being Miss Marple, after all. Other than the mystery solving smugness, she must also have eaten some really excellent traditional English cakes to justify a life in beige.

It’s been a while since I waxed lyrical about chocolate brownies and flapjack so I reckon I’m allowed a moment of repetition here: The best flapjacks crumble, oh they are lovely. They drop soft gold crumbs on your plate to make the flapjack eating experience last beyond the last bite. They have a crispy top and crust to maximise the texture experience. And they are absolutely perfect at Montpellier’s.

Take a moment, here. Reflect on great flapjack.

However in the case of chocolate brownies, there is more than one way to bake perfection. And the method of perfection sourced by Montpellier is this one where it is rich and crumbly and where the taste of a well sourced chocolate shines through.

This time I sat amongst the chintz hinting interior and ordered flapjack and coffee and walnut cake. I’m not sure that this is a criticism, but you had to concentrate to taste the coffee in the coffee and walnut cake which was all frothy butter ice cream (and walnuts plus a touch of cake). It was well made, but perhaps I should have chosen what i know I like best. And I possibly ruined it by ordering peppermint tea rather than coffee due to my delicate disposition (that must be regularly topped up with cake.)

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Service has become more friendly in recent years. I feel much less ‘processed’ as a customer and they smile at you these days. They are also good at solid lunches of the jacket potato or ploughmans variety. It is one of the few places lucky enough to have a continental pavement terrace for the summer.

As you can see from the picture, there is also a plentiful supply of ice cream, although Boulangerie Jade’s selection is so delicious, I seldom experiment with others.

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I do hope Miss Marple found good ice cream too.

Montpeliers
35 Montpelier Vale, London
020 8852 5258

Brunch at Chapter’s All Day Dining, Blackheath

I’ve reviewed here before if you want my more general opinion on CADD

But we were seeking a brunch menu with some desperation to fill the gaping holes in our stomachs after the morning swim, and we thought Chapters had promise.

Actually, I was pleasantly surprised to discover the menu had been updated and featured some quirky additions beyond eggs Benedict (it’s too rich, people. So is the spinach version, so stop trying to pass this off on me).

Adventurous additions included breakfast risotto. Now where I am on this is (1) really well done Chapters, for thinking outside the box, and (2) Why would I want a risotto (ie heavy meal) interpretation of an already heavy meal of the day. But my interest in ‘the new’ won out and I found myself facing an unbelievably rich risotto dish for breakfast. If you are already a risotto fan, (some say that they are out there) then you might well find this dish perfect. For me, it was a little samey, probably no need to be cooked with sausage in it and with sausage on the side.

Breakfast risotto

Breakfast risotto

Then there was the ‘posh baked beans’ interpretation (not that Chapter’s lowered it self to use that definition) mixed beans in tomato chorizo sauce on sourdough with poached egg. You do see the word that attracted me there, don’t you? This was good, and this is from a lady who orders her fry-ups sans baked beans. I personally thought that there was a limit to the depth of the flavours, but I am always happy to enjoy a meal that has remembered to include of vegetables. (No, that sprinkling of chive and lonely rocket on the last dish does not count.)

Posh baked beans

Posh baked beans

We finished on pastries. We think (based on the croissants ugly appearance but rewarding bite and crumbs) that they were supplied by Boulangerie Jade. Need I say more?

Boulangerie Jade pastries

Boulangerie Jade pastries

Not Missing Anything is an Achievement

A review of Tzigano’s, SE3

Tzigano’s in Blackheath Village ave opened a deli – we know that won’t be bad, don’t we? Indeed it is crowded full of Italian speakers (some of whom actually proved to be English, but living up to the welcoming “Buon journo!” at the door) clutching goods to themselves and looking furtively about to ensure not missing anything.

Not missing anything is an achievement, there is a larder selection at the back, a counter of cheeses, one of savouries, a bread corner with a round bread of about the size of my car wheels and the entire top of all the counters is full of cakes… Mmm… Cakes. It is a pity that sitting at the bar puts your back to the cakes, otherwise you could buy a coffee and cake watch all day.

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We felt it appropriate to start with savouries. There is an advantage in preserving a semblance of sanity, after all. And the savouries, once checked out, proved pretty attractive: there was arancini (one observed Italian speaker turned to us and told us in a native south london accent that they were wonderful), there were breads stuffed with all sorts of delights.

Arancini being generally great aside, I wish we had gone for bolognese sauce, not ham and cheese. Yes, gooey comfort eating rice yellowed with what we suspect was saffron – oozing cheese and ham sauce and we also had cheese and ham in the other savoury dish – chorizo and emmental cooked in slightly sweet sesame sprinkled white bread. This crunched into the mouth with delightful unhealthy promise – fulfilled by that flavour that only chorizo can deliver (why is this? why cannot we make heathy versions of chorizo with the same marinade?)

it.

[/caption] id=”” align=”alignnone” width=”300″]20140226-134957.jpg Chorizo Emmental[/caption]

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Ham and cheese arancini

Next, serious cake decision making skills had to be engaged. Some choice of that vast untapped supply of sugary delights had to be made. In the end we went traditional (for us) Spanish almond tart. We have a history of good Spanish almond tart. This should be as common as chocolate brownies, (but with better consistency in standard quality than achieved by the contentious brownie). We had fig roll which had a serious crunch and an exceptionally gooey garish green macaroon, referred to by the owner as pasticcino- although when i looked this up, it translated as petit fours, so this does not feel very enlightening.

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Three fabulous delights

We returned home with olive oil bread. Well… If they don’t take cards, and you have to justify a quick dash over to the barclay’s cashpoint, you may as well make the most of it.

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Italian delights

17 Montpelier Vale, London
020 8852 9226

I’ve more than once made the mistake of thinking that I am visiting the Everest Inn for a curry

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A Review of the Everest Inn, SE3

The Everest Inn is on Montpellier. Did anyone else think that it used to live near the Fresh spa? Hmmm, restaurants ought not to be up and moving in the middle of the night when there is no one watching.

The Everest Inn, whilst sounding like a destination to be reached with frost bitten toes in order to drink nutritious hand held stews and whiskey through sealskins, is a Tibetan restaurant. It figures.

I’ve more than once made the mistake of thinking that I am visiting the Everest Inn for a curry. The menu certainly reads that way: The same convention of offering most dishes by the type of meat, and a good chunk of tandoori selections with naan and rice. Plus cobra is on the menu. In reality, if you come away feeling you’ve had your average takeaway, you’ve missed out because the subtlety of the dishes is beyond sticky plastic boxes . It is good food, with an unusual depth of flavour. Brick Lane it ain’t.

Cobra

Cobra

Naan

Naan

Hot towels

Hot towels

Here are the spectacularly presented starters- albeit slight messed up by a mix and match effort undertaken by my husband. That’ll be a chilli prawn found its way from his plate and masquerading as paneer on the side there. All in the interests of maximising information for this review, you understand.

Artistic starters

Artistic starters

So for the main course, I am remembering just how great aromatic fish can be and order the excitingly described Machha Modi Kohla- marinated fish, aromatic spices, mustard, ginger, herbs and yoghurt. In red it stated “most popular villagers recipe from Modi River, western part of Pokhara, Nepal.” I am such a sucker for extra words on the menu even if I am struggling to work out the grammar. I have probably become immune to some of the modern European over-adjectified menus, but Modi river, villages. Ooohhhh.

The dish was undoubtedly aromatic, arriving with chunks of fresh spring onion and a gentle after taste of ginger. So was it the beer, was it the Naan? I did just yearn for something a little hotter- just a crumble of chilli. I did the meal down because I wanted ‘takeaway’.

The next upgrade from your average curry house is the hot towels. These were presented in elegant ceramic containers with water to poor over the dried towels. Glad these came without chilli though.

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So maybe I did close my eyes when I read that bit about Comte Cheese- Another review of Cote in Blackheath

Health warning. This article fails to replicate a single accented vowel. Because I don’t know how to type them.

Cote needs a re-review from me, partially because i cruelly judged them on their 9.99 menu last year …. and mostly because I popped in the other night out of convenience and I feel I have more to add.

Being for convenience, i steered clear of steak frites that would ruin my waistline of a weekday, and found myself drawn to the “light bites”- baked crepes, Comte , spinach, peppers, provencale sauce.

Light bite?! (so maybe I did close my eyes when I read that bit about Comte) That creamy tomatoey sizzling enormity of a dish that by the way deigned to include a bit of buckwheat crepe? Delicious though. And that’s from a carnivore.

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Desserts however were not great. Crepes with Grand Marnier could have been the most exciting thing in there, but it was hardly rocking my world. And I like crepes – you may have noticed already (fried carbs).

Chocolate fondant- yawn. And Coupe Noir described on the menu as ice cream with chocolate sauce? Is this not the most boring sundae ever described? Does it not feel it’s missing something, anything from the supermarket aisle: hundreds and thousands, cream, a flake, a wafer…? In fact every dessert came with ice cream and nothing with cream. I’m feeling mean because the staff are charming. They just offered the table next door free pink champagne for their occasion.

Ahhh, when I taste the tarte tatin I want to take it all back. It’s like like apples on a croissant. Warm and buttery. Why didn’t I order coffee? Actually, I could even have enjoyed this without the apple, perhaps earlier in the day, between the hours of seven and ten. But the ice cream is JUST wrong. It was too cold and towards the end merged with the pastry crumbs to make a soggy overly sweet mess. Croissants and ice cream don’t go. Someone make sure cronut bandwagon drivers informed of this before something horrifying is invented.

Fried bits that weren’t calamari

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So this is a quick review of the Bianco43 that has opened in Blackheath in the venue of Dooooom, from who’s opening night we have recently attended.

Now I was worried for Bianco 43. If you see my review of ‘Venice‘, the previous resident of the ex-Natwest Bank, the location seems impossible to fix up into anything with a semblance of sophistication.

But the prettiness of Greenwich’s Bianco 43 has been effectively transposed to Blackheath in all its relaxed beachcomber glory.

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So the opening night was buffet food.. But it was Buffett food that excelled any buffet food to date. It was nice to try out the menu options other than the pizza. There was glorious rich aubergine (link), slices of pecorino, and minature fried pizzas. The real life pizza was good too. Take a look at this areal photo of it coming out of the coals. (If you can make it out in the bad iPhone picture!)

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There was perfect calamari (as noted in the review of the Greenwich location) and other fried bits, tiny little fried balls. Not idea what they were, but very moreish with the prosecco.

The owners are also exceptionally attentive. Massimo went around to meet all his guests table by table, decided to sit with me while my husband was at the bar and then when he decided that my husband wasn’t being served quickly enough had me point him out from the balcony. He went downstairs to tell the barman that he must serve this man as he had a wife sitting alone. I don’t think that this was about how bad my company was… there was a language barrier. (I should note that Massimo would not have know. I am a local blogger).

In summary, thanks to Bianco 43 for the invite and I am definitely a fan.
BIANCO43 BLACKHEATH
1-3 LEE ROAD
SE3 9RQ

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I do concede that I did not actually see a microwave in the preparation of these eggs

A review of the Village Deli, Blackheath SE3

In a virtually empty village deli, I sipped an iced jasmine tea from a pretty little bottle and overheard the only other person in the room order a very specifically crafted haddock dish. Then I smelt said haddock dish being prepared and thought to myself, I must come back when I am hungrier. This might also appease the waitress who was a little contemptuous of my request for ice tea only.

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The point of the deli seems to be breakfast. Neither the sandwich or the dinner menus are half as big as the breakfast menu. It actually starts getting a bit confusing. You mentally flag that they’ve got bubble and squeak – must make sure that I get a dish with that, but then they have pancakes and waffles, and croissants, and a seemingly promising array of fish which was why I was there in the first place. Waffles and bubble and squeak with haddock- does not compute… does not compute..

The seats and tables are like the school canteen, cluttered in together, and requiring heavy manoeuvring in order to just sit down. You have to try quite hard to make the staff smile, and not query where your order has gone in case you upset them.

There also seem to be some very good brands in stock. Union coffee for example, that we baulked at the price of in the maritime museum was 5.99. That seems a good enough reason to scour the rest of the menu.

So anyway, the breakfast: Haddock- great, perfectly cooked, lemon adding a nice dimension. But microwaved eggs? Hard-microwaved eggs, when they should be oozing over the haddock (or the bubble and squeak that appeared on the other plate)? This was very disappointing. I think just as some countries fail to understand tea, some food establishments fail to understand eggs. Please note: Eggs are not just oval protein modules; they are the seed for the cook’s creativity-a biologically inaccurate description, I know.

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I do concede that I did not actually see a microwave in the preparation of these eggs, but if there was no microwave involved, then a whole new level of culinary failure was achieved on the day of my visit: The sense of microwaved food without microwave. I know, people will pay for it one day.

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Our coffee was made with geek level care, and it showed it.

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I really did not like the eggs. But the Village Deli was otherwise a very inauspicious hidden gem and worthy of its cult status. You could dash out of the car park and miss it whilst ‘Cook’ and ‘Jigsaw’ flaunt their bright banners. And that would be a pity if you are prepared to forgo the eggs and just have a delicious breakfast.

(Ok, I’ll stop talking about eggs now).

The Village Deli 1 – 3 Tranquil Vale, London, SE3 0BU

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The window experience differs depending where you sit.

A review of cream tea at the Clarendon, SE3

You’ll have seen the Clarendon. It’s that impressive Georgian hotel right on top of the Heath. Looks like you’d have to be a millionaire to stay there right up until you see the room prices

The Clarendon has been branching out lately: jazz nights, afternoon tea. I approve of all of this, it’s bars and restaurants are always on the quiet side and the rest of the village can be a struggle to find anywhere to sit- especially for a genuinely quiet drink and chat on a Saturday evening…. If a little clincal.

This visit was to investigate the afternoon tea. Also reasonably priced at 12.90 per person – non sparkling (the tea menu, that is, not the person. Both my husband and I are very sparkling thank you very much). And they have “load of teas” according to the enthusiastic waitress, “absolutely loads”. English breakfast, Earl Grey an and loads of fruit teas to go with our “grub” . Lapsang? Oh she’s heard of that one from Costa, but the Clarendon is not as exciting as Costa.

Now aside from her tea expertise, I’d like to add that this waitress deserves a paragraph in her own right for being switched on to customer needs. She gave us the window table (definitely the best table in the hotel… I’ll come back to that), but then had the wherewithal to go and check first if she should close the window, and whether the table was too cold. How many better meals in my life would I have had if they had not been spent shivering?

The window experience differs depending where you sit. If you face the window, you get the vista of the heath, framed by a book case of heritage titles. If you face the restaurant, you look at the shabby navy curtain separating the rooms and keep wincing with the thought that surely it couldn’t be too expensive could it just be to buy new ones from eBay. It just seems so rude to such an elegant building.

Afternoon tea arrived with the standard supply of sandwiches, scones and cake. Oh, and tea, Darjeeeling from Twinings- a basic model for success unless you want to offer a seat of your pants teatime experience). The sandwiches of ham, salmon and egg were in brown bread which surprised us, and the scones too had a golden hue- very different from the bleached white picture in the advertisement. And everything had fresh strawberries scattered over it- a nice touch, as were the attention to detail of removing the crusts, and the fact that every ingredient was notably fresh to the extent that you commented on it. There had been no attempt to hide slightly aged cucumber in the salmon sandwiches. There had been an attempt to hide margarine in the ham sandwiches, with the use of mustard. This wasn’t entirely unsuccessful, but why would any self respecting restaurabter ever cond themselves having to hide margarine? At least stale food started off fresh.

The golden scones were delicious. Really so, fresh and warm and crumbling. I had to ask what made them different, and received the reply that they were really were normal scones but had sultanas in them. Who’d’ve thought it sultana’s in scones? (We had the suspicion that a brown sugar had been used instead of white, but are otherwise at a loss for the difference in flavour and taste).

Clotted cream came in mini jam pots which raised suspicions but it was faultless and there were no dodgy substances in the ingredients list, perhaps clotting was a process to preserve cream anyway? Portions of jam and cream were a little on the mean side. The mini fruit tarts were the only disappointment. Defrosted, or just out of the refrigerator and hence lined with cold custard. We should talk about this sometime- he appropriateness of custard in all fruit tarts. The exotic looking mini cakes on the flyer, coated in chocolate they were not. I don’t mind missing those by the way, they’ve being touted everywhere. Anyway, by this stage in anybody’s afternoon teas I have moved from needing something to soak up the tea to something with which to wash all the food down.

I’d call it a good value and good quality afternoon tea. Is good value what afternoon tea is supposed to be?

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