Fish confusion

A review of L’Insolite, Collioure, France (definitely not SE3)

I have an announcement to make. It is official that seiche is in fact cuttlefish, not squid as most of Collioure will tell you. The second and most important part of this announcement is that Cuttlefish is delicious. Probably the best food going.

These confusions stated in June in L’Insolite, a small, nearly last in row beachfront restaurant at which we thought: looks adequate, just landed, too tired to think. We could translate everything on the menu except seiche. And when told this was squid we ordered straight away.

Trees and fountains in Perpignan

If this sounds very ignorant, I would point out the similarities in appearance of cuttlefish and squid when prepared in a certain manner, both white and ententacled.

What arrived was delicious, simply executed with a salad and a half baked potato it was unforgettable, and left me trawling London for the past year searching for anything so good and failing (with the now closed Villa Moura being the only place to come close, despite a fair fortune being spent on fish).

So needless to say, on my first night back in Collioure, I headed for the self same restaurant arming myself with google translate for the French for squid. This turned out, not unreasonably, to be calarmi. Did you know that all along?

Collioure on the mediterranean

Unusually overcast, but source of great cuttlefist

Stunningly disappointed not to find this on the menu, I opted for the the seiche because the picture of it (now there are pictures) looked like squid, but the English menu described this as cuttlefish. I thought cuttlefish looked like prawns. You great it in London sandwich shops. Oh, apparently that’s crayfish,

I ordered in French only out of politeness, the waiter’s English was flawless, and he replied (in English) ah! Squid! This left us even more flummoxed while we secretly googled under the table, and decided that someone must have told him that this was squid when they saw it, but it was infact cuttlefish (although the word also related to a type of Asian squid) See I’m not so dumb..

All the fish eaters on the table were very content despite some nervousness with the menu. This was a wonder, sea front affordable meal. Followed by a paddle in the sea that you could still see the bottom of in the dark.

Pyranees mountains in summer

Local gorgeous view

They have pre-wrapped muffins. Hmmm. Moving on….

A a review of the Pavillion cafe in Greenwich. Park SE10

BBQ, jazz, beautiful park…. What could be better? That was why the very first free Friday I had in my diary between May and August was going to take up the offer by the Pavillion in the Park of such things, with the Laban students playing the jazz.

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So many hot, but booked up, Friday evenings passed. I thought…. I can’t wait for my musically sun drenched evening, and finally the date arrived, shortly after autumn, at the beginning of August.

The BBQ was moved indoors. Ie. it was a very expensive grill. And you could see a grey sky through the windows.

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The location and design of the Pavillion are beautiful.

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We sat on the first floor where you are sitting high up with the conkers. Although you can’t see the jazz from here, seeing jazz tends not to be the purpose of it (with the exception of Pollock – Jackson, duh!)

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The BBQ menu is slight- but it has something for vegetarians too. Plus there are pizzas which looked gorgeous. And (did I mention?) it is a bit disappointing to eat inside

There are however a disappointing lack of cakes here. They have pre-wrapped muffins. Hmmm. Moving on…. Sadly the smell of baking pizza keeps making you think of cake and look at the pre-wrapped muffins again. Nope. Still not tempted There is icecream, but it’s cold. Oh, and the ice cream window closed by 7pm.

The actual delivery of my hot dog sausage in baguette was a little befuddled. They hadn’t so much as buttered the baguette, or offered any dressing. On request, it took them a while to rustle up any dressings. So it was alright. Would have been better in sunlight.

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We took blankets to a bench overlooking London. That bit was very nice.

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Thirty versions of tea implies GOOD things

A review of Peyton and Byrne, Greenwich SE10

Peyton and Bryne is one of those places you have to come back to. It’s just got too much to choose from. You feel like a kid in a sweetie shop (do kids say they feel like grown ups in a coffee shop?) too much choice of pastry, so much light and air (set off by large retro wallpaper and wood). This is the fusion version of the coffee shop: English French, pastry, cupcake, scone, bar.

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Hence opening a large space in Greenwich centre is progress for us grow ups, as most of the other Peyton’s and Byrnes appear to be in galleries and museums. Oh, you thought I was interested in Monet, no darling, I’m not really cultured, I just haven’t sampled all the p&b tarts yet. We start can going for country walks again when I’ve reached the stawberry and balsamic, but not if they extend the range, mind.

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Weaker points were the plastic cutlery, requiring plastic wrestling on the delicacy in question.

Here’s what we eventually settled on:

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That thing on the right is apple crumble. This stacking of mostly creamy type constituent and err.. crumble seems to be a French interpretation of English Classic.

I had my reservations about the caramel dark chocolate bomb on the left. The dark chocolate was good, a kind of devil’s food cake sponge and it melted in the mouth. The supposedly oozing caramel hardly oozed though. I think it was too cold, or maybe that was compared to the 30 degree day. Regular readers will know that this constitutes a good review of a chocolate cake by my standards. My only advise would be, don’t eat it on a full stomach

Having advised you of the important food here (cake) I can no go back and tell you that the sausage roll was nice, but lacked a couple of things available elsewhere in Blackheath (Greenwich borough): The pastry is better at Boulangerie Jade, and the sausage is better at Hand Made Food.

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Tea was a bit wrong here.

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Yes I am a coffee shop blogger, but i frequently order tea at them. 30 versions of tea implies GOOD things. However it arrives in a small mug, (the more expensive – but pretty- teapots are hardly bigger) and when you’ve ordered Lapsang Souchong it should taste of something. Well actually it should taste warm and smokey, but ‘something’ would have been progress.

I’m not sure if this isn’t about quality control though, since the ever so tempting sounding marmalade dark chocolate (this is a combination I experiment with a lot, more recently in ice cream form) tasted of dark chocolate only, but the elderflower dark chocolate was full of flavour.

You can see I ordered a lot in this trip. It came to a not too bad £18 and included an unreviewed loaf of bread. But really I was just being thorough for the sake of the blog.

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Hoping that I remained anonymous, A review of Jamie’s Italian Deli

I admit, I slaughtered Jamie’s Italian in my last review. Even Italian friends told me they thought about going there and changed their minds after my review. So it was with some trepidation that I ventured in last week, hoping that I remained anonymous and was not about to be chased out, Why did I return, you ask? Well, OBVIOUSLY because there were some really good looking cakes in the window and my last review was not about cake. Let’s separate things. Let’s say that this review is about the deli at Jamie’s Italian. My last review was of the restaurant that constitutes Jamie’s Italian. And believe me, I stand by it.

Here are are the good looking cakes:

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By going in the ‘other’ (non restaurant entrance) this is what you are faced by: Actually quite tempting, fell for the whole, 3 cakes between 2 people isn’t that bad thing, even when following focaccia. Focaccia was really great, oily and be speckled with olives.

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But the cakes are kicked by the local competition. The lemon tart was so-so (that’s in the ‘cosi cosi’ way, not the ‘Soooo’ way) lemony- no real sting? And the plum tart was really an almond tart, that wouldn’t want to be disrupted by the sourness of a plum, but without the amazing things that a dedicated almond tart could be.

This, however is a nice environment. You just have to let yourself forget you know it is inauthentic chain decor. And don’t pity the poor homemade pasta for how it is about to be cooked. This isn’t too hard, it is pleasant on the eye.

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The Betrayal of the Cafetiere

When my eyes were bedazzled by the glossy nespresso machine in the cooking shop where we were on holiday, I wasn’t thinking of myself as being unfaithful. I was unaware I was betraying my humble cafetiere, and the workday faultless barista service of Pret a Manger.

But when I came home from my holiday high and lay awake thinking about it, what actually was wrong with my cafetiere, a masterpiece of a gadget, simple effective and marvelous in providing good coffee? And if I bumped into a regular Pret baristas on the street, how would I explain that I would no longer be a daily visitor despite their pret-trademark charm and efficiency (cappuccino with no queues), and coffee with a good bite.

The only single reason I could come up with for buying a Nespresso (after I had bought one) was to be in the little club; to get something better than you had that you didn’t know there was anything wrong with in the first place. This is what really troubled me, nothing was ‘fixed’ by the Nespresso machine. But the stakes were raised.

I will admit that the one thing that is massively improved by the machine is being able to steam the milk – something that no other milk frother comes close to. And ok, I will save money by neglecting Pret.

I am still trying to find an expresso with the bite of Pret in the 23 capsule options, (otherwise known as grand cru- my teeth are on edge) and when compared with the really good coffee stakes of Blackheath, there doesn’t seem to be a flavour that matches the rich coconutty blend from Black Vanilla and Chapters, or the cindered Volcano blend from The Scullery. Can any one point me in the right direction? I find myself comparing notes at work, and day dreaming about which coffee I will have next. How kitsch this will seem in twenty years time, like black forest gateaux and prawn cocktail.

The letter of introduction to the starter pack assures me that regular partaking of the different options will improve my palate. Cheek.

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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

The ginger lamb was just wow. Wow!

A review of eating out at Sun Ya, Blackheath Standard

Pre-planning and much debate is necessary when deciding what to order on an all you can eat menu. Which is tough when you are starving. We considered that ordering 3 mains between the two of us could be justified by sharing hot and sour meat soup. I am glad we shared this. The soup was a soup but it was not all that hot or sour. Also it had prawns in it.

 

I’m going to skip through the starters else we’ll be here all night: they were ok. And the crispy duck was delicious, but crispy duck sits in that rare and fatty selection of foods that is hard to prepare in a non-delicious way.

 

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What followed was excellent, a flurry of savoury flavours supported by smokey chicken chow mein and special fried rice. The chilli beef, nice as it was, was the low light, a little two dimensional, those dimensions being deep-friededness and chilli. Obviously the Hong Kong style sweet and sour had at least one more dimension (the first 2 being sweet and sour) and along with the crunch of the deep fry and the addition of actual whole vegetables meant that it reached a harmonic for me. (Excuse the mixed metaphors.) And the ginger lamb was just wow. Wow!

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The only catch to all this excitement was that the three main dishes to share arrived about ten minutes before my husband had leave for a meeting. Most of the eating had to be accomplished by me. It was six o’clock on a week day. I quickly calculated that I had 4 hours of eating until bedtime.

So I sat along amongst the fabric flowers and gold wall paper pondering how I was going to achieve completion of the task and whether the waiters thought we’d had a food war (the table was a bit messy) and split up. I have a confession to make. Other than a smattering of rice on the table cloth (a large smattering) mission was completed.

Yes, it showed on the scales