About blackheathcoffeeshops

Author of “Helen & The Grandbees” Artist and writer living in Blackheath who spends too much time, money and calories in the local coffee shops and has far too many opinions on them.

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

Location is the strong point, a review of Charlton Lido

Unfortunately whether I blog about the lido cafe, or I do not blog about the lido cafe, it seems that you all know about it anyway, and are filling the aisles with your towels.

Of course when I refer to this being a blog about the lido cafe, I really mean this is about the whole lido sun terrace (where you can also buy a cup of tea) experience, and the should -try-harder cafe is a bit of an excuse for this review.

There aren’t any pictures in this review, because I seem to remember there is something about not having cameras at swimming pools so as not to upset mummies and daddies. It’s a sad sad world.

The lido however is completely not sad, at least not in sunny weather. In cold weather it’s less sad than really hard work. So while this distinctly un-British patch continues, go share in the joy. After an exhilarating lane swim, or childish splash, you can go sit on the sun terrace and listen to the gentle lapping of water to dry off the sun. It feels like being on holiday, in a like, hot place.

Hence the following picture is not of the lido, but of a hot place, in France, to bring the right feelings to mind.

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The exact nature of drying off allowed is up for debate. Despite the plastic seats there seemed to be a rule of not turning up to the cafe wet, that was mostly being ignored. I figured set hair jeans and my boden towelling hoodie (purchased from ebay, have you seen the price of those things?) would be good enough.

The location is let down by under-delivery in the food provisions. Service was friendly and the cakes and pastries were ok, but the bacon baps were already showing signs of wear… that being an absence of bacon that had to be replaced by sausages (cooked from scratch! And hence taking 40minutes before being served with margarine baps.) They even ran out of Earl Grey tea before we left.

Somebody smart could do something amazing at this place. After all Lewisham swimming pool’s Rhubarb is a real gem, and no less affordable. I’m day dreaming of some sort of The Scullery married to Greenwich council solution, but then I might never ever leave the lido.

Has anyone heard of Cypriot zivani? A review of Aqua, Blackheath

I’m always unhappy to read a menu where the choice is too obvious, but there was no such unfortunate experience at Aqua Mediterranean Bar and Grill. Even the main courses were exciting in all their lines. Usually I find I have to look at the starters or desserts to stay amused.

Greek Meze starter sounded great to me as a way of combining all the best starters. If you have simpler requirements for your starters, see if you as talk them into serving just the vine leaves with tzazaki which was definitely the best bit of the Meze.

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The open flame and fish menus in particular looked delicious: souvlaki, medallions, kleftiko… Mixed Grill! This is the relatively modest looking mixed grill, that proved totally filling.

Just like this fabulous chargrilled whole sea bream, that I couldn’t stop eating with its contrasting salty tomatoes and artichokes. Oh stop me from day dreaming!

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In fact, it has been a while since I have done such an utterly food focused review, so to pull away from the plates for a section, a comment on the music: we were surrounded by 70’s crooner does 80’s cheese in an inoffensive wouldn’t-your-mother-like-it sort of way.

And on the interior: nice actually, elegant. And lovely to have the skylight to prevent the room from feeling cramped and dark.

The service: Nervous rather than suave.

Anyway, bored of this, back to food: The desert menu did get off to a bad start by offering sticky toffee pudding. Has anyone actually eaten a genuinely interesting sticky toffee pudding? My curiosity was piqued by the selection of ice cream so having the guts to be the exact list that might appear in Neapolitan ice cream.

Baklava is so rare to see on a desert menu. In my book, this is the opposite of Victoria sponge. Pastry rather than sponge, honey instead of jam, nuts instead of cream- but most of all golden depth of flavour rather than creamy inaneness.

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We asked what was Cypriot zivani. We believe that this is a type of grappa but we overheard the waiter asking several others for flavour in order to work this out.

The accompanying coffee was smooth and interestingly sharp at the same time, and what’s more there seemed to be no question that it would come after dessert- none of this daft arriving before dessert, because the barista and chef are not in sync. This is rare. And very good.

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He reads OTHER reviews. A review of Cau in Blackheath SE3

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For all of Cau’s stainless steel interior, (I never liked this sort of interior even in the 80s when it became so popular. I’ve given up trying to give it the benefit of the doubt; hindsight has been given the full length of the rope) it is actually remarkably cosy when you’ve found yourself a nice corner. You’d never know you were in a tin can.

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The menu is a little bit patronising: with insightful suggestions like ‘have a small salad on the side, or a larger one as a starter.’ Don’t bother looking at anything other than the steak here. (so to be honest, don’t bother even turning up unless you are feeling rather flush at circa £39 per dish). I recommend the brazen, very unEnglish approach of ordering one steak to share with your table… or take most of it home for tomorrow. After all, a 500kilo steak is rather generous portion for me, even on greedy days.

We went for two rather interesting sounding sharing items and one steak with the intention of sharing all ‘as mains’ and skipping the starter. This was a strategy to pacify the 3/4’s Englishness that makes up me and my husband.

Empanadas (Classic Argentinian street food. Served with a fresh tomato sauce.) of Spanish chorizo and cream cheese Spinach, ricotta and date were lovely. But the deep fried pork belly, that sounded like a wonderfully unhealthy sort of a step up from a deep fried mars bar, fat with extra fat, was kind of slimy.

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We ordered our steak medium. And the staff recommended a nice matching Argentinian wine.
Here is a picture of the inside of our medium steak

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The charming staff admitted the mistake. (Please note, mistake admitting goes A. Very. Long. Way. in reparation and they went so far as to remove the entire meal, to return it to the table. I was impressed by this entirely proper way of fixing a mistake which (along with mistake-admission) you don’t often see. The staff registered we didn’t want a replacement of the deep fried pork belly, but replaced the finished empanadas. I think they must have known about the pork belly.

The steak returned remarkably quickly. We should have been suspicious at this point. But we are optimists. To give the chef his due (and there is not a lot of ‘due’ left now to be given) the newly cooked steak looked positively charcoaled on the outside, but the cooked effect only went about half a centimetre into the 10cm thick steak. The rest was jelly.

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My husband remarked that he had read of this experience on other reviews before coming. I don’t know what to be most disappointed by, the fact that he hid this information from me, or the fact that he reads OTHER reviews.

We didn’t want to go through the return-rigmarole all over again. The steak was edible, although a long way from medium, or even medium rare for that matter and again reparations were offered.

But may I note two things. This was their signature dish. Had we paid the full menu, we would have paid £70, for effectively a three course meal and drinks for one.
Let’s move on.

To churros! ! You’ll know I love churros: fried carbs in sugar. What could be more delicious other than churros with dulce de leche? Which, guess what? Was on the menu. We ordered some to share.

They arrived crisp and oily and … What’s the polite word…? I think the right word might be rare. Now I do know that the ‘how rare is rare’ when it comes to steak can be up for debate, hence us playing it safe and ordering our steak medium. But who has ever heard of rare churros? Dough is either cooked, or not cooked. In this case, it was the latter. Within its crispy interior was liquidy goo. Oh, we turned really English now. When the staff asked how our dessert was, we said…. “Thank you”.

CAU BLACKHEATH
10-12 Royal Parade, Blackheath, London
SE3 0TL

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Yeah let’s go to Jamie’s Italian for a real treat

A Review of Jamie’s Italian, Greenwich

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Yeah let’s go to Jamie’s Italian for a real treat, because annoying as it is that ol’ Jamie sponsors just about every clunky kitchen gadget going, I do enjoy cooking from his recipe books, so the food can’t go wrong. Right?

The interior of Jamie’s Italian is enormous. And it is about as cliched as Mr Oliver himself, which for me is slightly annoying but mostly ok. You’d have to draw your own conclusions. For instance, the tea towel napkins: I like. They are strangely comforting. But I don’t like the school canteen glasses. They are a cuteness too far. Also at school they always used to come with unidentifiable solidified grime on them. When I was a kid, any unknown grime was the worst grime: SNOT (or possibly poo, but a little less likely given the circumstance.) Let’s move on from this topic, it’s dinner time.

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Well the menu didn’t look so great. The really flummoxing part was that the centre piece focused on burgers, which surely couldn’t be the the best dish of an Italian restaurant. Where was the gem on the menu? I forced myself to look at the pasta.

The meal started with overly-battered squid.

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This was really disappointing. More and more restaurants seem to over-batter their squid. You can only taste batter. A pretty, but not so funky tasting butternut bruschetta came with it and this was ok. I’m sure the mains will make the hype worth it.

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I have to say that the service was perfect. Our waiter was so attentive. He could sense that we were unhappy with the starters and wanted to correct it, slipping extra bread in our takeaway box, and patient and helpful throughout the experience.

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Spaghetti Alla Norma with aubergine, chilli and basil sounded great. Aubergine is quite a flavour after all. In reality, I’ve had more flavoursome dishes from cheaper Italians. It was a bore to consume. Only force of habit made me continue. I genuinely weighed up that I would not be missing out on the food, by leaving it and taking joy from the potential lost weight.

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The sea bream was pleasant enough, but it is kind of hard to mess up such a magnificent ingredient. They did their best to mess it up. The samphire was woody. Something I would not have believe possible of seaweed/parsley type thing, so to give JI its due, this was an educative experience.

We had fabulous desserts at. Jamie’s Barbecoa in New Change, so we stopped around in case the meal could be redeemed. A cold winter night, we chose warm amaretti and granola crumble. Note, not ‘crumbled amaretti…’ But amaretti crumble, in other words, implying to most people baked cakey stuff that crumbles. In fact this was fruit with granola sprinkled on it. This did have nice flavours, but was not the promised comforting crumble implied by the menu. It felt kind of healthy.

What gets me, what really gets me is that even I can knock out a delicious Jamie 15minute meals in a little under half an hour. His stuff should be chef-proof. So we can’t even blame the chef at JI.

And by the way, the Jamie branded garlic press broke into shards the other day. My Ikea version is still going strong (sorry Deptford Dame!)

I have never written so rude a review. However I feel sorry for the flawlessly charming staff who deserve jobs if JI does not survive, hopefully by boosting the business of the following establishments, they will get recruited there.
If you want to eat out in the Greenwich/Blackheath areas eat out here: if you want Italian in Greenwich eat here: Bianco43
If you want a quality burger (because naturally this is the first thing you think of when visiting an Italian) eat here: Chapters
If you want bog standard Italian chain food, maybe featuring kids (at the table, not in the dishes) believe me, Pizza express and Strada do a better job and frequent good money off deals.

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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

A little off piste, and a long way down the A202- A Review of Angels and Gypsies, Camberwell.

Angels and Gypsies has been catching our eye for a while. It’s the leg of cured calf posed within sight of the door way, and the ambient lighting from the stained glass windows, and the curvy writing above the window that does it. Marketeers take note. For all we know the meat was plastic and it still made us eye the restaurant as a future target…
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It seemingly did the job for others too: It took at least three attempts over many months to let us through the door.

It starts with an aperitif. I am not much of an aperitif fan, because much as I like the type of drinks that qualify as apertifs, drinking on an empty stomach gives me a head ache and a yawn and puts me off dinner. If I am missing something here, please put yours suggestions in the comment box below (except for you mum, because if I authorise you as a commentator, your use of this forum to send me emails will suddenly become very public. )

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Having been once enjoyed a recommendation of sherry as a good match for tapas, the menu’s front page full of sherry as an aperitif seemed a very welcome concept… But even better, Angels and Gypsies offered manzanillos which were more local to the food (Jerez) and reportedly full of sea breezes. See breezes, sherry, tapas… Holiday.

We are already on difficult ground here, because it is also wrong ever to go for a Spanish meal and not have sangria. Sangria has been highly sought after on occasion (http://wp.me/p2yXJS-1L) and must not be taken for granted.

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Here are some pictures of the tapas that ensued.

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And though we managed to pass up on the churros, we did go for our common cliche of Spanish almond tart accompanied by white chocolate rum and raisin cheese cake with macadamia nut crunch. And they were good.

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http://www.angelsandgypsies.com/angels/location/