The mixed Colours of the Meze Glowed At Us

A review of Efe’s Meze, Trafalgar Road

Heard of imambayildi? Me neither. It sounded really interesting the way that Efe’s Meze’s extremely eager to please new management described it. It seemed to feature wrapping and baking and re-wrapping and oil and stuff like that. I wish I had taken notes, because when I went back to pre-book my order (we were a large group) I was bowled over by the meat and fish options. I figured I’d nick some off my friends plates.

Mirror reflecting restaurant lights

Efe’s in Greenwich mirror interior

As we arrived to eat the 6 cold Meze starters were already laid. The mixed colours of kisir, feta/beetroot, acilia ezme) glowed at us, but there was no bread. And there would be no bread until all of my friends turned up. My friends were very late. The dishes carried on glowing at us. I think that this is cruelty to customers, but when I try to find where to report it, I can’t find anyone who will listen.

Efe's Meze table

Glowing Meze

In the end, hunger won over and we just asked for bread, which arrived warm and spongy. The dishes were delicious and unfortunately filling . Round 2 (hot Meze) was petite but enjoyable -falafel, halloumi and cheese borek.

During this time, I have been asked to observe that the wine was served in professional manner, with pre-taste, and then decanted into a carafe. Profuse apologies were also offered for the lack of non-alcoholic beer. This is unusual to me. Normally I find myself apologising for ordering it.

As I think you can probably tell from the state of my blog photos (you’re supposed to love me for my quirky dippiness. You do get that right?), I don’t really go into these restaurants with a sign on my forehead saying ‘I am a local food blogger’, but you would not nave guessed this from the nervous-dash-eager-to-please reception we received. As at that weekend (mid October) Sayit, the manger was very new management.

The best bits, however were undoubtedly the greasy spicy kofte with a kicking after taste and the crispy, spiced seabass, both accompanied by huge bowls of feta salad. At this point the food reached the rarely achieved level of, so-good -I -forgot-to-take -photos. Which I do appreciate is very unfair on you guys. Sorry. See if you can find yourselves a cruelty to blog readers complain line. (Actually also, post me the number, I want to complain to http://helengraves.co.uk for infrequent posting.) The only moussaka was ordered down at the other end of the table so I never saw it, but I was reliably told it had to be prepared from 7am in the morning.

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The only disappointing thing was the dessert selection. Despite details of their preparation sounding mouthwatering, I did not fancy apple pie or tiramisu after that meal. Maybe deserts aren’t that turkish, but what about Helva and baklava? We asked specifically about baklava and were sent on our way with 2 pieces that we weren’t charged for. Honest, I am sure they didn’t know I was planing to blog about them.

And no one, in a party of twenty had the decency to order imambayildi so that I could taste/oggle it. No gratitude. New friends are on order.

170 Trafalgar Rd, London SE10 9TZ
As at the time of this blog, the online menu is ‘in progress’ following the mangement change.

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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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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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Huge Wagon Wheels of Goats Cheese

A Review of Buenos Ares, Se10.
The cafe NOT the restaurant. (They call themselves a deli, but I don’t mind)

I’m allowed to be selfish, aren’t I? And not tell you about my absolute favourite hangouts so that there will still be room on the sofa when I get there.

I just can’t do it. I feel soooo mean. Buenos Ares cafe (not the restaurant) is the gem I have been keeping from you. Oft times have I sat there next to a table of travelling Europeans bearing a look of, “I wonder just how bad British sandwiches really are…” only to see their eyes light up as one of the open sandwiches strewn with fabulous meat, rocket, and drizzled balsamic and olive oil is delivered to their table.

And the interior is so comfortable. Comfortable and chic and unintimidating, and full of mysterious treasures all at the same time.

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I prefer this view- that has scenes of Argentina.

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To the one of autographed celebs

But both contribute to the cozy atmosphere along eight the stacks of cakes and teas and Argentinian and Prestat delights.

This was the mega brunch we tried most recently. I appreciate this may not the the first thing that comes to mind with the word brunch, but there you go. It makes us happy.

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What can I say? Each and every cheese was a delight in its own right. I didn’t even realise it was possible to find Brie so perfectly ripe in this country (no, neither farmers market or M&S hack it). Manchego, Pecorino and huge wagon wheels of goats cheese – the size that wagon wheels used to be, you know? They weren’t exactly the ones listed on the blackboard, but who’s counting, er, reading. The dish was missing the promised fig pickle, but that would have would have spoilt it.
As always served with far too little bread.

In fact the tip in Buenos Ares is not to be tempted into a platter which has far too much food for most people (we lived of a take away box of the remnants for 3 weeks) but to order the open sandwiches that really are just as rewarding – and come with more bread. Order two and do swapsies if you want the diversity of a platter. Or order two even if you’re alone.

Cakes are equally rewarding, although the offerings never change. At least this means that you can work through the options, without an existential crisis as to the experience that you will never have. Lime and polenta cake and chocolate mandarin cake were our choices this time. They were great, but due to newly demarked cutting lines, were a little on the small side.

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Top Tip: If ordering an enormous cheese platter, followed by cakes, it is recommended that you do not also order sweet drinks. Even thought there are many. There really are many. (And the milk with chocolate bar on the side is great.)

86 Royal Hill
Greenwich
SE10 8RT

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I hope that wasn’t fraudulent procurement of seating.

A review of Plum Tree Cafe,

They kept telling me to go to the Plum Tree cafe for brunch or cake. Then I was confused because others told me to only go to the plum Tree cafe for it’s evening switch to eastern food, which doesn’t appear advertised not the website. But the opportunity that came up was brunch. Our anniversary since you asked.

An eclectic warming interior of partial scaffolding invited us in, but despite a lot of seating… There were no places to sit. We were not allowed in the tree house. It’s that whole height prejudice all over again. Fortunately the Plumtree cafe can boast lovely customers, two of whom let us share their table. This was on the condition that we could confirm that we were nice. I said that we were. I hope that wasn’t fraudulent procurement of seating.

Interior at Plum Tree Cafe

Interior at Plum Tree Cafe

Now you may have noticed that despite being a coffee shop blogger, I am a little precious about some teas… Earl Grey being one. Which I’m sure all you cultivated people know should come without milk. (and don’t put the spoon bak in the sugar after stirring). So I was a little surprised to find myself being stared at in astonishment for ordering a London Fog. (Earl grey, steamed milk and vanilla) it had been so well branded and appetisingly described on the blackboard that the milk plus bergamot (ie citrus!!with milk!! Might curdle!!) combination had completely passed me by. Delicious too, really sort of warm and err… Foggy.

So to brunch- which must always be accompanied by cake if adequate quality is available. Nice menu. Hard to put a interesting twist on brunch sometimes, I think. A form of fry up with Buck’s Fizz doesn’t always justify the title. (Giraffe has some great options). Plumtree’s credentials were confirmed with avocodo on sour dough with lime and rocket. Appetising, refreshing, and dare I say it, healthy (although this adverb is always dependent on which health sect you adhere to.)

Avocado lime on sour dough

Avocado lime on sour dough

A crucial discovery was made on the ordering of this breakfast. As my husband went to pay, a lady holding a bowl of brown contents happened to comment that it was very important that the right ingredients featured in the cake I order to allow it to have the right moisture/crumbly texture. It boded well. We decided to take a long time over breakfast, so that we would be there when the cake had finished its baking.

Pretty interior

Pretty interior

While this initially appeared to be an advantage, it turned out to make cake-decision modelling even more complicated than normal. Normally I write off the chocolate cake early on. This time I was foiled because I knew with what passion it had been prepared. Emergency action was justified. We bought 3 cakes…. one for the road. Really, we had a long journey ahead to our spa hotel in, ahem, just down the A2.

Enjoyed the plum flapjack and both the chocolate cake and the ginger cake were bursting with their own flavours. Which is quite right too. This is what a real cake should do – like a Matisse painting – no pretending that big splash of blue is anything other than joyful unmitigated blue unspoilt by conventions of perspective. Or in this case, ginger. I think it compares.

241 Greenwich High Road, London, SE10 8NB

Matisse worthy cake. Note how it has been carefully cut for Shari g

Matisse worthy cake. Note how it has been carefully cut for Shari g

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“So you want drinks or not?” A Review of Sensuru, Greenwich

So… I asked twitter followers where was worth a dinner visit on the Woolwich Road, and one name came up and one name only Sensuru

To be very specific a high number of names came up but they were all variations of the same place which apparently has changed names a few times.

Seriously I am very interested in knowing what is great in the less celebrated EAST Greenwich before the gloss of the Lifestyle Quarter (with its posters of slim couples who’s hair always floats in a permanent breeze) sweeps it all away.

On a corner with a vivid neon sign, it is hard to miss Sensuru. We slipped in and found it very cosy. I’d actually read that it was ‘first date friendly’. Yes, I can guarantee I was sat discretely, but a rather long way from my husband. so I guess it all depends what sort of ‘first dates’ you guys get up to.

Interior of Sensuru

Interior of Sensuru

Service was hilarious. And it’s not often you can say that. Listen, it’s hard to review service. You winge, and you ruin your own night. I winge in blog form, and it gets you and me into a bad mood. And what sort of service is it that we really want went we winge about the existing service? Glossy upbeat antipodean sunshine? Because let’s face it, that goes hand in hand with chain-like, made on the assembly line food and interiors. Just what is it we want? Do we winge about our mates if they make us dinner and it’s a bit late? Admittedly we don’t pay them for the service, but the night isn’t ruined if they mess up the food.

Why don’t I start with what I got? Three offers of drinks in the space of 3 minutes from 3 different waitresses…. Followed very shortly by an older waitress- possibly the manager or owner saying “so you want drinks or not?” whilst removing the drinks menu and having us usher her back because the previous 3 requests had bullied us into making a snap decision: Japanese tea, sake and water. After this rush of attention, the option to order anything evaporated into the ether. In the end we gave up and we approached a waiter at the bar and asked to order.

So we sound like troublesome customers? I didn’t feel too bad as we were clearly better behaved than the table behind us, that was getting increasingly irate that the staff could not provide him with an iPhone charger as a side to the teriyaki chicken.

Drinks matter to me. Hard or soft stuff. And Japanese restaurants get this right for me. This particular presentation of sake works. That white sphere in the middle is a separate item full of ice. Boring glass though, right?

Sake flask

Sake flask

The Japanese tea came in petite ceramic cups. That’s the main reason for ordering Japanese tea, shortly followed by the fact it just makes you feel warm and healthy.

We’re still yet to be converted to the concept that we should willingly part cash in exchange for sushi (which is cold and only slightly redeemed by wasabi and pickled ginger). I like to go out for a hot meal, so we rushed to the grills section, and the food boxes, with fried bits as starters. Once you were at the grilled section, there were too many nice sounding sauces and bases to be weighed up against each other.

Great tempura bits and nice sauce… Yet again can’t be 100% sure what was within the batter. On occasion prawn, and maybe pumpkin. I am never sure of the motivation behind this combination is cost or err…. health. This recipe can fail with the vegetable making the batter soggy. Here it didn’t.

Tempura

Tempura

More sake. We were offered a top up of tea too, but the waitress didn’t wait for the answer so I never got it.

The grilled beef on garlic and spices was so so and the teriyaki chicken box was better. We put them in the middle of the table and ahead to assist In a more equitable distribution of flavour. As you can see, there is a 3rd dish that has totally escaped my memory. You’ll have to judge its merits on its looks. (Not something I would normally advocate – think of kiwi fruit, for instance).

Rice box and chicken teriyaki

Rice box and chicken teriyaki

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To entertain us throughout the meal, we had the widescreen TV presenting pictures of the meals like a catwalk show. No music though. I am disappointed. I suppose it’s hard to decide what music should accompany the dance of the sashimi.

Sensuru
139 Woolwich Road
Greenwich
SE10 0RG

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Walking and Eating is Bad on Many Many Counts

Thameside food stalls in Greenwich

I would have loved to do my duty by you and checked the food at ALL of the Cutty Sark food stalls (which I believe will reman until the tall ships and their fireworks arrive) but even having cycled to London Bridge on Monday, there was not enough space in my stomach for burgers, Peruvian delights and crepes.

So I settled on the key highlights – selected by smell: fudge (baileys- a decision made easier by the fact that they were packing up and all other good choices were disappearing in front of my eyes), an unnamed tent frying up noodles and garlic prawns, and the lemonade tent.

In genuine street food style, there was no attempt at serving what might constitute a meal (protein carb and veg) so one of us bought garlic prawns and the other the soy noodles. We drank fresh lemonade from the separate lemonade stall for our vegetable whilst sitting on the steps in front of the Cutty Sark. (The attractions of street food aside, walking and eating is bad on many many counts: mess, indigestion, missing our on the actual taste due to doing other stuff, dropping food.) This included ten enormous garlicky prawns that could not be stopped eating and the tastiest savoury noodles ever.

I recommend all three stalls. Get there quick before they close at the end of the week.

The lemonade came stuffed with ice, ginger or mint. Very refreshing- you get flavour in the melted ice. Why did anyone in this country ever use dried mint when the fresh version is so plentiful?

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Promises Seafood and Quaintness, and Cycle Paths, A Review of the Cutty Sark Pub

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A Review of the Cutty Sark Pub, Greenwich

Quite some distance from the actual Cutty Sark tea clipper is the Cutty Sark pub, overlooking the bleaker Thames views (including the O2 but amongst the nautical cottages like a village corner tucked away from the sugar factory and mobile phone factory (and Paul Rhode’s bakery where they do the real actual cooking stuff that appears in their coffee shop). This feels more Dickensian and Whistler-en than the Trafalgar that famously hosted one of Dicken’s character’s weddings. (But did not host my wedding due to the terrible state of it when we came to view the ballroom).

It also promises seafood and quaintness, and cycle paths, and a huge anchor sculpture. Having returned from a holiday in a French fishing village, this was going to be my ‘pretend I am still on holiday’ meal. It was clam linguine advertised on the board outside that closed the deal, sounding like a light lunch that I may or may not precede with lighty battered monk fish cheeks.

The interior is well suited to the exterior. Tastefully reminiscent of all things Georgian and full of bar snacks that looked like canon balls (scotch eggs and pies.) No insult in the words cannon balls in this context.

The menu looked good too. I was pleased to see Billingsgate fish pie. It would have been a terrible oversight to serve fish quite so close to such a famous fish market and not even try. And it sources its bread from Paul Rhode’s bakery, which must save it a fortune in delivery costs. Dressed crab, rock oysters and other fishy specials sat happily next to burgers.

It was just a pity that the food did not remotely live up to the context.

The ‘lightly battered monkfish’ was in layers of batter thicker than the monkfish itself, and as a starter, this grease level detracted from us even desiring a main course. The main courses themselves were not too bad. Posh chicken Kiev with celeriac mash and truffle oil was actually pretty decent which we hoped would make up for the disappointment.

 

Lightly? battered monkfish

Lightly? battered monkfish

But when we got to the desserts, it was the same again. The rhubarb fool arrived unmixed, actually being rhubarb compote with thin layer of cream on top, although the cinnamon crisp went down well. And the enjoyable Bakewell tart arrived with clotted cream instead of the listed clotted cream ice cream. Is that a big deal? Well you tell me. I think it is a big deal in a restaurant that asserts it is passionate about food, because this would have meant that the combinations, textures and hot/cold sensations should have been designed with the ultimate in mind. And while the Cutty Sark Tavern did not make these claims so much as some other culprits, the menu and environment did imply it.

Clotted Cream

Clotted Cream

I have to tell you, this really hurts. Everything about the pub was perfect, except the delivery. Wistful river gazing, half a pint of beer, fireplace (summertime- no idea if it was real) appetising sounding-menu, Georgian authenticity, charming staff.
But food cooked without passion.

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Toys where child is encouraged to bash pegs with a hammer, and a plentiful supply of children

Delicious brownie

Delicious brownie

A review of Pistachios at the Pleasuance, SE10

It seemed a good idea to visit Pistachio’s in the park because the sun was out and there is a lot to love about Pistachio’s: the scruffiness, the profusion of local adds for nannies and personal trainers, and mountains of business cards.

I’m also very taken with the tea towel of 1940 map of Greenwich (also seen in Blackheath Cooks) and actually has my house on it.

Hanging maps of Greenwich/Blackheath

Hanging maps of Greenwich/Blackheath

The clutter of Pistachio’s extends to the noise levels. It was a mistake on my part to take my blackberry in the hope of a change in scenery to dial into a meeting. If you are intending to do the same, you should know that Pistachio’s have the sort of toys where child is encouraged to bash pegs into a piece of wood with a hammer, and a plentiful supply of children to bash them. And yell at the same time. It must be a joyful experience. Bash, then yell. Yell then bash. Who knows perhaps Mozart started the same way. Or maybe just carpenters.

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I have not yet been fired though.

And so to food. It’s 50/50 I’m afraid.

This nut brownie was delicious and melt in the mouth. Something that brownies frequently fail to do. My guess is that it was probably based on finely chopped nuts rather than flour to achieve this.

However the flapjack was an insult to all flapjacks. There is dispute in my household as to whether a flapjack should be a gooey crumble only, or a good crumble offset by a crunch top. This flapjack failed on both levels. It was dry and not even slightly crunchy. Whoever made this flapjack did not care, had no passion and should take up tile making.

Honestly, I do actually like the Pistachio’s experience when without my blackberry. It’s colourful and noisy.

Chevening Rd,
London SE10 0LB
020 8853 4675

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