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.

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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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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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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

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/

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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