#Blogtour Helen And The Grandbees by Alex Morrell @AlexPaintings @Legend_Times_ #HelenAndTheGrandbees

Thanks to today’s reviewer on the blog tour for such a lovely review of “Helen and the Grandbees”

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Helen And The Grandbees by Alex MorrallLegend Times October 28th 2020

The Blurb

Twenty years ago, Helen is forced to give up her newborn baby, Lily. Now living alone in her small flat, there is a knock at the door and her bee, her Lily, is standing in front of her.

Reuniting means the world to them both, but Lily has questions. Lots of them. Questions that Helen is unwilling to answer. In turn Helen watches helplessly as her headstrong daughter launches from relationship to relationship, from kind Andrew, the father of her daughter, to violent Kingsley who fathers her son.

When it’s clear her grandbees are in danger, tangled up in her daughter’s damaging relationship, Helen must find the courage to step in, confronting the fears that haunt her the most.

Told in Helen’s quirky voiceHelen and the Grandbeesaddresses matters of identity, race and mental illness.

My Review

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The First Three Course Amuse Bouche I Have Ever Seen

A review of Gravetye Manor, East Sussex
http://www.gravetyemanor.co.uk

I’m figuring that my weekend away in East Sussex counts as a Blackheath blog review. This is because I live in Blackheath and I want to go on weekends away that are an adequately short drive away from Blackheath, and I’m figuring that my Blackheath and Greenwich readers do too.

Gravetye Manor gave us a very warm welcome, potentially because the hotel was quiet, us arriving 10 minutes before the allowed check in time, although throughout our visit all reception/waiting/cleaning staff offered a cheery hello! We were led through perfumed hallways with woodsmoke and Corot-like oil paintings to our room, which was impressive. Much care and attention had been give to the decor of our standard room, a key feature apparently being textures. Bose speakers and a Nespresso machine were nice touches, along with a mini bar of complementary juices, and cantuccini.

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We’d planned a late lunch by one of the open fires but the sun was actually out (despite the time of year) and we wanted to take a look at The Manor’s advertised gardens in the short period of daytime left. The gardens were beautifully cultivated, taking advantage of differing ground levels and took a good hour of exploration including a sitting on garden benches in the autumn sun overlooking a neat but completely unused croquet lawn.

There is a strong slant on garden food in the hotel’s promotional material and we are pretty sure that our eggs and vegetables were sourced from the walled garden, although there were very few vegetables with any of the meals…

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On return to the hotel, lunch from the garden menu was disappointing. We’d aimed to eat very light (in preparation for the evenings meal ahead), and so ordered eggs and smoked salmon, which basically arrived as a soft boiled egg without salt or pepper and a loaf of salmon. This was a little bit of a let down despite being a fan of eggs and there was so much salmon and yet so little flavour (or veg).

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The cheese as ordered by my husband however was delicious. The size of the portions will take about a year on the cross trainer to remove from my body. And while we had the cheese names listed to us by an eager waiter, it was a bit ‘in one ear and out the other’ as our mouths watered. This was a pity as there was an exceptionally subtle blue cheese and great goats cheese that I will never be able to name for you. We were slightly tricked (haha) into a lunch time wine. I ‘d been holding out for dinner, but was told that their English red wine was light. Why I thought this changed anything about dinner, I don’t know, but It was offered an excuse and I ran with it. Actually it was fabulous. Light and grown up.

There was a bizarre cramped feeling in the living room where we ate lunch, with the main door opening straight onto the only sitting room with an open fire. This was bemusing given there clearly was much more space somewhere in the hotel.

The dinner menu was fantastic.
This is the first three course amuse bouche I have ever eaten:

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However I preferred, the cauliflower and truffle velouté. Very truffley.

Scallops with fennel and vinegar sounded like an unattractively astringent
combination, but arrived very traditionally tasting (and perfectly cooked). Exactly what I ate for mains is a little bit up for debate because it was venison cooked in the way that the hare would have been if they had not run out of hare. With the exception of a small pastry slice (‘the chicory tart’ I assume) which bought an unwanted extra oiliness to the dish, the meal was excellent. The slices of venison being beautifully cooked and tender, and whatever constituted the meat ball delicately spiced.

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As with all restaurants the waiters offered still or sparkling water. But if you paused, they would then add, or there is the local spring water. The mark up on still and sparkling water was so great that they were hiding their own local speciality. This was beneath them, I think.

We especially asked if we should order side orders, because if the dishes came with enough sides, we might not be able to eat dessert. Terrible! It was advised for my husband’s Brill so we ordered dauphinoise which the waiter said would easily share between 2 dishes. Check out the pretty tiny saucepan in the picture. That’s what was to be shared between two. Fortunately, this wasn’t especially necessary because here meals were perfectly balanced.

The dessert of hazelnut creme brûlée, chestnut canele, walnut crumble and dark chocolate was good, but a little samey by the end which is odd given the effort for diverse flavours.

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We went for coffee and petit fours by the fire. This was the meanest selection of petit fours I have ever seen.

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So, back to the room, and The water pressure and shower were great and there was a heated floor. Woohoo at for heated floors. These should be in planning instructions for the building of everything, even carparks. (Maybe not tube stations).

But hanging a news paper in a pretty straw sack on the door handle might look sophisticated, but it does wake you up at 6am and what I never ever want at a weekend away is to be woken up at 6am.

Breakfast service lacked a little panache with dirty plates left unremoved, and bizarrely undercooked poached eggs (Gravetye does not honour eggs. I suppose no one is perfect), however it did retain its charm. One area for improvement is the communication of how the breakfast menu works. I am acquainted with the free for all buffet, or the free for all a la carte (yes really) or the choice between continental versus full English options. Here everything was listed out with out any clear guidance on what choice fitted their expectations. This was a pity, as you might have chosen fruit and yogurt, but it turned out that fruit and yogurt were both starters, and you could only chose one. The cooked breakfast was considered the main course which sounded intimidatingly heavy, but was in fact presented with the same elegance as dinner and in similar petite portions. A nice twist was the lambs liver. And frankly, after that, we just asked for a mini pain or raisin and a pot of coffee, which was delivered without a second glance.

Staff, even cleaners, make the effort to be friendly, unlike some hotels we have been to where reception is shall we say point-scoring? Attention to detail and quality is mostly very high. No one ever asked for our room or our name. Or maybe we had been marked down as troublesome customers once we had ordered the spring water.

Car journey from Blackheath: 1.5hours
Room Rates: £250-325 for standard room
Nearby attraction: the Bluebell Railway (that is steam trains!)
http://www.bluebell-railway.com
The Horsted Keynes station is preserved as it may have looked in Victorian age,with the exception of the credit card machine. Unfortunately trains are not too frequent but a bit of an explore will find you a roaring open fire in the waiting room. In the cafe you can buy a sausage roll or a hot chocolate, AND PREPACKED FLAPJACK. I think I have made my thoughts clear. We took the railway to East Grinstead where we found an equal dearth of coffee shops, but did buy Lyonaise sausage from the local maket. Which was odd. Has anyone else tried this?

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Yes I do want a cobra

A review of eating at the Royal Nepalese, Westcombe Park

Now you might have noticed that I don’t review a lot of takeaways on this blog. This is partially because often by the time I grab a takeaway (rather than cook) I am pretty fed up and not really ready to voice opinion beyond, ‘smells great’, ‘yes I do want a cobra,’ and ‘we should have bought ice cream, shouldn’t we?’. In fact, the only curry I have ever reviewed on here was Everest Inn – and even then I felt out of my depth. The fact is, I eat more cake than curry. Even as I say that, I’m not sure that I wouldn’t happily rebalance the divide.

However I have to say that after a little trawling through the local curry shops, I have landed on a place that I can whole-heartedly recommend Royal Nepalese near Westcombe Park Station.

I have found that it is easy to find a blast your ears out curry; and easy to find an elegantly perfumed curry, but not easy to find one that quite achieves a good kick of hot, whilst being backed up with genuine depth of flavour.

We ordered..Lamb Gorkhali (coriander, mint, green chilli and yogurt) described as ‘hot’ and throughout the meal as ‘that green stuff’. We used it to supplement the other dishes with heat. My favourite flavour in the whole meal.
Vegetable jalfrezi, (ordered for the vegetable part … to justify the cream and butter.)
Royal Mismass Karahi, which despite being described as medium heat, did not compare to the Gorkhali
And well spotted, that was 3 dishes between 2 people. This didn’t prevent us ordering naan and basmati rice. Sometimes I am a bit cynical about naan, that it is just extra stodgy, but this naan was excellent, strangely dry and reminiscent of a good pastry.
Service was quick and smart. I watched stuff on iplayer at the same time as eating. I should have bought ice cream, though.

As an aside, if you love curry as much as me, but also prefer to cook, or watch the waistline, I can totally recommend Jamie Oliver’s curry paste recipes, that I normally fry up if I have left over coriander and freeze to be mixed up quickly with whatever I fancy later down the line. They are not quite Royal Nepalese, but they are certainly enjoyable.

Just because I don’t like his Italian, doesn’t mean that I dont’t have anything nice to say about him. I’m a balanced blogger, me.

http://www.royalnepalese.com
2-4 station crescent
Blackheath, London
SE3 7EQ
tel:(0208)269 0505/ (0208)269 0553
email:info@royalnepalese.com

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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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/

Not Missing Anything is an Achievement

A review of Tzigano’s, SE3

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

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

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

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

it.

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Ham and cheese arancini

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

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Three fabulous delights

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

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Italian delights

17 Montpelier Vale, London
020 8852 9226

Trying to keep fit and eating cake

A review of Rhubarb, the cafe at the Glass Mill gym, Lewisham

I never expected to review a cafe in a gym. A gym cafe always felt like a slight upgrade from the vending machine back when I had swimming lessons. (I was never ever allowed anything from the vending machine.)

Rhubarb though is a real surprise, one sleek corner of the light bright reception of the Glass Mill Swimming Pool, with a counter piled with cake. My advice? Don’t touch the flapjack. It looks good and is sitting next to a brownie, which always helps because in the effort to choose between traybakes, you find yourself imagining good flapjack in your mouth. Do this at Rhubarb, and you will be disappointed. Sorry Rhubarb, the truth hurts.

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I don’t think that this will cause too much concern. The Earl agree tea loaf is excellent. The lemon and blueberry cake melts in the mouth, soft and crumbly and neither too acidic or too sweet. And the other cake options look just great- all the traditional list blooming with a bakery haze. The blackboard says that they had baked all the cakes on site. Where did they find this baker and how did they convince them to work in a swimming pool?

It took us ages to identify the breakfast menu, but it is there and it is not tack. I’ll be honest, having to find the menu amidst the burger filled (and cake) menu in a GYM, and seeing only oats-so-simple with 25% sugar (people do know that oats are simple even when they come out of a sack, right?) led me to expect microwaved bacon and cheese rolls. I was judging harshly. Thick cut white or wholemeal bread swamped in mushrooms and herbed scrambled egg arrived on our place. We’ve even gone so far as to ask if they will do poached eggs (like i said, this is a health suite) So far we’ve been refused.

Tea pigs darjeeling Earl grey in a pot with a glass, was very refreshing. Which is strange, because I seem to remember being quite mean about it at Giraffe. sorry Teapigs, we should chat and make up over a cuppa.

Is it newness? It might be, but I have to say that the bright daylight lit interior with neon pops of colour is wonderfully clean. Which is more than can be said of the changing rooms later in the day… But I am veering dangerously off piste. I’d tell you about the swimming pool, or justify my food choices after a swim but that would take this blog toooo far from it’s titled home. I’d have to start reviewing computer hardware next.<

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

A review of the Village Deli, Blackheath SE3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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