Cliffs of Pork Belly – A Review of Venice Restaurant in Blackheath

A Review of Venice, Italian Restaurant in Blackheath.

I was drinking peppermint tea in The Railway pub when I thought to myself: I’d like to visit Venice tonight. Now please don’t make the mistake that I made with fellow tweeters of thinking that I mean the second most cannalled city in Europoe (the first being Birmingham. No really. Google it), a mistake so unfortunate it read like a bad joke and attracted a number of “boom booms”… I mean the new Italian restaurant that replaced the other new Italian restaurant, that replaced the Indian, that replaced the Tibetan which replaced Flame Bar… Which I believe (before my time) replaced a Natwest bank. (I may have missed some steps here).

Venice was pretty empty. We sat alone amongst the plastic vines desceding from the ceiling. The courses were generously sized. We started with sardines to share…. Of which came 4- nicely mariantated and quite impressive, and made us wonder what was yet to come.

Sardines

Sardines

Venice Interior

Venice Interior

Which was cliffs of pork belly. I do mean cliffs. Take a look.

Pork belly at Venice

Pork belly at Venice

And I would like to add that it was poor perspective on the iPhone that makes the accompanying veg and potatoes look vaguely relative in size. Still, unlike your average penny-squeezing bistro, the sides came free with the mains.

I chose king prawns in spaghetti with chilli and basil. Hard to get wrong, right? Some bright fresh ingredients that are guaranteed to taste good… Or in the case of Venice taste really really bland. Ok I fished out a chilli, so unless it was disguised horse meat all of the key ingredients technically featured in the dish. But they did not taste of anything. Not even garlic. In fact, after sampling the pork belly which was rich with garlic and rosemary, I couldn’t really face returning to the pasta. It felt like a waste of calories if you know what I mean…

Prawns, basil, Chilli

Prawns, basil, Chilli

So the verdict on the mains is really rather confused: excellent and dull at the same time. I was chided by the waitress for explaining my feeling on the prawns on invitation, rather than before I had finished.

Now I do like Italian desserts. One of my issues with the recent branding of Pizza Express is that it neglects the Italian dessert menu. There were some tempting offerings on the Venice menu, and I spent a while deciding between cannolo and cassata, only to be told they were both out of stock. So was Tartuffe. We were left with profiteroles, tart tatin and treacle sponge. We…ll at least the first 2 were from the same land mass as Italy. (Although not Sicily where most of the desserts were actually intended to originate from.) Fortunately we were rescued from just having an amaretto shot at home by spotting semi-freddo, but it wasn’t really what we’d had in mind.

Semi Freddo

Semi Freddo

Service was very friendly, although an inability in to wipe the table after it was pointed out that the dessert menus had landed in gravy was a little cringe-worthy. Does anyone else feel uptight about dessert when they know that forks, elbows and fingers are centimetres from landing in gravy? The pizza man was also very helpful, he was dressed for cooking, rather than waiting and looked a little apprehensive when he noticed we were searching for a coffee when he was the only member of staff left- but met the challenge abley and charmingly, delivering a bitter and rich blend that we much enjoyed.

1-3 Lee Road, SE3 9RQ

Rivington Bar&Grill, Greenwich

A Review of Rivington Bar & Grill

The problem with really fresh orange juice is that after decades of concentrate from the fridge, I am conditioned to enjoy it only cold. This is unfortunate, because the type of orange juice where a couple of oranges are tossed into a machine in front of your eyes is usually lukewarm and disappointing when it really shouldn’t have to be. I suppose it is a good thing that we weren’t conditioned to this flavour too. Although life in the 2000’s might have been cheaper.

Very pretty atmosphere - ordering at the Rivington Bar and Grill

Very pretty atmosphere – ordering at the Rivington Bar and Grill

I asked simply for an orange juice as I sat down at the Rivington Bar and Grill and it’s been a long time since such a casual request yielded the real thing. But they met the mark did the Rivington B$G they did, in all their toilet seat lukewarmedness.

The atmosphere was pleasant, all the ingredients for an elegant supper were there… And a few besides: A TV? Rowdy party of diners above? And children? (Ok I suppose children have to eat too) Except for the presence of the TV we could call this tolerance. I should buy some.

 

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And the ‘real thing’ just kept on coming to the table, as the bread course was proper sour dough, something I am a real fan of. Isn’t sour dough great?

As always the starter menu looked more appetising than the mains. We ordered egg Colcannon, despite my post-tzigano’s egg cynicism. I am a fan of modern twists on traditional food. This dish was a wise choice as the generous portion lived up in every way to how a modern interpretation of an old classic should do:. The recipe was going for mix of textures- the crunch of sparky high notes added by spring onions and chives, saturated in fresh yolk.

I was a bit disappointed with the definition of blackface haggis. Now I expected this to be black-face sheep (and later research has confirmed this to be true), however on questioning the waitress enliven this to mean it was ‘Scottish black pudding’. We gave her a cynical look. she didn’t budge. We looked at each other, and decided that despite our suspicions, the thought of a main course of pigs blood was too horrible to consider, even if it came with neeps and scallops. We opted instead for the whole sea bass.

We should have ordered one sea bass between two. Because a whole sea bass is no small fry. Instead we ordered one of each, and a side order of bubble and squeak and greens.

Sea  Bass at Rivington Bar and Grill

Sea Bass at Rivington Bar and Grill

Silence ensued as we forked out way through endless soft flakes of white fish flesh. Simple capers added a rewarding zing. Yes it was good and so were the sides- more of the traditional stars.

To my distress, we had to pull away from the dessert menu, as dessert had been arranged at a secret London Bridge location that let us down by being closed for refurbishment, but that’s another story…

Rivington Bar & Grill, 178 Greenwich High Road

“It’s all going to be ok… I don’t face a moral dilemma”, a review of the Age Exchange, Blackheath

A Review of The Age Exchange, A Reminiscence Centre (with a cafe) Blackheath SE3

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It’s all going to be ok… I don’t face a moral dilemma. I’m not going to have to lie in order to avoid destroying a charity’s reputation. I was attracted to the Age Exchange Reminiscence Centre by the glassy light interior, recently installed following a well publicised refurbishment. I ran in to sit at the atrium at the back, only to realise I’d missed the leather seated, book-shelved (fake) stoved area. So I went back. How cool is that? The reminiscence centre offers cosy retro for winter, and modern glassiness for summer. I’d never imagined that calling it the Age Exchange was a reference to the interior.

Glassy atrium at the Age Exchange

Glassy atrium at the Age Exchange

Both Interiors - compare and contrast

Both Interiors – compare and contrast

Guaranteed, this makes the Age Exchange one of the top Blackheath coffee shop listings for comfortable interiors. For that reason I would go back. Often.

And look at the dinky lovely toys all over the place. Miniature tea sets. I always wanted one of these.

I started young on this coffee shop mentality.

Retro toys at the Reminiscence centre

Retro toys at the Reminiscence centre

20121224-171201.jpgWhich all leaves me morally free to tell you the truth about the coffee.

It was dire. This was despite the presumably ornamental coffee bean machine on the top of it. How can it be possible to order a cappuccino and find black coffee under the froth? And do those machines use fake milk? After the coffee flavour, milk and consistency, is there anything left to grade about a cappuccino?

Fake stove

Fake stove

One of the exciting thing about the Age Exchange is the library downstairs. It’s a real live (a little little) library, forced out of its original home opposite the Post Office and rescued by some die hard campaigners (I do wish they’d rescued the room occasionally used for exhibitions. Us local artists are now bereft.)

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The cake selection is very slight and could be added to, but satisfactory. We ate lemon cake. It was priced at £2 a slice, which means the re-vamped location has seen a 200% price rise, but this is still way ahead of the local competition.

I couldn’t tell if the staff thought we weren’t really supposed to be there but it didn’t say the ‘old exchange’ and my husband is getting on a bit. He spent the visit eyeing up the toasting forks. We needed something to cook marshmallows on our own smokeless fuel, and they can’t be much use on the fake stove. But we decided that stealing toasting forks from coffee shops (not to mention ones run by charities) is bad.

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Address The Reminiscence Centre
11 Blackheath Village
London SE3 9LA
Telephone 020 8318 9105

“Sadly for me La Salumeria does not consider it’s remit to bake cakes” a review of La Salumeria, Greenwich

A Review of La Salumeria, Greenwich Italian Deli SE10.

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It’s winter and we’ve decided that La Salumeria the Italian deli on the Woolwich Road needs heated floors and a foot rest. Anyone want to run with that idea in a coffee shop anywhere? It’d be a close competition behind an open fire. Are there any open fire establishments in Blackheath/Greenwich? Please advise in the comments box.

Anyway, that aside (and we can’t really hold it against them when no one else offers this service)…

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Sadly for me La Salumeria does not consider it’s remit to bake cakes. Not too unreasonable: No bakery. And after all, just look at this selection. Do you blame them?

Deli selection at La Salumeria

Deli selection at La Salumeria

Nonetheless, my visit was too early for savoury food and there are frequently a number of modest looking tray bakes there. There is always spogliatelle (which I always thought were called lobster tails, can anyone enlighten me?) I went instead for ‘the tray bake with coconut on’. Result! I was advised it contained white chocolate, which sold it to me. But the impressive feature was crispness of the extremely delicate pastry leaves, with not a hint of sogginess in sight/taste.

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Can I confess I went for a hot chocolate rather than a coffee? It was a cold day and that boosts the sugar cravings. If they’d wanted me to rate the coffee (which from recollection, is good) they needed to supply heated floorboards to reduce hot chocolate desire. It was an exceedingly fine hot chocolate- no pretensions (unless you count the glass cup).


I am being kind of mean to La Salumeria. This deli started as a shop that also sold cappuccinos…. The seats were added later, so they are simple, nestled amongst the black and white posters of tourist Italy. But I love them. In reality La Salumeria is a treasure trove of store cupboard delicacies. Waitrose pasta selection be shamed… Nothing in Jamie Oliver can beat me now...

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Treasure Trove of everything

Treasure Trove of everything

Address: 184 Trafalgar Road, London SE10 9TZ
Phone:020 8305 2433

Did you enjoy that? The waiter asked. He mocked us.

A Review of Barbecoa, restaurant in New Change, the City of London, London

http://www.barbecoa.com/

(No… it’s not South East London, but it’s easily accessible via South Eastern to Cannon Street (south Eastern dependent) so go out and be adventurous.)

It all began with the bread course. This dish definitely deserved the word ‘course’. We had a four course meal, the first course was bread. Three breads to be exact. The first we were told was a naan, but it was like a pancake with sesame seeds. It was lovely, you know, in the way only warm pancakes can be. The malted bread had a solid sweet crust; and the ciabatta was toasted in a robust olive oil. I am sure toasted, not fried, strange as that sounds.

Many exciting flavours of bread

Many exciting flavours of bread

The butter came with salt crystals… Well ok, salt crystals aren’t actually all that practical, but this bread course was about the visuals, sparkling gems scattered on the creamy yellow butter. Mmm creamy yellow butter.

Did you enjoy that? The waiter asked. He mocked us. He laughed at his own joke before we could answer. How could anyone not enjoy it? And we did eat it rather quickly.

My mandarin fizz was lovely, the Campari rounding off the otherwise sharp citrus flavour; but I should have had this as an aperitif; it was not so great with food. I switched to a Rioja. Smoothest I’ve ever tasted.

Nice for starters

Nice for starters

Starters (the course that comes after the bread course) are definitely more interesting than the mains, but it was the piccalilli that pulled me to the shredded pigs ear… Oops, I mean cheek. I had reservations. I shouldn’t have. Piccalilli perfection- just the right spiciness, the right saltiness of pork shredded into a cake.

mmm

mmm

The Calamari and avocado (not guacamole, avocado you know) was good too.

Incredible Calamari

Anxious to finish off the rest of the pig (ok, actually I was embarrassed to have pork  for both starter and main) I overlooked the various impressive sounding steaks. More often than not, I like something a little more tangy, so the pork featured again. Coleslaw and shredded pork in BBQ sauce (wooweee) and market salad and about 2 chips in duck fat. Two chips was all I could squeeze in and there were better things than chips on the table. Coriander was the ultimate fresh garnish on this flavour feast. Oh, it was so good I came over all alliterative. Market salad is another one of those dishes with a name that just don’t sell it, but was replete with all kinds of fresh leaves and herbs and uncluttered with dressing.

JO Pork Waffle coleslaw

(Incidentally, the dish working so well with coleslaw reminded me of a recipe on the excellent and exciting food stories blog which I have tried to reproduce, got a stomach bug and had to watch my guests tucking in happily with the homemade caraway bread as I held my stomach soulfully and spent the next 4 days losing half a stone).

The interior of Barbecoa seems to have been carefully considered at the architectural point before any restaurant occupied it.  St Paul’s Cathedral is visible from almost every side. From the main shopping centre a pathway hides customers from potential customers. Draped sliced black cylinders hang from the ceiling and there is one of those endless wine racks that you always wish your dining room wall slash house is big enough to accommodate.

Wine Racks

Dessert? we had to. The first mouthful passion fruit brought with it a Pavlovian disappointment after the would-be-lemon tarts at Mara’s ; but that memory faded as the creamy really genuinely cheesy substance inside kicked in, and then the gooey base. Yes- gooey base. Own up who eats cheese cake for the base, well… A normal base in this cheesecake would have been pipped by the exceptionally cheesy cheese part, but in reality the cheese was pipped again by the base. The caramelising of the pineapple took the edge of what can otherwise be a leetle bit of a hyperactive pineapple taste. And those white scoops nestling on top weren’t ice cream. They were white chocolate swirls.

White Chocoloate Cheesecake

The Other Dessert

The Other Dessert

Please I can’t eat anymore. But I have to.

JO BBQ

20 New Change Passage, City of London, Greater London, EC4M 9AG

“I found myself gazing enviously at the plates of the competition” Review of Bella Vista, Blackheath

A Review of Bella Vista, Italian restaurant in Blackheath, London SE3

A sophisticated looking glass of coke modelling the Bella Vista Interior.

Where do you stand on ordering food where you do not understand every word on the menu? I don’t normally let this bother me, but we found ourselves giving the waitress at Bella Vista the third degree on the meaning of Chicken Involtini. After much intense study of a largely Italian menu, she was stood patiently as we gradually, over the course of half and hour, rejected that option.

(We think it means Kiev, by the way, but Involtini sounds so much nicer.)

But I had one major objective at Bella Vista and one only. On our last visit I had found myself gazing enviously at the plates of the competition – er, I mean other diners, who were eating arty pasta dishes, with the accompaniment draped elegantly across the pasta, rather than stirred in. It looked great. Surely it would also taste great. I wanted to know what such an exciting work of art would taste like. I really had to study and understand it, the Mona Lisa of the food world.

I focussed. I forced myself to ignore all the other dishes (they were calling out to me). I eventually dived for Paccheri Amatriciana. After all, it featured words ‘giant pasta’ and ‘pancetta and pecorino’ and I have a strange compulsion to order pasta with a balance of meat, vegetable and cheese to maximise enjoyment potential. Also pecorino is pretty fab.

Here is a picture.

Lovely stringy pecorino

Lovely stringy pecorino at Bella Vista, Blackheath

Now, this is lovely stringly chewy exciting and with inch sized cubes of pancetta … but not visually brilliant… Not in the way that the competing diner’s dinners were anyway. I could have eaten Involtini, or fish grill.

The fish grill of a competitor diner

Next time I call ahead.

As an aside, I ordered a Gorgonzola, parma ham and figs for a starter. Cheese and figs. Is there anything I can add? In their efforts not to overdress food, the Italians wouldn’t have added a thing. Well, except for the parma ham, and the rocket, umm… and the olive oil..

I’d also recommend frito misto, a fantastic alternative to just plain white bait.

There is much on line about how Bella Vista is authentic home Italian cooking. I have only once experienced home Italian cooking, about 5 years ago, and I only remember the cantuccini and trying to work out the recipe in translated Italian. So I can’t really vouch for this. I could however believe it. The food and menu are actively exciting, albeit not kind to non-Italian speakers. The frito misto is a great twist on just plain whitebait with lemon and salt. Instead of a bread dish, we received yellow fococcia drizzled in oil, compliments of the chef. I’ll hear none of your ‘jumped up bread wrapped up in words to pretend it’s something special’ lines, thank you very much. The focaccia had an advantage for being served warm but it was light and not a smidgen too oily. It was shaming really, much better than my personal foccacia attempts.

Good Foccacia at Bella Vista

The interior is sophisticated. The addition of campari bottles stacked up upon one another does not assist when I am not a lunchtime drinker.

We moved to Boulangerie Jade for dessert, and had the traditional lemon and chocolate tarts, as previously reviewed. The staff were suitably icy. This balanced out the pleasantness of the staff at Bella vista.

Back at Boulangerie Jade for dessert

Bella Vista Cucina Italiana Restaurant , 3/5 Montpelier Vale, Blackheath SE3 0TA

“The burger was brilliant, really really burgery” a review of Chapters All Day Dining, Blackheath

A Review of Chapters All day Dining, SE3

I really want to hate Chapters All Day Dining. I want to hate it because of its mass self-publicisation in the local free glossies. I want to hate it because on a Saturday evening it is full of fake tans, big zirconas and bleached hair posies who manage to make champagne look tacky.

I nearly really did hate it, because of its really unjust bread policy. Everyone around us was offered warm baked bread except for us. And this is not the first time. We cannot work out why we consistently fail to meet the deserving to be given bread when we have ordered.

So the food has yet to come, but I am well on track to achieve hatred of Chapters (with the exception of a good glass of grapefruit juice), and all my plans collapse into failure after the first chip. The first chip was undercooked… glee! But the burger was brilliant, really really burgery, and so were the rest of the chips and rocket and parmesan salad.

And the dessert list is irrestistable. Often, at chapters, it is resistable just to prevent the death by desesrt experience. However it really does call you in. I struggled between Lemon Posset with Pistachio shortbread, and cherries in the right corner, and sticky toffee pudding with apple sorbet and pecan crunch in the left corner. I chose the latter. A rare choice for me actually. Pity they served it with creamy ice cream instead of apple sorbet. So after much deliberating as to why it wasn’t as quirky as expected and re-consulting the menu, we sent it back and got it back much smaller… and much later.. we think they must have run over to Black Vanilla to top up.

This was an unfortunate mistake, but I have to note that they were impossibly apologetic and helpful about restoring the billed item to its intended glory.

Ok, I’m a coffee blogger, I should talk about the coffee. Rating here is five out of five – a very strong coconut undercurrent, managing to be flavoursome without being over bearing or stomach emptying. Fabulously stiff foam on both the cappuccino and the machiatto and a pleasant absence of chocolate sprinkled on top. That is a little naughty on their part – many people’s definition of a cappuccino includes the chocolate, but we both prefer without. And great leaves. Even in the tiny macchiate. Now how do you do that?

I have one complaint (after they dealt so helpfully with my other complaints). This isn’t all day dining. We came in at 2pm and were given a brunch menu. The substance of which was serious DINNER food, steaks, duck confit etc. Maybe I am supposed to know this from the use of the word dining, but it is not quite the view that is conjured up by the title.There was the odd brunch type thing on the starter menu, but there was nothing in the following all day kind of categories of brunch, tea, lunch, light bites. Many restaurants don’t, but they are not called all day dining.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not asking for sandwiches, or ciabatta… believe me I really am not. But given the celebrated inventiveness of the institution, could we not have some quirky ‘light bites’. I think even soup of the day to come with bread of the day; more inventive charcuterie dishes.. Le Pain Quotidien manage a good selection if you are looking.

Strangely, while they never featured on the menu, there was a tray of fresh scones and unusual tray bakes on the bar. Perhaps they were only for the people who qualified for bread.

The coffeeshop blogger may have to take her leave a little of the coming months. She has made the most of the summer (it started so late, and died so young) and is now skint and more than a little chubby.

Chapters All Day Dining

43-45 Montpelier Vale
Blackheath Village
London
SE3 OTJ

 

L’Artisan Greenwich Review: “Does what it says on the cover: A Craftsman of food”

A Review of L’Artisan Delicatessen , Greenwich SE10

Imagine piles chocolates and biscuits; meringues and croissants and tarts and different iced cakes.

Ok stop now and listen to what I am saying.

Responding emotionally to plenty is a reaction designed for survival, right? And Tesco’s and Paul Rhode’s Bakery (and a few other venues on the food-selling spectrum) know how to hit that button hard – the shelves replete with diversity and colour. Other restaurants go for plush interiors.

Don’t pretend you’ve never used that ‘nice toilets’ line on a night out.

So I’m going to ask you to put a check on that gut reaction. It would be too easy to dismiss the humble interior of L’Artisan: 3 small red gingham-clothed tables, and some shelves and a fridge. The location is a walk away from tourist Greenwich, hovering uncomfortably east of the (gasp) university and in the section that seems to be competing gambling shops and genuine African or Asian dishes (which I shall be investigating on your behalf).

Dismissing L’Artisan for these reasons would be a mistake.

The view from inside L’Artisan Greenwich

L’Artisan values food. To be specific, it values the food experience. On a very dreary afternoon, we visited, chose something simple, (because we thought this was just a coffee shop) and in response the owner (let’s call him L’Artisan) responded by kicking the door stop out the way to block out the busy road, neatly laying cutlery and a napkin and turning on the classical music. We got the message: Food is an important experience; don’t take a single bite without relishing it even without flash surroundings.

On our second visit, we ordered Quiche with Salad. Perhaps like me, you wonder what the big deal is about quiche. It reminds me of cold weddings in village halls, alongside the winter salad. I have had good quiche lorraines from some of the chain French delis, but while nice they can be little laden with oil. At L’Artisan, the quiche was perfect. Fabulously flavoured with leek and ham and so very light. Served with due care sprinkled with olive oil and black pepper, due attention ascribed to the detail.

The side salads were excellent. My husband raved about the spiced beetroot with herbs. I enjoyed the pickled cabbage.

We finished with a very generously sized lemon drizzle cake. Again, not a heavy cake which lemon drizzles often can be.

They asked, can we get you anything else? They weren’t up-selling. They just thought we might like a glass of tap water to rehydrate after our coffee. Like I said, attentive.

Plat du Jour at L’Artisan

Beautiful pear tarts came out of the kitchen as we went to pay and leave. Are these what you serve in the afternoon, I asked the owner. No, I was told. He proudly runs out of food throughout the day. The batch was arriving now, because everything is cooked on the premises and cannot be supplied to demand. He does fresh soup every day and a different Plat du Jour for takeaway with salad… I quietly wished to myself that I worked next door to L’Artisan.

The deli shelves offer the kind of things you always used to find in a French Hypermarche. The deli shelves offer the kind of things you always used to find in a French Hypermarche – don’t you just love those little spongy biscuits that used to come with a fruit or chocolate filling? And what was with those rich looking bottles of Syrop? They don’t just have Kia Ora on the continent, you know.

There are no pretensions here, behind us was a jar of alphabetti spaghetti (albeit dried and without tomato sauce). And the fridge was largely empty. I honestly don’t know if this was just because they sold out, or if this was all they were able to offer today thank you very much – but it lent to the assurance that whatever was still in the fridge it was made with the highest love.

A shelf of cheese that puts supermarket selections to shame. (Although I came over all English and skipped the unpasteurised offerings.)

And you kind of think – ok, no amuse bouche (would be odd in a deli) but L’Artisan has taken pride in his work down to the last detail, and looked after you as well as in any flash restaurant.

Seriously, these people are doing something special here. Really quite special. If there is any justice in the world I would say they are going far.

If you want to make the most of a visit to L’Artisan, we also visited the quirky Green Parrot Gallery, (opposite the auction house) and it’s not far from the North East corner of Greenwich Park. A few shops closer to central Greenwich is the unbelievably helpful Theatre of Wine.

L’Artisan 93 Trafalgar Road, London, SE10 9TS Phone: 020 8858 0918

Sipping coffee amongst actual live flowers

A review of Hooper and Palmer’s, in Westcombe Park, Greenwich/Blackheath

Now as well as considering some of the most enjoyable things about life: food, coffee, bossing you lot about as to where and how to eat, it’s worth remembering the even finer things in life when caught up in city living, like for example, nature. And to be specific – flowers.

Manufactured scents are all too unavoidable these days, even if like me you are not one for airfresheners. As a general guideline, any smell named after a celebrity and adorned with copious airbrushing should be added to the ‘processed’ list. So, it was a real delight to sit sipping coffee amongst actual live flowers at Hoppers & Palmer some months ago.

So nice was the experience that I decided to return to write up an accurate blog about the place and take some delightful iPhone pictures of the light room full of flowers. So at 4pm on a Sunny afternoon I tripped over there to find this:

Hooper and Palmer

Well, maybe they close at 4pm, I thought to myself, so the other day I went over at a much more civilised hour to find:

Still says Closed, but a bit smaller this time

This time I was with my man who had noted that he has tried to buy me flowers from there (everyone say ‘ah’) on Saturday to find that it was:

Hooper and Palmer

(OK, that photo was recycled)
This is a pity, because they are the icing on the cake of this otherwise rather dull corner of Westcombe Park (not counting pistachios in the park… I am coming back to you) . But haven’t they ever heard of STAFF? You can get them; Supply is said to outstrip demand these days.
Well from memory it was like this, and if you are ever wanting to take the gamble, the place is nice. (although the bit behind the mini wall in the middle of the shop is private, doesn’t say so, but the staff will bark at you if you cross it). We loved (in winter time) the stirrers for turning your hot milk into hot chocolate. Please don’t confuse these with milk chocolate stirrers; they were designed to merge with the milk to create hot chocolate. These were –something else, and not in the nostalgia over lollipops sort of way, but in the comforting oozing best way to enjoy chocolate sort of a way. Spanish stand your spoon in cocoa eat your heart out.

There seemed to be a good selection of teas. I really must write that blog about my general opinion on teas types and brands so that I can introduce jargon that you can all refer back.

Selection of cakes is small, but of quality. Good Flapjack and brownies are of the suitably high standard required of Blackheath.

Hooper and Palmer, 113 Humber Road, Blackheath London, SE3 7LW

Fried Carbs. Hot Fried Carbs. Hot Fried Carbs in sugar.

A Review of San Miguel restaurant and tapas bar, Greenwich SE10

Question is, would I ever have visited San Miguel if the San Miguel Twitterer had not challenged my lunch choice of cold mussels? A choice by which I still stand, you should know.

I might not have, because San Miguel is based in the heart of the Greenwich where the students and funky shoe shops make it all just so colourful, that the duly colourful Spanish bar doesn’t quite stand out. But their website told me they cooked homemade tapas, and churros… so I was going to find search them out.

San Miguel feels authentic. Partially because it is unashamably Spanish, being full of genuine Spanish articles that seemed such wonderful exotic holiday keepsakes for our parent’s sideboards in the 70’s; and partially because it was full of Spanish speakers – staff and guests. I was impressed, if not to say slightly intimidated. I came to sound off about whether I enjoyed lunch, and now I have to concede that my personal opinions might just not be Spanish enough.

Paella was an option on the menu, but so was Tapas. And tapas is a wonderful thing. It means that you can (1) not make up your mind from the menu and have everything, and (2) (where all tapas dishes are the same price) pick all of the meat rich ones. This is a clever thing to do because restaurateur had priced in the assumption that you would have some vegetable dishes, so you can feel smug that you got good value for money (albeit slightly bloated).

Mmmmm… (one on the bottom right is spinach scramble).

I was floored at San Miguel: (1) The menu was so extensive that had to get our iphones out and make a shortlist in order to knock some of the options off; and (2) Not all tapas dishes at San Miguel were the same price.

But the food, atmosphere and service were so good, I forgave them.

Fabulous and undersold on the menu was the spinach and mushroom scramble “revuelto de Espinacas”. Does that sound appetising to you? We ordered it because we thought we should order some vegetables. The scrambled eggs with spinach and mushroom, however had another depth of flavour altogether – coconut…? This was the dish we saved till last… even after the flaming chorizo.

Hmmm, flaming chorizo. A great Spanish food now with a slightly caramelised coating (thanks to the flaming.) Look real flames (hadn’t expected that from the menu description either.)

Makes a slightly caramelised outside to one of Spain’s best ingrediants

We also chose scallops. Don’t often see those on a tapas menu so even though I am getting slightly irritated by every Michelin-wannabe plonking pan-sear-fried-diver-caught scallops on their over-written menus. Scallops are great, but they are easily described with one word and do not make a chef great. (I’ve cooked scallops; that says it all). However, back to San Miguel: Scallops wrapped in bacon; no pretentions; great.

The staff were actually lovely, all of them, not a single gripe; risking burning so that we could photograph flaming chorizo; piling their arms with more dishes than I was trained for silver service and allowing us to eat churros even in the day time (and why not?)

Oh yes… churros. I hadn’t mentioned them. Fried Carbs. Hot Fried Carbs. Hot Fried Carbs in sugar with hot chocolate on the side. (Why aren’t Churros more famous?) The San Miguel Churros were a particularly thin brand that I would have preferred with a rich black coffee, but maybe that’s just not Spanish.

HOT FRIED CARBS IN SUGAR

HOT FRIED CARBS IN SUGAR

San Miguel Tapas Bar & Restaurant: 18 Greenwich Church Street, London SE10 9BJ