The Upsides to Being Miss Marple

A Review of eating out at Montpelier’s, Blackheath SE3

Nice coffee and traditional English cakes make for frequent visits to Montpelier’s.

And some of those traditional English cakes are exactly what they should be. There must have been upsides to being Miss Marple, after all. Other than the mystery solving smugness, she must also have eaten some really excellent traditional English cakes to justify a life in beige.

It’s been a while since I waxed lyrical about chocolate brownies and flapjack so I reckon I’m allowed a moment of repetition here: The best flapjacks crumble, oh they are lovely. They drop soft gold crumbs on your plate to make the flapjack eating experience last beyond the last bite. They have a crispy top and crust to maximise the texture experience. And they are absolutely perfect at Montpellier’s.

Take a moment, here. Reflect on great flapjack.

However in the case of chocolate brownies, there is more than one way to bake perfection. And the method of perfection sourced by Montpellier is this one where it is rich and crumbly and where the taste of a well sourced chocolate shines through.

This time I sat amongst the chintz hinting interior and ordered flapjack and coffee and walnut cake. I’m not sure that this is a criticism, but you had to concentrate to taste the coffee in the coffee and walnut cake which was all frothy butter ice cream (and walnuts plus a touch of cake). It was well made, but perhaps I should have chosen what i know I like best. And I possibly ruined it by ordering peppermint tea rather than coffee due to my delicate disposition (that must be regularly topped up with cake.)

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Service has become more friendly in recent years. I feel much less ‘processed’ as a customer and they smile at you these days. They are also good at solid lunches of the jacket potato or ploughmans variety. It is one of the few places lucky enough to have a continental pavement terrace for the summer.

As you can see from the picture, there is also a plentiful supply of ice cream, although Boulangerie Jade’s selection is so delicious, I seldom experiment with others.

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I do hope Miss Marple found good ice cream too.

Montpeliers
35 Montpelier Vale, London
020 8852 5258

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

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.

caption id=”” align=”alignnone” width=”224″]20140226-134946.jpg The view[/caption]

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.

[/caption] id=”” align=”alignnone” width=”300″]20140226-134957.jpg Chorizo Emmental[/caption]

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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

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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So maybe I did close my eyes when I read that bit about Comte Cheese- Another review of Cote in Blackheath

Health warning. This article fails to replicate a single accented vowel. Because I don’t know how to type them.

Cote needs a re-review from me, partially because i cruelly judged them on their 9.99 menu last year …. and mostly because I popped in the other night out of convenience and I feel I have more to add.

Being for convenience, i steered clear of steak frites that would ruin my waistline of a weekday, and found myself drawn to the “light bites”- baked crepes, Comte , spinach, peppers, provencale sauce.

Light bite?! (so maybe I did close my eyes when I read that bit about Comte) That creamy tomatoey sizzling enormity of a dish that by the way deigned to include a bit of buckwheat crepe? Delicious though. And that’s from a carnivore.

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Desserts however were not great. Crepes with Grand Marnier could have been the most exciting thing in there, but it was hardly rocking my world. And I like crepes – you may have noticed already (fried carbs).

Chocolate fondant- yawn. And Coupe Noir described on the menu as ice cream with chocolate sauce? Is this not the most boring sundae ever described? Does it not feel it’s missing something, anything from the supermarket aisle: hundreds and thousands, cream, a flake, a wafer…? In fact every dessert came with ice cream and nothing with cream. I’m feeling mean because the staff are charming. They just offered the table next door free pink champagne for their occasion.

Ahhh, when I taste the tarte tatin I want to take it all back. It’s like like apples on a croissant. Warm and buttery. Why didn’t I order coffee? Actually, I could even have enjoyed this without the apple, perhaps earlier in the day, between the hours of seven and ten. But the ice cream is JUST wrong. It was too cold and towards the end merged with the pastry crumbs to make a soggy overly sweet mess. Croissants and ice cream don’t go. Someone make sure cronut bandwagon drivers informed of this before something horrifying is invented.

Fried bits that weren’t calamari

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So this is a quick review of the Bianco43 that has opened in Blackheath in the venue of Dooooom, from who’s opening night we have recently attended.

Now I was worried for Bianco 43. If you see my review of ‘Venice‘, the previous resident of the ex-Natwest Bank, the location seems impossible to fix up into anything with a semblance of sophistication.

But the prettiness of Greenwich’s Bianco 43 has been effectively transposed to Blackheath in all its relaxed beachcomber glory.

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So the opening night was buffet food.. But it was Buffett food that excelled any buffet food to date. It was nice to try out the menu options other than the pizza. There was glorious rich aubergine (link), slices of pecorino, and minature fried pizzas. The real life pizza was good too. Take a look at this areal photo of it coming out of the coals. (If you can make it out in the bad iPhone picture!)

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There was perfect calamari (as noted in the review of the Greenwich location) and other fried bits, tiny little fried balls. Not idea what they were, but very moreish with the prosecco.

The owners are also exceptionally attentive. Massimo went around to meet all his guests table by table, decided to sit with me while my husband was at the bar and then when he decided that my husband wasn’t being served quickly enough had me point him out from the balcony. He went downstairs to tell the barman that he must serve this man as he had a wife sitting alone. I don’t think that this was about how bad my company was… there was a language barrier. (I should note that Massimo would not have know. I am a local blogger).

In summary, thanks to Bianco 43 for the invite and I am definitely a fan.
BIANCO43 BLACKHEATH
1-3 LEE ROAD
SE3 9RQ

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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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The window experience differs depending where you sit.

A review of cream tea at the Clarendon, SE3

You’ll have seen the Clarendon. It’s that impressive Georgian hotel right on top of the Heath. Looks like you’d have to be a millionaire to stay there right up until you see the room prices

The Clarendon has been branching out lately: jazz nights, afternoon tea. I approve of all of this, it’s bars and restaurants are always on the quiet side and the rest of the village can be a struggle to find anywhere to sit- especially for a genuinely quiet drink and chat on a Saturday evening…. If a little clincal.

This visit was to investigate the afternoon tea. Also reasonably priced at 12.90 per person – non sparkling (the tea menu, that is, not the person. Both my husband and I are very sparkling thank you very much). And they have “load of teas” according to the enthusiastic waitress, “absolutely loads”. English breakfast, Earl Grey an and loads of fruit teas to go with our “grub” . Lapsang? Oh she’s heard of that one from Costa, but the Clarendon is not as exciting as Costa.

Now aside from her tea expertise, I’d like to add that this waitress deserves a paragraph in her own right for being switched on to customer needs. She gave us the window table (definitely the best table in the hotel… I’ll come back to that), but then had the wherewithal to go and check first if she should close the window, and whether the table was too cold. How many better meals in my life would I have had if they had not been spent shivering?

The window experience differs depending where you sit. If you face the window, you get the vista of the heath, framed by a book case of heritage titles. If you face the restaurant, you look at the shabby navy curtain separating the rooms and keep wincing with the thought that surely it couldn’t be too expensive could it just be to buy new ones from eBay. It just seems so rude to such an elegant building.

Afternoon tea arrived with the standard supply of sandwiches, scones and cake. Oh, and tea, Darjeeeling from Twinings- a basic model for success unless you want to offer a seat of your pants teatime experience). The sandwiches of ham, salmon and egg were in brown bread which surprised us, and the scones too had a golden hue- very different from the bleached white picture in the advertisement. And everything had fresh strawberries scattered over it- a nice touch, as were the attention to detail of removing the crusts, and the fact that every ingredient was notably fresh to the extent that you commented on it. There had been no attempt to hide slightly aged cucumber in the salmon sandwiches. There had been an attempt to hide margarine in the ham sandwiches, with the use of mustard. This wasn’t entirely unsuccessful, but why would any self respecting restaurabter ever cond themselves having to hide margarine? At least stale food started off fresh.

The golden scones were delicious. Really so, fresh and warm and crumbling. I had to ask what made them different, and received the reply that they were really were normal scones but had sultanas in them. Who’d’ve thought it sultana’s in scones? (We had the suspicion that a brown sugar had been used instead of white, but are otherwise at a loss for the difference in flavour and taste).

Clotted cream came in mini jam pots which raised suspicions but it was faultless and there were no dodgy substances in the ingredients list, perhaps clotting was a process to preserve cream anyway? Portions of jam and cream were a little on the mean side. The mini fruit tarts were the only disappointment. Defrosted, or just out of the refrigerator and hence lined with cold custard. We should talk about this sometime- he appropriateness of custard in all fruit tarts. The exotic looking mini cakes on the flyer, coated in chocolate they were not. I don’t mind missing those by the way, they’ve being touted everywhere. Anyway, by this stage in anybody’s afternoon teas I have moved from needing something to soak up the tea to something with which to wash all the food down.

I’d call it a good value and good quality afternoon tea. Is good value what afternoon tea is supposed to be?

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It really really was worth the wait. A Review of Villa Moura

Lulas a Villa Moura. Unstoppably lovely

Lulas a Villa Moura. Unstoppably lovely

If you have been a regular reader of the blog lately, you may have noticed that I have been trying to re-live the fishing village dinners of my recent french holiday, memories of chargrilled octopus for ridiculous cheap prices along side simple halves of jacket potatoes.

Well, I think I have finally found it- albeit without the cheap prices.

Having ordered starters, we had a sense of foreboding when Villa Moura placed next to our waiting cutlery a plate of bread that featured a cheap brown roll. We are guessing hovis, or maybe Aldi. This was made all the word by the attempts to warm it, which just dried it out and made it seem stale.

The starters arrived with a type of a grilled bacon like chorizo which initially felt a bit disappointing, but then we tucked into the whole combination of squid and peri peri sauce, and then didn’t really stop until there was nothing that could be swept up with a fork, and then reaching for the bread to mop it all up and thinking… er… maybe not, I am not going to let stale hovis spoil this masterpiece of a dish. Perhaps this is how the anglicised disgust with wiping plates with bread all began. It was never as we might have thought, a belief that such a habit was rude and messy, but respect for not ruining the meal with bad bread.

 

So really, having felt a little disappointed with the scene setting bread, things were looking up.

Things looked down again when we then got so fed up waiting for the plates to be cleared that we cleared them ourselves ands put them at the end of the table, where they were studiously ignored by many an empty handed waiter and waitress. We forgot that that starters were great and started to fall asleep. We asked if our mains were going to show and were given an apologetic explanation about disorganisation in the kitchen, and dinner would be no more than five more minutes.

Robalo con Pinhao... Worth the wait!

Robalo con Pinhao… Worth the wait!

Eight minutes later, filleted sea bass with a pistachio crust cooked in shallots and lemon juice basil and parsley arrived (looking like it had been cooked for about eight minutes) with cooked potatoes and vegetables and similar items that the menu hadn’t mentioned. It was flawlessly delicious. It was what I have been looking for all month. It was worth the wait. Did I really say that? It really really was worth the wait.

Shortly after we finished it the table behind us, who had been in before us, received their main meal.

Many of the desserts looked promising. But it was getting a bit late to spend much time choosing and I had an enjoyable poached pear in red wine, and sampled the creme caramel on the other side of the table. Both arrived very promptly.

Poached pear

Poached pear

This was not the end of the meal. I mean, can you imagine the joy of being able to order truffles with (or for – if you’re that type of person) dessert? The menu offers truffles in quantities of 3,5,8- a quick perusal of the restaurant revealed that we were almost all in pairs- we were compelled to chose the 8. And we were motivated to do this by the truffles we observed on another table, very large round chocolates. However what arrived were the flaked chocolate truffle-type and not all that great. We have our suspicions… It feels like they are working throughout a set of gifts the guests brought.

 

We hadn’t brought chocolates, wine or flowers on our visit. Do you think that is why they never cleared the plates?

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Three Breakfasts, Many drinks. A review of Giraffe in Blackheath SE3

Ok, so the one note I made for the blog whilst eating breakfast in Giraffe was “pepper mill”. That’s it. It sits in black and yellow in the middle of my iPhone notepad and full of promise of significance, a knowingness that those two words would trigger my most valid observation about breakfast in Giraffe.

Things every giraffe knows (apparently)

Things every giraffe knows (apparently)

All promise, and no delivery. Why did I write pepper mill? WHY was I so lazy as to not even to contribute a verb? Readers, please, if pepper mill for you captures the very essence of the Giraffe breakfast experience, comment or tweet ASAP. It’s keeping me awake at night.

In my defence, and in Giraffe’s favour, this could be due to the deeply involving breakfast menu available. Nothing is what you see elsewhere. Well… It didn’t ought to be right? Giraffe is supposed to be quirky in a feel good sort of way.

This is in sharp contrast to the rest of the day’s menu. I have never seen the point of Giraffe’s daytime menu in comparison with the selection from M&S. I have frequently ordered from it and wished I hadn’t. Are there delicious dishes on there that I am missing? Please advise.

Breakfast however came down to ordering three drinks each and three breakfasts between two of us. It was brunch, so that’s how we learnt to live with ourselves. We called the third breakfast (Brioche French toast with compote and yogurt) dessert. It was delicious (it featured fried carbs and sugar- duh!) and the very kind staff let us order it even thought we were strictly beyond the breakfast cut off time by then. But even at that, it was a step below the savoury breakfasts.

Mine was huevous rancheros,: chorizo, black beans, cheese, adobe sauce, avocado & tomato salsa on tortilla- spoilt only by the fact that my poached eggs were hard poached, but otherwise full of exciting flavours.

Huevous rancheros (brunch pizza)

Huevous rancheros (brunch pizza)

Closed pizza

Closed pizza

It did taste similar to the breakfast burrito that seemed to be the same dish but wrapped and with the addition of chipotle (which according to the rather uninformed waitress was sausage- she is not correct.) Believe me, the closed nature of the breakfast burrito lends a more closed taste. I really do mean that – closed, sort of not open like a pizza. Perhaps enviously more complete, but significantly lacking poached eggs.

Fresh lemonade with mint was a must.

Authentic gimmick

Authentic gimmick

Now does that handle on a jar look like a gimmick to you? It is apparently a deeply authentic style and originates from the Southern States. However hard you try it seems impossible to source one with a lid… Which surely must be the only justification for the screw top… Which leads me back to the thought that somewhere, at some point in time, this was a gimmick. Now that it has earned authenticity, it has become an authentic gimmick. Contents were fabulous however.

And then there was the tea. Teapigs? Sorry guys, no. I agree that Teapigs is an expensive brand, but expensive really isn’t quality. I find myself frequently reminded of this when it comes to tea. Earl Grey is often more bitter than it ought to be, so I rushed my ordering and chose Darjeeling. Sadly on arrival I discovered it to be Darjeeling (origin of leaves) Earl Grey (flavouring). Not actively bad, but disappointing. The teapot however is excellent. Why do cast iron teapots make one so happy?

Cast iron teapots. All good

Cast iron teapots. All good

The simplicity of fresh orange juice just managed to be more exciting than the wide variety of smoothies. And the Moroccan mint tea is fabulous. It is not actually made in the Moroccan fashion (by which I mean it takes less than three quarters of an hour to prepare and you can chose to have it without sweetener) but it comes as water loaded with bunches of fresh mint.

Now you may have noticed a rare number of my blogs expose seeming prejudices on the part of the staff. Chapter’s mysterious inability to ever provide us with table bread, for example. In the case of Giraffe, there was a definite balloon distribution prejudice. If you were under 3 foot you could summon a profusion of balloons, just by showing your face. My husband and I? Nada. So Giraffe are prejudiced against tall people.

Seems odd given their name.

58-62 Tranquil Vale, London
020 8463 9155

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