Posts Tagged With: Community feeling

I’ve got 99 problems… and No. 178 New Cross Road ain’t one of them

Cuisine: European

Address: 178 New Cross Road, SE14 5AA

Area: New Cross

Nearest Station: New Cross Gate

Tel.: 020 7998 6922

Website: https://www.facebook.com/no178newcross

Pricing: Cheap-Medium

Good For: Loitering over drinks, Community feel, Friendly conversation, Comfort food

New Cross is quite a cool place. There, I said it, and no, I’m not ashamed to have said it. Yes yes, there may be some locational bias, but let’s look at it a bit more, er, objectively: New Cross is a real mix and when combined with Deptford and Brockley (and its fast links to London Bridge, the City and Canary Wharf), you can pretty much get whatever you want – hip cafés, chilled local pubs, interesting and cheap produce, ethnic foods, great and affordable restaurants, greasy spoons, fried chicken shops, farmers’ markets… it’s all catered for.

Throwing itself into the mix and doing its part to big up the local scene is No. 178 New Cross Road. “Oh no, not another pretentious café”, you might say. Not quite: it’s run by a social enterprise, Toucan Employment, which helps people with learning difficulties with work and training, so you could say that it’s plugged into the local community and doing its part to better the surrounding area. A very worthy idea, no?

This all happened very much under the radar for me, as No. 178 is at the far end of New Cross to me and not in an area I frequent often (Post Office sorting centre aside). I can’t even remember the shop it replaced, but whatever it was is a long-distant memory, for No. 178 have done an excellent job in transforming that space to meet their needs. It’s big and roomy, with a great sense of airiness and light. It is a surprisingly large lot, deceptively so from the outside, where you’re presented with a low but clean-cut shop front. Interior decorations and furnishings are de rigueur for local cafés: mismatched furniture, interesting bric-à-brac of a parochial nature on the walls, some art from local artists etc. (at this point, you should start counting how many times I use the word ‘local’ in this review).

Spacious interiors at No. 178 - courtesy of No. 178's Facebook page

Spacious interiors at No. 178 – courtesy of No. 178’s Facebook page

When my brother and I came to visit, we perched ourselves at the end of one of their bigger tables, below a chalkboard with a very helpful roadmap of hunger and thirst and what to do about them on it. Whilst it was not the full and complete menu, it did highlight what are presumably some classics such as the English Breakfast Pizza.

The roadmap to happiness - courtesy of No. 178's Facebook page

The roadmap to happiness – courtesy of No. 178’s Facebook page

Sounds pretty sacrilegious, no? Rather, you should be thinking, “Sacrilicious!” A nice runny egg, generous portions of bacon, sausage and mushrooms on a thin and crunchy base – screw what the Italians would think (though I hasten to add that I did once see a ‘McDonald’s Pizza’ on offer in a small pizzeria in Venice… it had French fries on it), it is tasty. It is meaty enough and cheesy enough to satisfy that search for savouriness, and the crust fulfils that need for crunchy and substantial texture. It was certainly a worthy cure for a hangover – not that mine was particularly potent that day.

Breakfast on a pizza - genius idea

Breakfast on a pizza – genius idea

My brother’s American Breakfast of pancakes, bacon and maple syrup was also well-received: the fluffy pancakes and crisp bacon ended up being rather filling, despite being a deceptively-small portion at a very low price.

To wash both of our brunches down and perk us up a bit, we both had a flat white. Now, I don’t pertain to be a coffee expert and although my brother knows more he is not quite there yet, we both appreciated the flat whites that No.178 served.

So, whilst the food has been good at No.178, one thing I would say that they have to keep an eye on is their service. It can seem a bit slow at times, even when the place does not seem that full. Even though this was not a problem the last time I was there (I was able to have a really pleasant chat with the girl behind the counter as I awaited my takeaway flat white), they should be careful not to let it become habit.

But hey, No. 178 is still young. I expect their staff will, in time, get to grips with things and grow into their roles. It is a great opportunity being afforded to them by Toucan – let’s hope that No. 178 makes the most of it.

VERDICT – A good place. There’s enough character and interesting offerings to make me want to come back to this new addition to the New Cross scene (15-minute walk aside). With a quality breakfast selection and decent coffee at very affordable prices, I hope that No. 178 can really make its mark on the area and become an established part of the community. Going by what I’ve seen so far, I think it’ll do just fine.

Currently listening to: Type O Negative – The Profits of Doom

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Categories: European | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A quiet corner in bustling Deptford: Coffee and treats at Deli X

Copyright of Deli X. Sourced from Deli X website

Copyright of Deli X. Sourced from Deli X website

Cuisine: European

Address: 156 Deptford High Street, SE8 3PQ

Area: Deptford

Nearest Station: Deptford/Deptford Bridge

Tel. No.: 020 8691 3377

Website: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Deli-X/249955361716103

Pricing: Cheap-Medium

Good For: Loitering over drinks, Sinful snacks, Community feeling

Having only just become a ‘proper’ Londoner (i.e. not just a weekday commuter/weekend playboy) within the last year, I thought it best to set down some roots and really explore the multifarious wonders of Southeast London.

And so, one sunny Saturday afternoon in April 2012, I decided to explore Deptford Market. I spent a fruitful hour exploring amongst the stalls, the fishmongers, the butchers, the greengrocers, the Chinese and Vietnamese stores, the flea market on Douglas Way, the Albany Theatre… and came away with a bag full of veggies, some Chinese ingredients, a nicely-weighted cleaver, a cafetière and an idea that yes, Deptford Market was actually a pretty cool thing to have around.

Well, I decided to head further north along Deptford High Street to explore what else lay beyond the railway bridge. I chanced upon the cheerfully-coloured Deli X and popped in, attracted by the deli displays of fresh fruit and vegetables and tempting cheeses.

The deli itself is small but well-laid out, and is rich with an eclectic theme. Having noticed that I looked a bit lost amongst the vegetables, one of the owners came over and offered to help. Friendly as ever, she managed to steer my attention to the coffees and cakes they had on offer. Clever girl she was, doing that. It wasn’t long before I relented to a Portuguese egg tart and a coffee, after which she sent me over to the dining area, a charming place filled with couches, mismatched tables and chairs.

Carrying on with the eclectic and mismatched theme, my coffee arrived in a bowl that perched precariously on an under-sized saucer. Funky, but risky – the girls here must have the balancing and hand skills of, I don’t know, a circus juggler.

I’m not a coffee aficionado, but I think I know enough to pick out bad coffee – this most definitely did not fit that bill. And as for that first egg tart, it was creamy and very more-ish; although they admitted that they didn’t make them themselves, they were going to give them a shot. I wish them the best in this endeavour

Since that first visit, I’ve also had the pleasure of having their almond croissants, which are a real guilty pleasure of mine and, I feel a good way of measuring up different places that sell them. Deli X’s almond croissants are rather sinful, with a generous filling of smooth and rich almond paste nestled amongst light, flaky and buttery pastry. The croissants occasionally have a bit too much powdered sugar on it, but other than that they make for a great afternoon snack.

All in all, it looks like a place you could linger in for an hour (as I have done on a few occasions, mainly after job interviews), reading one of the books that they have on their shelves, talking to the owners – or, as I did on a recent visit, you can admire the art they hang on the walls. Superhero art this time around – I was invited along to a private viewing the next night, so as to meet the artist and perhaps purchase a piece to adorn mine and my brother’s place. Unfortunately I already had something planned, but I appreciated the gesture.

VERDICT – A good place. I always enjoy warm welcomes, and they are in abundance in Deli X. When coupled with a feel that is relaxed, spacious and comfortable in its uniqueness, I think that Deli X is on to something here.

Currently listening to: Hexes – Lipgloss Ghosts

Categories: European | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Land of the Western Sun: A West London Filipino experience at Sunrise Café

View of Sunrise Café. Sourced from Local Data Search website

View of Sunrise Café. Sourced from Local Data Search website

Cuisine: Filipino

Address: 12 Kenway Road, SW5 0RR

Area: Earl’s Court

Nearest Station: Earl’s Court

Tel.: 020 7373 3840

Website: N/A

Pricing: Cheap-Medium

Good For: Casual dining, Community feeling, Friendly conversation, Cheap and cheerful

It was the last weekend in October 2012; the first great chill of the winter, when you can really feel it seeping through your clothes and into your bones. Brrrrr. Why did I leave the warmth of my apartment?

Oh, that’s right, to go shopping. Whilst it is pleasing news that Tesco has finally got its act together and is selling select Filipino products (in places distant to me like Wembley and Harrow – booo), at the moment the best place to stock up on those hard-to-get treats is ‘Little Manila’ in Earl’s Court. It is little, and it’s not quite Manila, but there is still a smattering of shops and restaurants (okay, only two restaurants) that proudly fly the Filipino flag. I’d made the trek to Earl’s Court to chase down some ingredients (and impulse-buy a whole range of completely unnecessary yet absolutely yummy treats), and had timed my trip so that as I exited the shops, night was falling fast around me and dinner time was calling. So, here was an opportunity to try the newest (relatively speaking) restaurant on the block – Sunrise Café.

Grated ube, embutido, puto, calamansi concentrate, hopiang baboy, patis, canned laing, pandesal, frozen calamansi... all the things I did not *really* need

Grated ube, embutido, puto, calamansi concentrate, hopiang baboy, patis, canned laing, pandesal, frozen calamansi… all the things I did not *really* need

Sunrise Café is a family-run business that seems to have a real ‘part-of-the-community’ feel – which is good in a way, but also meant that I immediately felt like the only person in there that the owner did not know personally and was not talking to at the time. I would get to have a pleasant and short conversation with him as I left (“hope to see you again, salamat po for coming!”), but upon entering I stood around awkwardly, waiting to know whether I needed to be shown to a table or take one myself, whether I needed to grab a menu myself, or whether I should serve myself from the buffet on the side. Not the best of starts, then. Service finally did arrive with a smile, but alas it would remain relentlessly slow and haphazard the rest of the night.

Feeling the cravings of comfort food, I had opted for lechon kawali (deep-fried pork belly) with a portion of rice. In retrospect I should have gotten the significantly cheaper meal deal option, but this was not brought to my attention at the time of ordering. Nevertheless, it was a good meal.

Lechon kawali done properly. Sunrise Café was not too far off the mark. Sourced from pinoyfavrecipes.blogspot.co.uk

Lechon kawali done properly. Sunrise Café was not too far off the mark. Sourced from pinoyfavrecipes.blogspot.co.uk

The pork was freshly-cooked – which may explain the lengthy time lapse between ordering and eating – and was all that I expected: real crunch of the skin, softness of the fat and chewy meatiness. A very commendable effort, helped along by copious amounts of Mang Tomas All-Purpose Sarsa. The rice was hot and sticky, adding even further to the comfort and homeliness factor of the meal. I washed it all down with a refreshing San Miguel beer (not the Spanish one, but the original Filipino one) – but only because they had forgotten my order of iced buko juice (ordering this on a winter’s night? You crazy?).

So I guess that you could sum up the real story of the evening like so: a rather enjoyable meal let down by a slapdash operation, which I feel means this in-the-end charming café may not become something a bit more than just a neighbourhood diner for the owner’s friends and family. Which is a real shame, as they have the potential to be better and become a ‘destination restaurant’ that even non-Filipinos will want to go to.

VERDICT An okay experience. I rather enjoyed the food – when it eventually came. I rather enjoyed the hospitality of the owner – when it eventually came. In the end, I am willing to go back and try some of their other dishes; their breakfast section looks particularly enticing (meat/fish with fried rice, fried egg, vegetable ‘medley’ and coffee or tea for £5.50…. mmmmm). I just hope that Sunrise Café can show more of the renowned hospitality that the Philippines is known for.

Currently listening to: Arch Enemy – Night Falls Fast

Categories: Filipino | Tags: , , , , , , , | 8 Comments