Posts Tagged With: Friendly conversation

Lunchtime fun time in Croydon: Part 1

Nearest Station: East Croydon/West Croydon

My team got moved down to Croydon in January this year – let me tell you this, it is a very different place from Canary Wharf. But whilst there aren’t that many suits and ties down there, there is still a Waitrose!!

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This isn’t Croydon…

However, unlike a few of my colleagues, I was rather okay with the transition: I was rather familiar with shopping and eating in Croydon from my days living in Surrey, and my commute is now hella easy and crowd-free… and I suppose I was getting a bit tired of the samey-chainey food options in the Wharf (WASABI I HATE YOU SO MUCH).

Sure, I would miss the lunchtime window-shopping, the glass-steel-marble skyscrapers, the preppy hot girls in their finest office wear, the… erm, prestige I guess of working in Canary Wharf? But hey, I love (re)discovering different parts of London; Croydon lunchtimes would therefore be fun times.

Over the past few months I have therefore taken it upon myself to discover the best in lunchtime dining in Croydon – not just for my stomach’s sake, but also maybe for my career’s sake: I think I’m well on my way to becoming my team’s (hopefully indispensable) Food Guy. See below for the results of my exhaustive, scientific and completely objective study.

 

Uncle Lim’s Malaysian Kitchen

Cuisine: Malaysian

Address: Whitgift Centre, CR0 1RZ

Tel.: 020 8688 8378

Website: N/A

Pricing: Cheap-Medium

Good For: Cheap and cheerful, Filling meal

Ah yes, good old Uncle Lim’s; I’ve known you for a long time.

Cheap and cheerful Malaysian canteen that can whip up dishes fresh from the kitchen or, the more usual option for me, a selection of food from their hot counter, packaged into a Medium Meal Deal (rice/noodles, one meat, one veg, one drink) or their Large Meal Deal (rice/noodles, two meat, one veg, one drink).

Portions are hearty (the Large will put you into a food coma. You have been warned), the prices are cheap, the turnover of the food is fast enough, and the quality itself decent for what it is.

The Malaysian lamb curry may be a bit too bony and the salt and pepper squid a bit chewy, so I would go for the beef rendang (rich and flavourful but not too spicy) and the sambal aubergines – they are both delightful. The rice is soft and fluffy, whilst the noodles are a bit plain but more-ish in that “fried food tastes so good” way.

I also recently had the char kway teow; very generous portion and again very tasty. Rather surprisingly, the prawns were not the piddly kind you get in the supermarket, but more properly-sized beasts. Not bad for a canteen in Croydon!

Char kway teow = warmth in my belly

Char kway teow = warmth in my belly

It certainly does not stack up against Satay House or Melur, my two favourite Malaysian restaurants in London, but then again Uncle Lim’s has no pretensions (and certainly not the prices) to be like them. This is a place for a filling and hearty lunch that delivers flavour, if not sophistication.

I took my team’s business analysts here for lunch once; several have been back, including very recently for a colleague’s leaving lunch. If it’s good enough for them, surely it’s good enough for you?

VERDICT – A good place. Let me make clear that this is not the height of fine Malaysian dining in the capital, but it’s not trying to be like that, and so cannot be rated in the same way. You want something different in Croydon? You want teh tarik? You want a hearty meal that delivers on flavour for a good price? Then Uncle Lim can feed you, and he will feed you well.

 

Chai Corner and Chilli Chutney

Copyright of Chai Corner. Sourced from Chai Corner website

Copyright of Chai Corner. Sourced from Chai Corner website

Cuisine: Indian/Pakistani

Address: North End Mall, CR0 1UB

Tel.: 020 8633 1779

Website: http://www.chai-corner.com/

Pricing: Cheap

Good For: Cheap and cheerful, Takeaway

I was rather surprised to spot these guys in the Allders mall: Indian street food in Croydon? Seems a bit too hipster for the area… but the more important question is – how do they square off against the currently on-trend Dosa Deli and Everybody Lovelove Jhal Muri Express (as if that’s even a legitimate question)?

The reason I group Chai Corner and Chilli Chutney together is because a cursory internet search and first-hand experience shows them to be owned by the same people – and funnily enough, they do seem to cook each other’s food, with the ladies at Chilli Chutney producing the wraps for the lads at Chai Corner. Interesting business plan…

Regardless of who is making the wraps, they are tasty enough for lunch. The first time I went, I had the paneer tikka wrap: adequate amount of paneer filling bulked out by salad and a flavourful if mild tikka marinade/sauce/spice. I have since followed this up with other wraps, but the meat options present a rather unremarkable dining experience.

I hid away in the corner to eat this. THE SHAME (or rather the smell)

I hid away in the corner to eat this. THE SHAME (or rather the smell)

The pakora were good and crisp and nicely savoury, if rather oily, but the samosa is a nice and fresh little parcel of deep-fried goodness (just about superseding my love of cold 85p samosas from the corner shops, the height of gastronomic experience). A further visit for a sit-down meal with mia madre saw us having the tandoori chicken – a succulent and juicy affair – whilst the lamb seekh kebab salad was… interesting in its combination of olives and sun-dried tomatoes with lamb seekh.

At least the tikka was the right colour

At least the tandoori was the right colour

Are those... sun-dried tomatoes and olives? YES :-(

Are those… sun-dried tomatoes and olives in an ‘Indian’ salad? YES 😦

The output is quick, the prices are low and the food is adequate. It certainly makes for a change from the normal wrap experience, not that there are many in Croydon.

VERDICT – An okay experience. Dished out from the rough-and-ready stalls lining the passageway in the rather tired Allders mall, Chai Corner and Chilli Chutney’s food do an admirable job of bringing a different kind of Indian experience to town. It’s not particularly polished, but it ticks all the boxes for a decent and quick lunch.

 

Roti Masters

Copyright of Roti Masters. Sourced from Roti Masters website

Copyright of Roti Masters. Sourced from Roti Masters website

Cuisine: Caribbean

Address: 26a St George’s Walk, CR0 1YG

Tel.: 020 8760 0999

Website: http://rotimasters.com/

Pricing: Cheap

Good For: Cheap and cheerful, Filling meal, Friendly conversation, Spice

We’re getting into some serious lunch territory here. I’d initially spotted this little bad boy of a café back in December, on our team away day and Christmas lunch outing, and made a mental note to myself to check it out. Further research revealed some very promising reviews; Roti Masters moved high up my hit list.

And who wouldn’t want to try a bit of Trinidadian roti wrap? For the uninitiated, these are a true fusion food from the Caribbean: Indian-inspired flatbreads (roti) filled with Indian-inspired curries using Caribbean meats, spices and ingredients… it’s a recipe for success, one that I hoped that Roti Masters would, well, have mastered (ha!).

The proof of their ability is clear in the number of times I’ve been back: the man with the plan behind the counter now recognises me and has met my colleagues and even my dad and my mum – he now asks how the parents are doing! This is certainly one friendship I am happy to cultivate.

The Curry Goat Roti is a delight – succulent and tender pieces of goat in a highly-spiced and rich sauce, packed into a light and fluffy roti along with a myriad of other delicious fillings inside the light and chewy roti skin. Although it looks small on the plate, first impressions can be deceptive; this bad boy will fill you up.

It may not be the prettiest thing to look at it, but just remember: it used to look like a goat

It may not be the prettiest thing to look at it, but just remember: it used to look like a goat

The saltfish version of the roti is also very tasty and savoury, but I do understand that saltfish can be divisive – however, this is not too salty, so it’s definitely worth a spin.

The least comfortable lunch I had there was when I rather stupidly ordered the Buss Up Shot (the roti skins by themselves – oh so very more-ish in their fluffy doughiness) alongside a Hot Double (roti filled with mushy and hot chana chickpeas) and some palori (chickpea fritters that are ever-so-slightly crunchy on the outside but all chewiness on the inside) – as you can imagine, I ate myself into a food coma, albeit a delicious one. Have those things on separate occasions, not at the same time, or you’ll be falling asleep at work, as I did. But was it worth it? Oh yes…

VERDICT – A good place. Friendly, delicious, wholesome and tasty, Roti Masters is a no-frills café with some banging food at affordable prices. Not sure there’s much more to say oth- oh wait: “Suck it Canary Wharf!! You may have Roka and Le Relais de Venise, but Croydon has Roti Masters! BOOM”

Currently listening to: Sonic Boom Six – For the Kids of the Multiculture

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Categories: Caribbean, Indian, Malaysian | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Things have gotten a bit fishy in New Cross: Maddy’s Fish Bar sets up shop

Copyright of Maddy's FIsh Bar. Sourced from Maddy's Fish Bar Twitter

Copyright of Maddy’s FIsh Bar. Sourced from Maddy’s Fish Bar Twitter

Cuisine: British

Address: 397 New Cross Road, SE14 6LA

Area: New Cross

Nearest Station: New Cross

Tel.: N/A

Website: https://twitter.com/MaddysFishBar

Pricing: Medium

Good For: Takeaway, Casual dining, Comfort food, Fresh seafood, Friendly conversation, Seasonal menu

The past year has been pretty tough: sometime in May or June last year, our local chippie in New Cross closed up for renovation works and then never reopened.

Once patronised by Sir Paul McCartney (no, really), Sirius Fish & Chips was run by a lovely Filipino couple who knew me and my brother quite well – courtesy of our mum introducing us to them, without our knowing about it, not long after we moved into the area. Whilst the fish was not the best, it was decent enough to fill the fish-shaped hole that appeared in my life on the occasional evening, but certainly I enjoyed going there for the conversation and the friendliness.

So yes, with the loss of my favourite Filipino-run chippie, I think it’s fair to say that New Cross suffered heavily for it.

For where was one to go for good fish and chips from a proper chippy (I’m going to leave Sefa Kebab out of this discussion, and for argument’s sake the other places at the far, far end of New Cross that no one ever told me about)? The nearest one I could fathom then was Brockley’s Rock, but as the name suggests, that’s in Brockley, not New Cross and certainly not just down the road from us. The round-trip, including bus ride, ordering and waiting, and loitering at the bus stops at both ends, took at the very least a good 45 minutes, if I remember correctly.

Imagine carrying that on the bus home and not being able to eat it

Imagine carrying that on the bus home and not being able to eat it

The cod was absolutely delightful and crispy, the chips that perfect middle point between overly-crunchy and soggy and the mushy peas a great texture – but 45 minutes is too much effort for a ‘local’ chippy. Brockley’s Rock is a gem that neighbouring Brockleyites can keep to themselves – this New Cross boy needed something closer to home. Desperately.

And so, when the news appeared on the grapevine that the London Particular (brilliant café, FYI) would be backing their friend, Maddy Inoue, in opening a new fish bar venture in the empty shell that was Sirius, of course I was excited. There was even to be a Kickstarter campaign to help her purchase a state-of-the-art fryer. Although hesitant that a ‘fish bar’ might entail grossly-exaggerated prices, my cynical thoughts were over-ridden by a stomach desperate for some really good fish and chips. So my brother and I chipped in (haha!) and backed Maddy on Kickstarter.

That was in the last quarter of last year; Maddy’s Fish Bar officially opened a week ago Tuesday. Suffice to say, it has been a long and tortuous wait. One that was thankfully shortened by just a few days, thanks to our Kickstarter contribution and subsequent invitation to a ‘VIP’ tasting session (ballin’) during their soft launch. Over the course of an evening, set in their bright, clean-cut and rather utilitarian space, we were treated to a wide range of dishes from the proposed menu, which is meant to be a modern twist on British classics.

Look who's in the window!! Sourced from Maddy's Fish Bar Twitter

Look who’s in the window!!
Sourced from Maddy’s Fish Bar Twitter

So what is on offer from Maddy, and how does her fare hold up as a neighbourhood chippy?

Rock Oysters: Not your average chippy dish, but certainly what you’d expect from a fish bar. I’m no fan of oysters, so I’ll defer to my brother on this one: “fresh”. So there you go.

Rock Oysters!

Rock Oysters!

Chicken Nuggets: These were delightful. Moist and tender pieces of chicken in a substantial coating (which admittedly could have done with being just a bit crispier), served with a home-made mayonnaise that was very more-ish. I can foresee these being a rather guilty treat.

Chicken (not Mc)Nuggets!

Chicken (not Mc)Nuggets!

Selection of Pickles – Egg in pickling broth and radish: The aforementioned ex-Beatle was apparently a fan of the pickled eggs of Sirius (no, really), so I’d love to hear his opinion on Maddy’s take on this classic dish.

You call that a pickled egg?

You call that a pickled egg?

Sadly, he was unable to comment, so I’ll blunder on. What we got here was a gloriously warm and soft-boiled egg that spilt its yolk ever so generously into the savoury vinegar-dashi bath that the egg found itself in; it was a real treat, and I can imagine that having one of these alongside your fish would be rather eye-opening. The accompanying radishes, on the other hand, were rather under-powered as a pickle and didn’t really add much to this course. Something to work on, I guess.

Salt and Pepper Squid: Continuing with the injection of Asian influences into a British chippy, Maddy is turning her hand to that favourite Chinese staple of ours, salt and pepper squid. She wasn’t so successful on this one – yes, it was crisp, had great texture and did not feel greasy at all; unfortunately, it lacked real bite and flavour. All I think it needs is just an adjustment to the seasoning – a much easier thing to improve upon than trying to rescue dead and limp fried squid.

Salt and pepper squid... with not too much salt or pepper alas

Salt and pepper squid… with not too much salt or pepper alas

Fish and Chips with Maddy’s Slaw, mushy peas and curry sauce: And here we have the pièce de résistance, the whole reason why I welcomed Maddy to New Cross with wide open arms: crispy crisp fishy fish. You can just see from the photo alone how phenomenal that batter was – light, fluffy and crispy, it covered all the bases. It’s good to see our Kickstarter money was used well! The whiting fish itself was cooked just right and was juicy up to the point before fish starts to fall apart. When I went back on opening day, I was able to have the panko-breaded plaice, which again was delightful and crisp – the picture below does not represent a one-hit wonder.

Crispy crisp fishy fish

Crispy crisp fishy fish

As for the chips – although Maddy did say that she had to go through several iterations of her chip recipe, I was fairly happy with where she’d gotten to that evening, for the chips were, like Brockley’s Rock, hitting that right balance between overly-crunchy and soggy. Really good chippy chips then, perfect for soaking up the delicious curry sauce accompanying the dish.

Maddy’s Slaw was a standard sauced cabbage affair, which adds some freshness and vegetable bite to the dish, serving its purpose adequately as a side dish.

The mushy peas, however, I was not hugely wowed by. Whilst the flavours were perfectly fine (good level of mintiness, even if I don’t like mint with peas too much), when I want mushy peas I want, well, a complete mush. Yes, mixing in whole peas with some mushed ones creates a pleasing contrast of textures, but… I’m just a stickler for a real mush of peas that I can scoop up with a chip. No doubt other people will like these peas – they are welcome to them.

Cornflake Ice Cream: You know that pleasing state, right at the beginning of your bowl of Frosties, where the coldness of the milk really brings the sugary flavour and crunch to the fore? That’s what this ice cream is all about. A shot of freshness, first thing in the morning.

Cornflake ice cream. Inadvisable to add vinegar

Cornflake ice cream. Inadvisable to add vinegar

I was able to confirm this initial impression on opening day, and discovered that Maddy had gone the extra mile by putting actual cornflakes on the ice cream. Winner winner ice cream dinner!

 

So, it all looks good, no? But I am sure you are wondering, “A chippy this fancy don’t come cheap”. And you’d be right in that this is no Sirius Fish & Chips – the standard meal of fish, chips and Maddy’s Slaw comes in at £8.50, and the portions are smaller (healthier!?) – but at the same time it is no pricey Fish and Chip Shop in Islington, which is what I feared the most for the local area. So yes, I think Maddy’s has done just about alright bringing these prices to New Cross… it’s a step up from before, but at least it’s a measured step and in the right direction.

VERDICT – A good place. Maddy’s Fish Bar is a more than welcome addition to the neighbourhood, not just because it fulfils the criteria of existing and being an open business, but because it brings some genuinely good fish and chips to the area. Friday Fishdays are back on!

Currently listening to: Battlelore – Beneath the Waves

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

What does the fox say? Not much – it’s too busy eating at Foxlow

Copyright of Foxlow. Sourced from Foxlow website

Copyright of Foxlow. Sourced from Foxlow website

Cuisine: European

Address: 69-73 St John Street, EC1M 4AN

Area: Smithfield

Nearest Station: Farringdon

Tel.: 020 7014 8070

Website: http://foxlow.co.uk/

Pricing: High

Good For: Carnivorous eating, Umami, Friendly conversation, Smart-casual dining, Filling meal, Quality ingredients

Want to know what sort of texts I like to get?

“Dude, I’ve got a booking for Foxlow next Wednesday for 4. You in??”

This one came from my brother. As the booking also came during Foxlow’s soft opening, it also included a complimentary drink. I therefore do not hesitate to say: I love you man, you mah BRO (more specifically, my ADOBRO – cheeky plug for our Filipino supper club right there!!).

A smart but casual diner feel, with *gasp* matching furniture! Cheers to BarChick's website for the photo

A smart but casual diner feel, with *gasp* matching furniture! Cheers to BarChick’s website for the photo

Billed as the more casual sister restaurant to Hawksmoor, that esteemed temple of steaks, Foxlow’s offering of charcoal-grilled and slow-cooked meats automatically appeals to the carnivore inside of us all – hence all the excitement that I’ve seen bandied around online.

However, judging from the menu we were presented with that night, I would say that Foxlow is more an ode to all things umami – there are various ingredients in use there, like beef dripping, anchovies, meat stock, Gubbeen cheese, capers, kimchi and others, that suggest that those guys just want to make sure you get your savoury fix, whether it come in meat, vegetable or fish form.

And let me tell you – we chowed down and got our savouriness on. Guided by our helpful and chatty waitress, who tried to ensure that our order included all of the big-hitters from the menu (e.g. “I would say the monkfish is pretty nice and a must, but since you’re after meat, I wouldn’t bother”), we managed to get ourselves a good spread.

Anchovies on goat's butter crisps. NOM

Anchovies on goat’s butter crisps. NOM

First to come along were the anchovy and goat’s butter crisps. This consisted of a very thin crisp wafer flavoured with goat’s butter, topped with freshly chopped shallots and a piece of anchovy. Our waitress stressed the quality of the anchovy, with the chefs aspiring to provide a healthy balance of salt and fresh fish flavours; once you pop one of these into your mouth, you can see what she means. It was packed so full of flavour and savouriness, you were left craving for more, in spite of how rich they were.

Brixham crab with devilled mayonnaise. Get some crabs!

Brixham crab with devilled mayonnaise. Get some crabs!

Then came our starters, which we dished out amongst the four of us: Crispy Five Pepper squid, Brixham crab with devilled mayonnaise, Baby back Iberico ribs and Smokehouse rillettes. The squid had a hint of smokiness to it, but otherwise I felt them to be rather unremarkable. Good – not greasy, not salty, suitably tasty – but unremarkable. As for the Brixham crab, it was served shredded on green leaves, which I felt made it a bit more difficult to appreciate it fully. Still, it was refreshing and beautifully flavoured, with the devilled mayonnaise adding interesting but not overpowering bite. The ribs, as expected, were very tender and full of barbecue flavour. The smokehouse rillettes, on the other hand, were not as smoky as suggested by the name, but were brilliant in texture and taste. The winning starter, I felt.

Baby back Iberico ribs. Not going to quote Fat Bastard for this one

Baby back Iberico ribs. Not going to quote Fat Bastard for this one

So far, so good. By this point, we’d finished our complimentary drinks (my Tom Ford – a twist on the Tom Collins with gin, Benedictine, lemon and soda – was well-received for its light and herbal touch) and I made a move for the wine, selecting a very smooth and medium-bodied rioja crianza from the decently-sized wine list.

I’d originally earmarked the Ten-hour beef shortrib with kimchi for myself, but seeing as two of the group were also going to order it, I made the adventurous choice and went with the charcoal-grilled Iberico pork ‘pluma’. As our waitress explained, pluma is a type of cut from the loin, and given where it comes from in the pig and the quality of the meat itself, it can be served medium. And oh man was it tasty. It was tender, had a brilliant charcoaled crust to it and just packed an absolute savoury punch, almost akin to a well-flavoured steak. I have never had a cut of pork loin that tasted like this, and the next time I find myself in Foxlow I will definitely order it again.

Iberico pork pluma, in all its glory as captured by my brilliant smartphone

Iberico pork pluma, in all its glory as captured by my brilliant smartphone

The other dishes, in comparison, fell by the wayside. It feels bad to denigrate the other meats on offer, but this is more a tribute to the surprising delights of the Iberico pork pluma than a comment on any form of substandard quality on the parts of the other dishes. The beef was amazingly tender and was also beautifully-flavoured, but after the pluma it tasted rather pedestrian – it was like “Yeah, I’ve had shortrib before, so what?” The Eight-hour bacon rib with maple chilli also suffered a similar fate: again, slow-cooking it for that long produced meat that you could cut like you had a hot knife going through butter, and the flavours of maple and chilli produced something rather special – but hey, bacon rib tastes of bacon and we all know what that is like, right?

Ten-hour beef shortrib with kimchi. One of these things does not belong...

Ten-hour beef shortrib with kimchi. One of these things does not belong…

Before I do any more disservice to the other mains, let’s talk about the sides that we shared. The Beef-dripping potatoes with Gubbeen and capers provided us with very crispy and more-ish potatoes that were a very good accompaniment to our meals; the Broccoli with chilli and anchovy were crisp very well-appreciated, although the chilli was almost undistinguishable beneath the savouriness of the anchovy; the Sausage-stuffed onion was a slightly-caramelised onion in a thick and tasty gravy filled with substantial and nicely seasoned sausage meat – a good combination, but as a side dish it seemed rather overbearing, with the sausage meat competing too much against the main courses.

That rather unappetising lump in the foreground is a sausage-stuffed onion, whilst those are potatoes behind. Not that you can tell

That rather unappetising lump in the foreground is a sausage-stuffed onion, whilst those are potatoes behind. Not that you can tell

So, you’d think that by now we’d be done, right? Think again. Dessert was dangled in front of us, and we just had to take a bite. My Peanutella & Sweet Toast was a crushing blow to any semblance of healthiness I retained: here we had a Nutella jar filled with layers of, er, Nutella, caramel, peanut butter and peanuts, served with lightly-fried sweetened toast batons and – in case you thought Foxlow forgot the savouriness – a sprinkling of sea salt. It was perhaps a bit overwhelming, but in some instances that’s okay. Such as when you are chowing down with your bros, homes.

The photo is so dark because the evilness of this Peanutella and Sweet Toast sucked the light into it

The photo is so dark because the evilness of this Peanutella and Sweet Toast sucked the light into it

And thus our meal was complete. It provided enough sustenance to last us for a leisurely walk down to St Paul’s, across the Millennium Bridge and all the way to London Bridge (one of us is still new to London *cough* tourist *cough*) – and you know what? I’d happily walk that distance again just for a bit more of that Iberico pork pluma. Mmmmmm.

VERDICT – A good place. The dishes we chose were all good and decent, but there were certain highlights that really wowed, like the Iberico pork pluma – and unfortunately that did rather unceremoniously shove the other meats into the shade. But we can overlook that, for Foxlow was a very friendly and cheery place for us, and that’s already a very big plus for the place. Oh, and did I say that I liked the Iberico pork pluma?

Currently listening to: Fun. – At Least I’m Not as Sad (As I Used to be)

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

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

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

Getting some TLC from your granny: Little Nan’s Bar loves you

Copyright of Little Nan's Bar. Sourced from Little' Nan's Bar website

Copyright of Little Nan’s Bar. Sourced from Little’ Nan’s Bar website

Cuisine: Cocktail bar

Address: 46 Deptford Broadway, SE8 4PH

Area: Deptford

Nearest Station: Deptford Bridge / Deptford

Tel.: 07792 205 375

Website: http://www.littlenans.co.uk/

Pricing: Cheap-Medium

Good For: Good cocktails, Friendly conversation, Chilled evening, Eccentric night, Nostalgia, Party times

If you were planning a birthday party, what would you do? Bear in mind that the previous year, you’d thrown a pretty banging house party with a whole roast lechon as its centrepiece (naturally, that part was amazing; I’ll just give myself a pat on the back), and you were thinking that you wanted something a little bit different.

Stanley the lechon pig made a special guest appearance at my birthday, 2012. Life hasn't been the same since

Stanley the lechon pig made a special guest appearance at my birthday, 2012. Life hasn’t been the same since

If you live in Southeast London, more specifically the golden, er, diamond that is New CrossBrockley-Lewisham-GreenwichDeptford (okay it may not be a diamond), you should check out Little Nan’s Bar on Deptford Broadway.

Many are the times I’ve walked past a non-descript door with an old balloon-bedecked chair standing watch outside, wandering what pleasures/terrors lurked down that dark corridor to Little Nan’s Bar. It was just begging me to find out.

"You want us to go in there...? Are you sure...?"

“You want us to go in there…? Are you sure…?”

A dark, foreboding room that says "Open". What could possibly go wrong?

A dark, foreboding room that says “Open”. What could possibly go wrong?

And so I did.

The concept, from what I saw, experienced, and gleaned (and liberally interpreted) from top grandson Tristan, is that Little Nan’s Bar can sort of be summarised as the result of an alcoholic grandmother deciding that she wanted to open up a speakeasy in her twee living room. Really.

A little glimpe of the bar in Little Nan's living room

A little glimpe of the bar in Little Nan’s living room

You have rickety coffee tables covered in porcelain tat and old magazines, battered arm chairs and musty sofas, vintage pieces and art hanging from the walls, and giant teddy bears propped up and looking for some hugs; cover up the exposed brickwork with some heavily-patterned wallpaper and maybe freshen the air and smell a bit, and you could be back in my gran’s front room in Cowes on the Isle of Wight. I wouldn’t be surprised if Tristan had a good rustle through Abstracticus next door, in the Deptford flea market or in Aladdin’s Cave on Lewisham Way (big up Southeast London yo) to get all these items – they all add up to make quite the atmosphere.

THUG LIFE

THUG LIFE – photo courtesy of a friend!

To top it all off, cocktails are served in mugs, porcelain cups and even teapots – yes, teapots. And with names like Queen Victoria, The Queen Mum and even Princess Eugenie of York (“I’ll have a little bit of Princess Eugenie, ooh err”), Little Nan’s Bar has one foot firmly planted in old-fashioned monarchist granny territory.

High Tea, anyone?

High Tea, anyone? – photo courtesy of a friend!

That’s not to say that Little Nan is not open to new things and experimentation (oooh errr): as I made a booking for my birthday, I was offered to have a cocktail made in my honour. My exact instructions were, “I’m a fan of gin-based or rum-based cocktails – something a bit zingy and fresh and crisp but not overly-sweet (think Tom Collins or Dark and Stormy)”, and the resulting concoction was the Lord Mark. Dark rum laced with ginger beer, and topped off with fresh lime wedges, fresh mints and a hefty handful of blueberries; that sounds pretty spot-on, no? Chilled with ice and served in a teapot, it made for a very welcome birthday drink.

Cocktails in a teapot. Something for all the family (granny included)

Cocktails in a teapot. Something for all the family (granny included)

Indeed, all of the cocktails I was able to sample were lovely – though as I was exercising my birthday rights by stealing/accepting offers of drinks from different, unlabelled (as far as I could see… perhaps some tags would be a good thing to use in future?) teapots, I am unable to offer any good opinion on specific Little Nan creations. I do wish I was able to try the signature cocktail of the bar, the appropriately-named Little Nan Loves You, but alas it was not available that night.

It was a very fun evening overall, with me and my friends making a raucous racket of ourselves (we were not the ones who knocked over the cabinet, I hasten to add!) as we soaked up the eccentric atmosphere. They’ve done a thorough job in creating a unique and fun space and in coming up with a drink offering that is both cheap and cheerful and good quality too – and as Little’s Nan grandchildren are on hand all the time, it’s very easy to build those relationships and connections that make you feel a part of something special that you won’t find elsewhere.

Fun and games to be had at Little Nan's

Fun and games to be had at Little Nan’s

Places like Little Nan’s Bar are why I’ve come to quite like living in New Cross and Southeast London in general – we’ve got cafés with well-made food, pubs with character and good taste in beer, cheap and cheerful Vietnamese without the crush, apparently one of the best Turkish restaurants in London (and other really decent offerings too), food and produce markets that still feel like your local neighbourhood affair, Filipino supper clubs offering something tastily different (did I just big up mine and my brother’s venture? I think I just did!) and now bars that offer up something fun in an eccentrically inventive manner. AND there’s enough exposed brickwork for all who want it.

Who needs East London, eh? It’s all about SE postcodes, babeh!

VERDICT – Highly recommended. I had a spiffing good time for my birthday, and I’m sure others would too. It would certainly add a touch of something unique and different to any proceedings taking place there. With a creative mix of cocktails and a rather fun vibe to it, all packed into a very ‘cosy’ environment, it’s definitely a place to party on with friends. Stay a while for the drinks and the atmosphere, and then come back again because, quite simply, it was fun.

Currently listening to: Open Hand – Tough Girl

Categories: Cocktail Bar | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment