David and Goliath

Blackheath Village Deli and Starbucks

How is it that a tiny delicatessen in Blackheath right next to Starbucks doesn’t go out of business?

I thought I’d do a comparison of the two. I’d been into the Village Deli a few times. It is nice enough, but feels more like a cafe than a delicatessen. It’s nothing like Starbucks. You pay afterwards, which always feels nicer, and there are plenty of tables outside to watch the world go by.

Blackheath Village Deli Coffee

It’s not perfect though -the tables were slightly sticky, and could have done with a good wipe. A small latte was good, and cost £2.

Now, Starbucks…. You, being nice Blackheath people, know how Starbucks is, so I’m not going to describe the usual things.

Blackheath Starbucks Empty

What is odd is that from the outside you cannot see how few places there are to sit down. It is as though they have decided that they have no interest in serving customers inside. It really might as well be a booth with a dispensing flap at the front. Inside, it is like a morgue most of the time. The staff (baristas – God, what a strange word to choose), were unfaultable, but really it felt so empty.

Starbucks CoffeeThe coffee was £2.05. Not sure what you get for your extra 5p- maybe a bit more cow juice. And Nora Jones on the stereo.

I can’t help thinking that if it weren’t for the Village Deli’s location, it would have been annihilated by the Starbucks juggernaut. Not because Starbucks is better (it isn’t), but because the station is such a hub of activity in Blackheath, everyone seems to radiate towards it in the mornings and away at night, and the Deli is the first coffee shop that is visible from outside.


Filed under blackheath village, coffee, shops

17 responses to “David and Goliath

  1. Maisie

    I love the deli – their sandwiches are amazing. However they are damn pricey! It is a great place to go for breakfast when the trains are all cancelled as well.

    Regarding Starbucks – I am a regular and I have to say the staff are great – very friendly and they do a great mint mocha.

    With the issue with lack of seating, I recall that Starbucks got into difficulties with Lewisham council and the Blackheath Society over the complex issue (well to me anyway) of licencing. They were supposed to apply for restaurant licence – look at all that space downstairs – but ended up retail only. This meant they could not set up more than 2 or 3 tables. So it’s not that they have no interest in serving customers – they simply are not allowed to.

    They must be loosing a fortune because I cannot believe they get enough daily customers to pay for such a prime location.

  2. Every time I leave the Deli, I swear that I will never return. Although the service is just about passable during the week, I am almost always left to hang for a sapping period of time at the weekend. And there’s about as much chance of getting a smile as there is getting change from a tenner.

    Blackheath is crying out for a mid-price ‘caff’ that serves tea in mugs and white sliced bread buttered with a pallate knife. If only Turkey’s finest ‘Cafe Panorama’ (at the end of Belmont Hill) could be relocated. This, next to the desire that Tesco Metro puts Costcutter out of its misery soon, is my dearest wish for the village.

  3. Maisie is right about the licensing issues with Starbucks. The council were/are trying to keep a mix of shops in the village and had a policy which means that no more restaurant licenses for the core retail area of the village.

    At the time there was a strong sense that restaurateurs were driving out other business, and while that was good for the night-time economy it was less helpful for residents and other retailers.

    Starbucks were unfortunate in that they were the test case; they took the council’s decision to court and lost. If they’d taken over another restaurant rather than what had been a clothes shop they’d have been able to have all the seating they wanted.

  4. blackheathbugle

    Interesting stuff! That explains the lack of seating… Regarding Cafe Panorama – I was planning to do a post about incredibly-missold-top titles for cafes and restaurants – the “Mountain View” restuarant and “Cafe Panorama” both spring to mind… Although I’ve never tried the cafe panorama, so it is possible that they have an incredible vista out the back – herds of wildebeest sweeping majestically etc etc…

  5. I think Cafe Panorama probably wins the prize for inappropriateness by virtue of its situation at the *bottom* of a hill.

    For a brief time it was ‘Cafe Panoroma’ due to a signage mixup, but that’s another story for another time.

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  7. CC

    I have always wondered why Starbucks had such limited seating – it must have the worst seating in all of London! Even the Starbucks Shacks outside of train stations are more accomodating.

    I have been to the deli once and was quite pleased by it. The food my boyfriend and I had was not bad for the price – and I found the italian cakes they sold among other products to be quite charming. It is however not much more than a local workman’s cafe if you look beyond everything else, which is the most disappointing factor (sticky tables AND FLOORS!), and is the reason why we haven’t returned.

    The Mountain View restaurant is my favorite Indian in London thus far.

  8. Paul Bentley

    One unfortunate aspect of all this is that Starbucks is the only coffee shop in Blackheath that has easy access for parents with children in buggies, plus it has a large and easily accessible toilet which anyone with children will know is a very welcome bonus!

    Parents with children make up such a large part of the community, and are so badly served in terms of access and facilities in the rest of the village, that it is absurd Starbucks are restricted in this way and this situation should be reviewed by Lewisham’s planning department.

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  11. John

    As mentioned above , I too would love the costcutter to be turned into a Tesco/Sainsbury Metro. Any chance of setting up a petition…

    Noticied that the off license Thresher has closed but this would be too small.

  12. anonymous

    I agree that the deli is very expensive and I only go there on weekends for a coffee and because the guy in there has a very nice smile. : ) Can’t really say the same about the women- who intimidate me a little.

    • Jack

      I have to say I work there myself. Usually on Saturdays. And I do try to smile where the watering staff don’t. But it probably wasn’t me you were on about. But after working there for a year and a bit. It’s actually not too bad.

  13. Jenty

    Oops….have just realised that this is last year’s topic! Not sure how I found my way to it.

  14. visitor

    This is an old story, but unfortunately didn’t get resolved in over a decade! Whilst I do appreciate small independent shops, including the above so called deli, in “villages” like Blackheath, I am more inclined to visit such food places, if they had toilet faciities, uncramped, comfortable seating as well as clean tables and served healthy, balanced food.

    I find the persistent stance of Lewisham Council and Blackheath Society over the last deacde with regards to the Starbucks operation in Blackheath a disservice to the community. I agree that Starbucks is the only coffee shop in the village with appropriate access and toilet facilities, and if they were allowed, they would offer comfortable seating, too. I make a point to visit the Starbucks there, whenever I pass through, as the situation is a disgrace.

    Further, I can only second the lack of a decent convenience store for food in the vicinity of the station, and as Waitrose are expanding their smaller Little Waitrose segment, this to me would seem the most suitable substitute for tatty Costcutter and overpriced Sheperds and preferable to both Tesco Metro and Sainsbury Local, in view of larger stored these chains already operate relatively nearby.

    Let’s hope the Blackheath Society uses their significant influence in a way that truly benefits the community. I would like Blackheath even more and would even want to live there!

  15. Oli Seadon

    There’s a lot of sneering about the Village Deli, here, which isn’t very nice.

    The food is fantastic, there’s a perfectly healthy and balanced offering depending on what you pick, the staff are lovely (try smiling at them and they’ll smile back at you), it isn’t cheap but quality isn’t, the tables are snug but cosy, perhaps if people were a little more open they might speak to the person next to them rather than carp about the lack of elbow room, I’ve never come across a sticky floor or table in my many many visits.

    Starbucks is everywhere. We should celebrate places like the Deli and its eccentricities. It’s so much more than a ‘local workman’s cafe’ as someone put it above. Even if it wasn’t, what’s wrong with that? A workman’s cafe serving the brilliant food they do is fine by me. And how is being ‘local’ a problem? That’s the beauty of it.

    They also serve the best full English in London.

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