Black Vanilla is the new coffee and ice-cream shop in Blackheath village. It bills itself as a boutique bakery and gelateria. The decor is modern, stark, bright, and shiny. The coffee was good. In a previous life I spent many hours taming steaming espresso machines. It’s harder than it looks. Theirs had just the right amount of foam. Having said that, so does Hand Made Food’s, whose milk tastes better, and they have much more space to sit down. But no ice cream.
The seating area feels really cramped. A huge amount of space is taken up by a pastry table that could just as easily be a shelf against a wall. The entire serving area feels as though it is intruding on the seating space by about half a metre.
The ice creams (no, I’m refusing to call them gelato) look amazing, but I haven’t tried them yet.
Sitting inside, the cost of a latte and a cappuccino came to £5.95. This seemed pretty steep, but I’m sure the rental in that location on the high street is horrendous, so they should be given the benefit of the doubt. The staff are a mixed bag – one woman – possibly the manager/owner seemed friendly and efficient. The Italian(?) man making the coffee did an excellent job. The other girl seemed a little confused as though this was her first part-time work, and she hadn’t had to deal with customers before.. Not rude at all, just a little forgetful.
On a Saturday afternoon the place was heaving with customers. It’s a great location, and right now it seems to be pitched at exactly the right level for the high street crowds. As I was leaving the library protests, there was a brilliant juxtaposition: some wealthy looking girls walking down the high street with their conspicuously-consumed tubs of ice cream in their hands, slack-jawed and gawping at the Morris Minor blaring dub reggae about the library cuts. Welcome to South London.