Tag Archives: coffee

Makers and takers


Received this from Handmade Food yesterday:

We recently received a London Borough of Lewisham Business award for most sustainable business practice . We are grateful to Sir Steve Bullock and panel for recognising Hand Made Food’s efforts. Fourteen of us, chefs, shop staff, baristas, events staff, washers up raised a glass of Sussex’s best sparkling Breaky Bottom in a toast to our patrons and supporters. We recently lost a great Blackheath independent Sisters and Daughters to a stinging rent increase and ever increasing costs. We got Cook ( national chain of 60) a shop full of factory produced ready meals , a cashier and a freezer filler – at least they put gingham round the freezers.

Congratulations to them. I’m sure it’s not easy trying to run an independent business on the high street at the moment, and I have to agree about Cook, which I shall continue to refer to as Posh Iceland. The wicker baskets and picnic cloths aren’t fooling me… Handmade Food on the other hand is a lovely place, which I’ve spent a lot of time in, but for some reason never mentioned much on here. It serves Monmouth Coffee, which is delicious, and Neal’s Yard Cheese, not to mention all the food which is solid and tasty. It’s not cheap, but if you’ve looked at the rents on that high street, it’s not hard to see why (£100k a year for Venice Restaurant?)

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I scream

Black Vanilla, morris minor, library protest,
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.

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Puccino’s music

Puccinos

I finally plucked up the courage to ask the Puccinos coffee stand what the music is that can be heard wafting out from there, along with the coffee aroma…

Incidentally, whilst their coffee is lovely, their bottled water is expensive  – much more than the water sold from the little newspaper stall in the waiting room.

Anyway – back to the plot – It is Classic FM, in case you were wondering. It’s really nice to hear this sort of thing whilst waiting for the train. Maybe they could pipe it through the PA system, instead of reminding us not to smoke.

And why does the PA at Charing Cross station always say “luggage left unattended may be destroyed or damaged”? Have they been sued by someone in the past whose luggage was damaged but not actually destroyed? Drives me nuts each time I hear it!

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Petite Boulangerie Jade… And Greggs

Following a recommendation from Michael P here, I thought I’d have a look at the new Petite Boulangerie Jade. It is next to Neals Yard Remedies, and is a smaller version of the bakery near to Hand Made Foods. Whilst the replacement of an over-priced clothes shop with an expensive coffee shop may not be the most suprising of changes to happen in Blackheath, it is quite a nice place, well decorated with black and white tiling.

Coffee and a thingyThe only thing that annoys me is the excessive Frenchification of a shop that seems to be staffed by (very pleasant) Polish staff, and playing Polish pop music! Anyway, £2.15 for a coffee and £2.30 for an almond thingy with a complicated name is about the going rate around here, and they tasted excellent. But the door makes a really loud beep every time it opens – what’s wrong with a little bell?!

And then, just for comparison… Greggs… Oh my goodness. Greggs is a disgrace. But for some reason I find myself buying vegetable slices from there. I know they are crap. A friend of a friend once told me that they lived in a flat above a Greggs, and claimed it was infested with rats (not the one in Blackheath, you’ll be delighted to hear).

Greggs The Bakers, sort of

Every time I go in there, I can feel myself slipping down into a world of misery. I really should try to give up.. Maybe if I cut down first, or go to the pharmacy next door, and ask for some monosodium-glutomate patches? Incidentally, the coffee is rubbish, and costs 90p. The vegetarian slices are horrible, but somehow addictive, and cost £1.05.

Blackheath Tea Hut

If you want a bargain coffee, head to the Blackheath Tea Hut instead – 60p (nescafe I think), plus they sell Mr Kipling Pies instead of frangipangy tartlets. I was looking for a copy of the movie about the Tea Hut, called “Tea Time“, as the idea intrigues me, and the website says that they sell DVDs of it in the hut, but I saw no sign of it.

All the locations mentioned, can be seen on the Bugle Google Map.

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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.

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