Shad Indian

Posted by Colin

Where: 96 Tooley Street, SE1 2TH
Cost: Mains approx £9-£13 per person
Website: www.shadindian.com
Food Rating:
Service Rating:

Ruth and I are in mourning. Our grief has led to a I Live By The River first – two ratings for a restaurant, one for the food and one for the service. On Saturday night we took two friends along to Shad Indian on Tooley Street, our favourite and local Indian restaurant. We’ve eaten here many times before and its our Indian of choice when it comes to takeway. No longer.

We had originally booked for 8pm but it became clear that it would be touch and go if one of our friends would make it on time due to a delayed train. So we duly called the restaurant and asked whether it was possible to delay our table by 30 mins, to which they said it wouldn’t be a problem. We get to the restaurant and are told they don’t have a table for us because we booked for 8pm and no-one had informed them of our call. After a discussion in front of most of the restaurant, the waiter said he would go and find out what was happening. After 10 minutes we had to ask again because no-one was forthcoming. Eventually, we were shown to a table at around 8:50pm and the head waiter told us he was going to “kick the arse” of the person who’d taken our phone call.

A different waiter took our orders. The first two people ordered different things and the waiter made a sarcastic comment about how the chef “would be pleased” that he’d have to cook different dishes. I was next and I ordered the Seafood Bhuna and was asked whether I really wanted that as the chef “always overcooks it”. Having eaten there before, I knew how good the food is and so I suspect he was trying to get me to order a dish that was quicker to cook. He then left the table and we had to get him back to take the final person’s order.

When the food arrived it was, as usual, delicious. The seafood bhuna was beautifully spiced and the seafood perfectly cooked. I would recommend the food to anyone. At the end of the meal the head waiter came back and asked how things were. I calmly explained that the service had been poor for the above reasons and that it was a shame because we were regulars and the food was so good. He snapped back at us, cutting me off mid sentence and saying “if you’re going to go down that route, I’ll give you 10% off and that’s it”. I thanked him and asked him whether, in two hours, he’d managed to find out who took our original call and why we’d been messed around. He said that he’d been too busy to find out. I said we wouldn’t be coming back again.

Verdict:

Delicious food that isn’t too expensive, we’d rightly loved this place for ages. However, we just feel let down by the way we were treated from not dealing with our phone call properly to originally missing someone’s order. And I have never ever been to a restaurant before where you order a dish and the waiter discourages you from ordering it apparently because the chef is incompetent. Maybe they don’t need to look after their regulars because of their location on such a busy street, but it is such a strange way to run a business.

So we’re now on the lookout for a decent Indian restaurant in and around SE1. Got any suggestions for us?

Zucca

Posted by Ruth

Where: Bermondsey Street, SE1
Cost: Mains approx £15 per person
Website: http://www.zuccalondon.com
Twitter: @ZuccaSam
Rating:

Walking along the foodie’s paradise that is Bermondsey street, its hard to know where to start. Behind almost every door is a tempting restaurant, gastro pub or cafe seeking to tempt the passerby. Not that you can usually just wander in – the growing reputation of the street means its increasingly hard to get a table without a reservation.

Zucca, a modern Italian restaurant, is one place well worth making an advance booking. The decor is minimalist and fresh, while the food offers some of the finest Italian cuisine around. Perfectly cooked fish sits alongside rich ragu on the ever-changing seasonal menu – not a pizza in in sight.

The highlight of our meal (just) was the starter of crisp ‘Zucca’ fritti (deep fried winter squash)- unusual and incredibly moorish. Get a bowl for the table to share and watch them disappear!

Verdict:
Delicious Italian food, friendly service and reasonable prices (for the area). It’s a great place to go for a special occasion, or just a low key lunch if you want to sample delectable treats on offer.

Candlelit vigil at Cross Bones Burial Ground

Posted by Ruth

Where: Redcross Way, SE1
Website: www.crossbones.org.uk

Many of us are keen to be remembered after we’ve gone – regardless of the life we’ve led, whether we were rich or poor, achieved great things or not. Sadly, most of us (in a few generations time) will not be, and there are many that were forgotten even in their own time. A candlelit vigil held at Cross Bones cemetery on the 23rd of every month seeks to redress this.

The gates of Crossbones taken by us during a daytime visit

The gates of Cross Bones taken by us during a daytime visit

Cross Bones is a disused burial ground, originally established as an unconsecrated graveyard for “single women” – the prostitutes licensed by the Church to work in Bankside, but not permitted a Christian burial.

Its exact date of origin is unknown, but the site was written about by John Stow in 1598.

Later it became a pauper’s cemetery, eventually housing approximately 15,000 burials, before closing in 1853 due to public health risk.

The land was subsequently sold, and was all but forgotten until numerous skeletons were unearthed during the extension of the Jubilee Line in the 1990s.

The gates of Cross Bones are now adorned with flowers, ribbons and trinkets, creating a beautiful and meaningful memorial. Led by local writer John Constable, the Friends of Cross Bones hold this monthly vigil, for people from all walks of life to gather and remember society’s outcast dead.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Far from being a macabre affair, the vigil was inspiring and moving, with strangers huddled together listening to local performers sing and recite poetry (including two odes penned by a young girl).

John Constable recounted a poem gifted to him 16 years ago by the spirit of the ‘Winchester Goose’ (one of the prostitutes allegedly buried at Cross Bones). The vigil ended with a collective non-denominational prayer, and an offering of gin – likely to be one of the few comforts to the Cross Bones residents in their lifetime.

The site is now owned by Transport for London and the Friends of Cross Bones are currently campaigning for there to be a permanent memorial garden to mark the site. Given the level of development in London Bridge that is no easy task, but an imperative one. For Cross Bones is as important a place as any of London’s gilded Victorian cemeteries, and an important place to remember those on the periphery of society – both in the past and present.

You can find a link to the Friends of Cross Bones’s petition to protect the site here

Eerie water at London Bridge Station

Aside

Posted by Colin

I have always been fascinated with humans’ ability to spot a face anywhere. We’ve been programmed by evolution to recognize facial features, but I didn’t expect one to be staring up at me from the pavement by London Bridge station on my way home last night.

This puddle, in the shape of a cartoon man’s head, has everything from a quiff of hair at the top to a chin at the bottom. He is furnished in between with an eyebrow jutting out, a long protruding nose and a Lesley Ash-esque trout pout. Or it could be a Charlie Chaplin Movember tribute.

Perhaps a silly thing to share, but it amused me!

Champor Champor – Asian Fusion in London Bridge

Posted by Ruth

Where: Weston Street, London Bridge, SE1
Cost: Mains approx £15
Website: http://www.champor-champor.com/
Twitter: @ChamporChampor
Rating:

There are definite benefits to living in the shadow of the Shard, and many of those involve food. From the famous Borough Market to the lesser known Maltby Street traders, and the many Bermondsey Street bistros, there is much to tempt the avid foodie.

However, all this has an unfortunate impact on the purse strings – so we were pleased to learn that literally doors away from our flat is a highly regarded South-East Asian fusion restaurant, with a 2 for 1 Taste Card deal.

Champor Champor (loosely translated to ‘mix and match’) serves a selection of Thai-Malay dishes, some with a Western touch. Starters range from Thai lemongrass soup to goats cheese parcels.

Classic favourites such as beef rendang and green chicken curry are nestled together on the main-course menu with more unusual offerings, such as turmeric banana curry.

Often fusion food such as this can miss the mark – with none of the cuisines receiving the necessary culinary expertise required. Pleasingly, Champor Champor avoids this issue. The food is delicious, with flavours displaying a delicate touch, which reassuringly suggests that close attention has been paid to the dishes.

The décor – colourful, exotic and inviting, with an array of South-East Asian silks and trinkets – is enjoyable and unique, if a little on the cramped side of cosy.

Verdict:

With dishes delivering real depth of flavour, and unusual combinations to sample, Champor Champor is well worth a visit – but get a Taste London card first. Without one the menu is a little too expensive – and perhaps artificially high as a result of the deal.

Wrap it Up!

Where: 85-87 Borough High Street, SE1
When: 08/11/12
Website: www.wrapitup.co.uk
Twitter: @wrapitupwraps
Rating:

Phileas Fogg managed to make it around the world in 80 days, but it is possible to do the same over lunchtime at Wrap it Up! – a gourmet wrap franchise that has been in business since 2006. With fillings inspired by countries from Mexico to the Caribbean, through Portugal, Lebanon and India, you can pick up a large, generously laden tortilla for £4.95. I went for the Mexican Burrito. If you want to mix it up a bit then you can go “cross country” and add other flavours to the existing choices.

I went to the one on Borough High Street, but they can be found in seven other locations across town including Holborn and Bishopgate. See the website for the full list.

Verdict:

Decent, quick food. The wraps are full to bursting, but I could have done with more of the guacamole and sour cream. The spice level was just right though. If you’re looking for a London Bridge lunch on Monday through Wednesday then definitely pop in and sample the wraps. If you’re hungry on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday, you’d be better off popping into nearby Borough Market as you can pick up better food for a similar price.

The Miller

Where: 96 Snowsfields, SE1
Website: www.themiller.co.uk
Twitter: @themillerpub
Rating:

Don’t get me wrong, I love cooking, but some days the idea of slaving over a hot stove isn’t so appealing. In these times of culinary slothfulness, what’s needed is somewhere local that does quick, tasty food at a reasonable price. Enter The Miller, a pub on the doorstep of Guy’s Hospital that has a great menu of Thai food. Being in such proximity to the hospital, it gets its far share of medical types wanting to grab some quick grub and you can see why – the food is yummy and you get plenty of it.

The Miller also regularly hosts music, comedy and others performances in their upstairs area – check out the What’s On Guide.

Verdict:

About as far from pretentious as you can get, the downstairs feels like a cross between a student union bar and your living room (a good thing!). With a pool table and a mini beer garden out the front it would be a great place just to sit and catch up with friends. If you’re in the area and in need of nourishment, you could do a lot worse.

Hide Bar

Where: Bermondsey Street, SE1
When: 14/02/12
Website: http://www.thehidebar.com/
Price: £7 – £8 a cocktail
Rating:

Hide by name, hide by nature – at least that’s what our drinks did for nearly half an hour at this Bermondsey Street cocktail bar. Having just moved into the area, Ruth and I were keen to explore “The Street” and took the opportunity to pop round the corner for a cocktail after our Valentine’s meal in.

Upon arrival we were shown to a table towards the butterfly wallpapered back area of the bar. After a few minutes of deliberation, I went up to the bar to order our cocktails. I was asked where I was sitting and told that the drinks would be brought over. Almost fifteen drinkless minutes later, we grabbed a waiter and said our drinks hadn’t arrived yet. He went to look into it. Ten minutes later, still no drinks (or waiter). Ruth went to see what was happening and a few minutes later a third waiter returned to our table to inform us our drink order had been lost and we were asked to order again. No apology – just a matter-of-fact sense of ambivalence towards us.

When the drinks finally arrived, around half an hour after we’d initially ordered them, they came without any kind of regret or apology for the wait. I’d love to say that it was because it was Valentine’s and they were heaving, but the bar wasn’t overly crowded – they must see more people on a Friday night.

The sorry state of the service was a shame because the belated drinks were actually pretty good. I had the Eagle Sling – Eagle Rare single barrel Kentucky Bourbon, Galliano Authentico, orange and lemon zests, stirred and topped with Canada Dry ginger ale. Ruth plumped for the Passionate Englishman – Hendrick’s Gin stirred with passion fruit purée, lemon and sugar. But by that time the shine had been taken off the experience and, rather than try something else from the extensive menu, we went home. On asking for the bill at the bar it came back with someone else’s drinks on, just to compound our sense of their incompetence. We got them removed, settled the bill and left.

Verdict:

Nice drinks, shocking service. Perhaps they were having an off night. We were really excited about having such an extensive menu of cocktails – some of which are Hide originals – a five minute walk from our new front door. With it being so close, we’ll probably try it again and report back. But don’t hold your breath.

Cantina del Ponte Restaurant

Where: Shad Thames SE1
When: Every day
Website: http://www.cantinadelponte.co.uk
Price: £35 per person (2 courses and wine)
Rating:

The thought of relaxing with a glass (or three) of crisp Italian wine and the promise of delectable culinary delights helped us through the horror that is… moving house. After exhausting our ability to negotiate with flat pack furniture, and London traffic, we treated Colin’s parents to a meal at Cantina del Ponte – an Italian restaurant overlooking the River (and a 10 minute walk from our new flat). Having eaten here in the outdoor area last Summer, we knew the food was great, but on this visit I was particularly impressed with the indoor ambience. It feels special and the staff are professional, without being stuffy or overbearing. It also avoids the tourist trappings one might expect from the area, being reasonably priced with an interesting range of dishes (those looking for pizzas and associated standard fare will be disappointed).

We made life very easy for the kitchen, with three of us choosing Goats Cheese for starter and Seafood Spaghetti for main. The Goats Cheese was served with focaccia bread and chilli jam; I could have happily eaten this twice. However the cheese would have benefited from being slightly warmer. For seafood lovers the spaghetti is a real treat: a large metal dish delivering sweet prawns and mussels, tender squid and baby octopus in a velvety tomato sauce. It was exactly what was needed to revive our weary bodies. To accompany our meal we drank a Madergale Bianco which perfectly complimented our food. This is also served in carafes – a nice touch.

Verdict
Cantina del Ponte is a great choice if you are looking for delicious Italian food on the river, and a visit is highly recommended. It’s also great in the Summer, when you can sit outside and watch the world go by.