Archive for January, 2007

Osteopath, anyone?

Wednesday, January 31st, 2007

Sadly the Phantom is not infallible when it comes to matters of health. I haven’t had the necessity to call an osteopath for years so when a friend asked me just now if I knew of a good one in the area, all I could do was reach for the Yellow Pages – hardly a scientific method of selecting someone who will be doing things to your body when you’re just wearing a pair of pants…

So – can anyone reccommend a good one in the SE10 or SE3 area?

Hirst & Sons, Bakers

Wednesday, January 31st, 2007

Royal Standard

This shop is worth visiting if only for the lovely ceramic tiles on the walls. I might be wrong of course, but these feel like they’ve been there since the shop was built – and that’s just the sort of thing I love (we have sadly just lost a similarly pretty shop along Trafalgar Rd, where the new Tescos will be) The walls are set off nicely by the old-fashioned curvy glass counters and the more modern wooden signs abover the bread.

If I’m honest, the bread isn’t much to write home about. Baked at the sister shop in Lewisham, the bog-standard breads and commercial-quality cakes could be found in any similar bakers – but Hirst have several things in their favour – they’re a small company, local and they’re not Greggs. There is some character left here and the service is generally friendly and efficient – as long as you don’t accidentally turn up behind a bunch of builders who’ve come in for a bulk order of egg rolls at the sandwich counter.

They seem to be doing ok at the moment, given the depressed state of the Standard. I hope they survive – they provide a valuable service – even if their bread is nothing out of the ordinary.

Super Casino goes to Manchester

Tuesday, January 30th, 2007

Well – there’s a turn up for the books. Certainly not what the bookies were predicting, eh, which just goes to show you shouldn’t gamble – it’s a risky thing…

I’ll nail my colours to the mast now. I was in favour of the Casino. I really thought that all things considered it was good for Greenwich. I know all about the crime/addiction/degeration arguments – and can’t say it was all going to be perfect – but nothing is and I tend to think that it was well out of the way of where most people live, in a separate area – it’s a reasonable distance, I’d say, to the nearest current flats. I’m not, of course talking about residential areas waiting to be built – frankly if people choose to move into an area after a casino’s opened then that’s up to them. So I’m mildly disappointed – but not gutted. I wasn’t enough in favour to march…

Anschutz were holding the Dome to ransom, of course, saying that huge amounts of development money would be witheld if they didn’t get their own way (I’ve got to say that if I had been on the committee I’d have not given them the licence just for that – blackmail is never an attractive thing.)It will be interesting to see how much of that development is actually stopped. In fact, I’m fascinated about that entire Penisuala development. I bet Mr Prescott isn’t popular in a few circles today.

Personally, I predict that AEG will have another go. They’ve always said they wouldn’t go for a smaller casino – it was all or nothing for them – but I suspect that now they’ve lost The Big One they’ll change their tune and go for any second round that may just happen to appear.

In the meanwhile, it’s dug Anschutz out of one small hole re. the Tutankhamun exhibition which is due to hit the Dome in November. The Egyptian Head of Antiquities had refused to allow the exhibition to come if there was a casino, saying it would be disrespectful to the relics (though contrary to other reports the famous mask was never going to come our way – it’s too fraglie to leave Egypt now.) Anschutz was going to have to decide whether they should delay the casino to accommodate the exhibition – now they are relieved of that decision.

I know many of you will be delighted to see that the Dome lost the bid. For my money, I think it would have been a good thing.

Red Door Gallery

Tuesday, January 30th, 2007

Turnpin Lane

Another Turnpin Lane curiosity, The minute Red Door Gallery is a shop showcasing local artists – especially sculptors, like Katherine Morling, whose pottery palm trees and odd colonies of skulls on sticks (based on the giant – and very creepy – memento mori on St Nicholas Church, Deptford) are enticingly fresh and original. Ceramics are heavily featured, often weighing towards the practical – vases and plates etc – clearly with the gift market in mind. If you do end up buying something you can also get the wrapping paper and card at the same time.

I can’t afford most of the stuff in there, even though they claim to have “prices to suit every budget,” – but it’s always intriguing to have a look. The “quilted” ceramic vases are particularly good, and there are some lovely jugs and mugs which are a little less pricey. The shop also sells dinky objets d’art and scented candles of the love ‘em or hate ‘em variety. Word to the wise – if you hate ‘em, make sure you bring a peg if you go in; they’re very powerful indeed. The displays change, as do the exhibitions at the back, on a regular basis.

Kerala Zone

Monday, January 29th, 2007

Trafalgar Road

I’d heard a fair bit about Kerala Zone before I’d visited it – I was still a little sad at losing Lauras. But most people thought the food was pretty good, though many complained the waiting times were long.

I don’t generally tend to think that waiting times are things to be worried about if the food and the company are good – it at least implies that the food is being cooked to order and I was intrigued by that food – South Indian cuisine which is different from the usual bog-standard British Curry menu, which seems to be the same in every subcontinental restaurant/take away no matter what the origins or tastes of the chef.

I can’t make up my mind about the decor. They’ve obviously made an effort to be different from the classic flock-wallpapered, strangely cross-cultural curry house, complete with velveteen-and-gold scenes from the Koka Shastra and a shiny calendar with pictures of waterfalls. These walls have silhouetted palm trees painted as murals against a dark orange background. So far so good. I didn’t even object to the furniture – dark wood high-backed chairs and simple tables. But the rest of it slips badly – dodgy plants in the window supplemented by lighting-up cacti that change colour and disco rope lights. A neon sign announces the opening times and a dot matrix display sends enticing messages to the outside world. The clock has swirly lights around it and they appear to have forgotten the Christmas decorations are still up.

So – a hybrid – is it tasteful or kitsch? Regular readers of this blog will know I am a big fan of kitsch – but I’m an all-or-nothing kinda phantom – I either want to be utterly surrounded by plastic palm trees and golden tissue boxes in the shape of the Taj Mahal – or I want minimalist chic (to be honest I think I’d rather go for the former but I don’t mind – the only sin is not being wholehearted.)

Of course the real issue is food – if that’s fabulous I can forgive pretty much any decor. We didn’t have as long to wait as I had been led to expect – though this could have something to do with the fact that we were the only four people in the place. We nibbled on poppadums with not-quite-enough pickles. They were crisp and fresh and the onion salad that I had ordered when I realised the paucity of the pickles was absolutely delicious – some kind of vinaigrette dressing brought it out of being mere chopped onions and tomatoes – this attention to detail is always a big hit with me. The starters seemed quite heavy and cakey, but were also declared a hit.

Kerala Zone doesn’t use artificial colours so most of the curry dishes looked exactly the same – a sort of brown goo – but all were tasty and different. One of my companions had a splendid fish curry in delicate yellows and whites – with a similarly light flavour. I wasn’t entirely convinced by the rice, but it was still totally edible – and I am a fussy rice eater.

Kerala Zone is one of the better Indian restaurants in Greenwich. I enjoyed the difference in the recipes and it was nice not to see neon pink meat or bright yellow vegetables, the absence of artificial colour allowing them to bring out their naturally more subtle hues. It’s not top-notch by any means – but you don’t go to Greenwich for hard-core Indian food. This is a tasty, extremely friendly local eaterie to return to again and again so that you can work your way around the interesting and well-cooked menu.

Bullfrogs Shoes

Sunday, January 28th, 2007

Right on the very corner of Nelson Road, Bullfrogs is one of those places I’ve passed so many times and rather enjoyed the funky display but never actually gone inside. Perhaps a busy Saturday at sale-time wasn’t the best time to check it out, but there I was anyway, standing in the middle of a series of pale green circular pouffe stools, trying to see past the gaggles of young humanity poring over the bargains.

It seemed to me that the boys’ stuff was better than the girls’ – good clubwear and interesting day shoes for guys, but the women’s selection wasn’t as good – slightly tacky-looking high heels and unexciting daywear – though perhaps that’s what sales are all about – presuabably if it was that good it wouldn’t have made it to the sale at all. The usual clubbing flyers littered the desk, and frankly it felt a little scruffy – but I’m giving Bullfrogs the benifit of the doubt. Nowhere looks at its best during saletime. I’ll go back in a month or so for an update.

National Maritime Museum

Saturday, January 27th, 2007

I understand that this august building was once home to a rather dull display of paintings of rear-admirals and dusty models of ships. I don’t remember much about a childhood visit which apparently included such items, but it’s certainly not like that now. Bright and light, it houses well-designed, often interactive displays designed mainly, it would seem, for people with a passing rather than a deep interest in all things marine-related.

Objects range from the profound – sobering articles from Franklin’s ill-fated expedition to Antarctica – to the frivolous – just what is that giant tank of water in the ground-floor gallery for?

I particularly like the no-nonsense polemic stance that the captions by the exhibits take. No wishy-washy sitting on the fence here. As the visitor walks around the museum a picture is gradually built not only of the exhibits, but of those who collated and curated them – for me something almost as fascinating as the place itself. (I used to find a similar frankness in its sister museum, the Royal Observatory, though it has changed somewhat now.)

My favourite permanent exhibit is the Ocean liners display complete with reconstructions of first class and steerage accommodation, posters, menus and films all with a very obvious sponsor. The scatological child in me enjoys looking for the people doing naughty things in the cabins of the scale models of liners at the end (or beginning, depending on which way you come in) and the plastic peeping-toms watching them through miniature portholes…*

I also enjoy the “exploration” section – a darkly sparkling jewel focusing on ancient mariners and treasure seekers, not to mention the odd merchant adventurer and pirate.

Upstairs there are some quite interesting interactive things, mainly for kids (though I quite enjoyed playing on them too)and a rather boring gallery of paintings, ancient and modern, which I always think is shut – but then find it’s not – it just looks like it.

Ultimately I find the museum an excellent one-off. It passes a splendid afternoon for the mildly curious, but, as with so many modern museums, it fails to deliver any real depth. In trying to ensure that it appeals to all, it forgets that some would actually prefer a little more content. So though, as a resident (and friend of the museum) I do visit on a regular basis, it is really to see the generally superb temporary exhibits – Nelson & Napoleon was a particular favourite of mine.

Outside there is a fabulous view – to the front the Old Royal Naval College, to the rear the Royal Park. The cafe serves the usual tea, buns and olde-worlde lemonade at the usual inflated prices, but at least it’s in pleasant surroundings. The gift shop is splendid – very well-stocked with interesting themed goodies as well as all the usual souvenir-shop-suspects.

Try not to be put off by the daft roaring sound just outside the entrance to the museum. It’s supposed to be the sea – if you walk fast enough it will irritate you for at most a few seconds.

*made you look….

Daisy Cakes Bakes Shop

Friday, January 26th, 2007

Deep down dark little Turnpin Lane, leading into Greenwich Market, which I will talk about in depth on another occasion,lies a dinky little pastel-pretty shop called Daisy Cakes Bake Shop.

It’s tiny – so it’s more the public face of a bespoke cake making service, but it does sell the odd gorgeous cupcake and cakey-slice as well as sugar roses for your own creations and a limited selection of decorating equipment. Cute Cath Kidston-esque cake stands and examples of the kind of cake that you can order for your special occasion line the window, as well as little sugar figures of brides and groomse – either standing or sitting with their legs hanging off the side of the top tier of your wedding cake. All in all, it’s very pink indeed.

According to the website they bake everything on the premises. All I can say is that that shop must be like the Tardis out the back – or perhaps they’re employing Ooompa-Loompas. They try to source locally, organically and ethically which is never a bad thing.

Don’t expect this all to come in cheap – but you’re paying for a unique service here, so it seems that you’re paying for quality and individuality. I have never eaten a Daisy-baked cake – I would appreciate any comments from people who have.

St Alfege’s Passage (Oooer, Missus…)

Thursday, January 25th, 2007

A charming little early-Victorian slip-though running down beside St Alfege’s church. The house on the end, next to the entrance to the churchyard is by far the prettiest at any time of year as they carefully keep their window boxes full to bursting point. What with the old stone paving, the splendid entrance to St Alfege’s churchyard and the lovely lamp posts, this is an enchanting passageway.

At No 16, is St Alfege’s Guest House, a dear little B&B – from what I can see on the website. I walked down there the other day to see if I could find it (before I looked it up) and it’s so discreet that I couldn’t tell which house it was.

Run by Robert & Nicholas (or so I read) it has, it would appear, three exquisite rooms, one of which is a single; another has a four-poster bed. The sitting room looks cosy too. The prices seem pretty damn reasonable for the centre of Greenwich – nay, for London – from £40 for a single room. It’s predominantly gay, but claims to give straight people an equally warm welcome. Watch out, Robert and Nicholas. The Phantom or one of the team of spooky spies will be staying with you soon…

Winter Wonderland

Wednesday, January 24th, 2007

Well – it’s a bit of an event these days, isn’t it? So – I trudged out this morning with my trusty camera – well – two of them actually. I managed to get (I think) quite a few good ones with my fabby camera – then the battery ran out. “Not to worry,” I thought, “I still have my trusty point-and-shoot.” I got about ten with that before the battery ran out on that too.

They’re both on charge at the moment, and so far I’ve only been able to retrieve the ones on the point-and-shoot (see above.)

It’s a shame really – I have never seen the deer so close to the side viewing point in the park and I didn’t make it down to the Old Royal Naval College because it just wasn’t worth the slidy-path hazards. But there were lots of people out taking pics – I certainly wasn’t the only recorder of this rarer and rarer event.By 9.00am the snow was on the way out anyway.

I have no idea how often we’ll see snow any more. Climate change seems to be coming on faster and faster. The local paper this morning says that the Thames Barrier was shut three times in four days last week – I had certainly noticed how high the tide was on Saturday. But this little snowfall proves all is not totally lost – yet.

I have both cameras on charge in case we get another downfall.

If the other camera’s pics are any good, I’ll post them either here or on my forthcoming gallery.