Archive for the ‘Takeaways’ Category

Pizza Classico

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

I’ve been in two minds about talking about this place. Not because it’s in Old Kent Road and it’s therefore not really Greenwich – I’m happy enough at other times to talk about things I like that don’t really count – but because not everyone can get it.

Let’s start with the problem – piss-poor pizzas in Greenwich. It comes to something when you have dozens of fast food joints and the best of a very bad bunch is Dominoes. They are all much the same quality, whichever nasty joint you choose – muffy, flabby bases with grizzled toppings just about clinging on for dear life. Ghastly ‘sauces’ given away as extras don’t make up for decent flavour in the first place.

If just one proper, wood-fired place started up in Greenwich, doing crispy, thin-crust pizzas with flavoursome toppings, they’d clean up, but they all seem to be happy with just being the same as each other.

I was recommended Pizza Classico by someone on here (I can’t remember who, but thank you) and then some friends of mine had a pizza delivered that they raved about. They live in Westcombe Park and had to plead over the phone to get a delivery to SE3, which isn’t in Pizza Classico’s catchment area, but, since it was a Monday, the guys there took pity on them. The delivery took a little time, and when it arrived, it needed popping in the oven to crisp up a bit, but the resulting flavour and the thinness of the crust made it all worthwhile.

My friends were so impressed with the pizzas that they invited me round for second helpings a couple of Saturdays ago. We met in the beer garden at the Brewery, and decided to call up and order before heading home as it does take time. But this time, Pizza Classico were having none of that SE3 business. I sat listening to the pathetic pleas of a desperate man as he tried to persuade them that Westcombe Park is actually closer to Old Kent Road than some of SE10, which is in the catchment area (you can even order online if you’re in real Greenwich…) but no deal. We ended up getting a very-serviceable-indeed curry from Mehak – which, let’s face it, is never a bad choice.

Since it was no good to them, my pals gave me the Pizza Classico flyer and a couple of days later I gingerly tried the online ordering system, fully expecting to be rejected – after all, Old Kent Road IS a long way for a pizza to come.

But come it did. I’d taken the precaution of heating up the oven, just to crisp it up from the journey (it wouldn’t matter how long you put most of the local pizzas in the oven; they’d always be floppy and soggy) and I can’t say it arrived in super-quick time.

The flavour IS worth waiting for. If you’re a little wary of spiciness, give anything that’s labelled ‘hot’ a wide berth – they really mean it, but generally, the toppings are interesting, fresh and very,very tasty.

I’ll be honest. If a proper pizza delivery place opened around here, I wouldn’t be ordering from Pizza Classico (of course they’re welcome to open a sister business round here whenever they like as far as I’m concerned.) Food from there does need a spot of tlc when it arrives. But until a comparable pizza joint does open round here, as long as you live in SE10 or have a mate in Greenwich who can take pity on you, Pizza Classico will fill the hungry gap.

I ordered via Just Eat which was perfectly serviceable.

Khan’s

Monday, June 1st, 2009

It was such a lovely evening – a walk across the heath was just – well – it had to happen really. I didn’t know where I’d end up – I just knew I wanted to go somewhere I’d not been to before.

The odd thing about Khan’s for me is that I love curry, this must be one of the most established Indian/Nepalese restaurants in the area and I’ve always been curious about the building, yet I’d never been there.

First things first. The great thing about Blackheath as opposed to Greenwich is that its buildings have been meticulously researched and written about, in some cases by street number; something Greenwich can only dream of (and no – I’m not volunteering – I’d leave all sorts of gaps and anomalies and go off into flights of fancy – it’d just be rubbish.)

Neil Rhind’s superb three-parter, Blackheath Village and Environs Pt 1&2 and The Heath, is hard to get in its entirety these days – only Part One is readily available, which is a real pain. Happily I’ve managed to snout-out copies of all three (though my copy of The Heath is the original – I understand the update is the better version…)

All of which means that I was able to look up the curious building that houses Khan’s. Neil Rhind tells us that for most of its life, Number 28 Montpelier Vale was, in various guises and under sundry owners, a dentist/druggist. “Teeth stopped, sealed and extracted. Artificial teeth from 5/- a tooth…”

It remained a quaint old mid-Victorian store with original fittings until the 1970s when, as Rhind says, “despite protest,” the place was gutted and turned into a restaurant.

I have to say that Khan’s decor is nothing to write home about. They’ve saved the cute windows, but everything else has gone, replaced by the now-almost-but-not-quite- retro-cool in itself flock wallpaper, dodgy chandeliers and gilded mirrors. The music is of the Indian pan-pipe variety, and walking in felt like stepping back in time – albeit 30 years rather than 130.

It was going to go one of two ways – it was either going to be an undiscovered (okay – for me) gem – or a huge disappointment (and I’ve had one of them already recently.) But hey – I was in there, the waiters were keen to sit me down and – well – I love curry.

I don’t stick to the Phantom Control Meal when out. I like to have a range of stuff, including chef’s specials, so I dodged around the menu, picking out various things that took my fancy. Jalfrezis, Dansaks, Dopiazas, Aloos – a real mix.

The food is like the decor – retro in feel. But that’s no bad thing in my book. I like modern Indian food – but there’s definitely a comfort-factor in Indian food that has 30 years of Britain ingrained in it. It’s middle-of-the-road food – even the Jalfrezi wasn’t particularly hot (despite the warning on the menu) and most of it has seen quite a bit of the sugar bowl, but that, for me, is no real problem.

It was tasty, fun and nostalgic. Not gourmet food, not nouvelle cuisine – but that’s not what Khan’s does. The service is charmingly old-fashioned too, though the prices seem to have kept up with the times. I enjoyed it a lot, and if I felt ever so slightly guilty looking at my expanding waistline later, hey – it’s a good way to go…

The Viceroy

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

10, The Village, Charlton SE7 8UD

020 8319 3439

I have been trying to cut down on the number of takeaways I’ve been having – the Christmas pounds have taken their toll in both senses of the word. In fact this is only my second of the year (the first I have temporarily refrained writing about, as it’s an old establishment that I once enjoyed and it scored its second strike in the Phantom’s Black Book. One more and it’s out…)

I’ve had so many of you recommend the Viceroy in Charlton that it just had to be the next on the list.

First things first, the ordering. The phone was answered quickly, and the guy got me to spell the address and repeated it. He took the order, then repeated that. He didn’t give me the overall price without prompting, but had it ready when I asked.

It arrived within the time specified, and I was somewhat surprised to have a free bottle of Coke forced upon me. Nice – but unnecessary. The calories were already going to take me way over budget for the current quarter.

They are obviously keen to court custom in a shrinking market. We got several other little freebies too – mainly of the salad-variety – in a vain attempt to counteract the naughty main event, I guess.

The Viceroy serves what I call ‘retro-comfort curry.’ While many takeaways these days make a big deal about using vegetables you can actually recognise in the mix, no artificial flavours or colours and the odd show of herbs, (I’ve even seen organic ones) there was none of that wussy stuff here (though in a concession to quality they say they use ‘chicken breast only.’ I’m guessing it’s not organic breast meat…)

All the dishes in the Phantom Control Meal were bright neon orange and swimming in oil. So much so that we poured the run-off into a separate bowl for hygienic disposal, then soaked up the worst of the rest with kitchen towels before serving. The pilau part of the rice was like hundreds-and-thousands on a fairy cake, and, apart from some odd bits of spud, there wasn’t a recognisable item in the melange of dishes.

And it was bloody wonderful. Even as I ate it, I could feel my arteries furring-up, any antibodies I had left squaring-up for a punch-up with the E-numbers and my waist losing its battle to fit in my jeans. But what a way to go.

This is British curry of the 1980 and early 90s – exactly how I remember my first Indian food. It takes me back to times of carefree abandon, when I didn’t have to worry about what I put in my mouth.

I can’t eat this stuff every day – it’s for nostalgia purposes only. But as a trip down Memory Lane, as happy-food for cold winter nights, this is – what did they used to say in the playground then? Oh yes. Ace…

Mango Tree

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

Continuing the long search for the Phantom’s favourite takeaway curry, the latest leaflet to join the pile on the doormat was for Mango Tree in Blackheath Road.

I’m absolutely sure I’ve ordered from the same address before (110) but not the name, so perhaps they’ve changed management (or at least names.) But even established joints change chef, so Mango Tree needed testing.

Top marks for organisation. The guy who answered the phone was speedy, efficient and clear. He must have been doing it online because he asked the postcode then house number. He repeated the order back, then before I could even ask, told me exactly how long he thought it would take to deliver and how much it would be – something it’s always handy to know.

And he was spot-on. It arrived in the specified time, still nice and hot. Average price.

As usual the Phantom Control Meal was ordered – no extras this time, I’m trying to cut down a little, though I was tempted by a couple of the chefs exclusives – especially the garlic chilli, which is ‘recommended’ (I’ve always wondered about that phrase on a menu – does it imply the rest of the dishes aren’t recommended?)

Of course the Control Menu remains a closely guarded secret, but there are a few obvious things I can talk about. The poppadoms were crisp and fresh and came with a couple of free dips. The rice, too, was fresh, both smelling and tasting good.

As for the sundry dishes and sauces – well, they were actually also pretty good. Not the very best I’ve ever tasted, but all in all, a decent all-rounder.

Classic in flavour and consistency, despite their claim to be ‘contemporary,’ about which I have no problem at all. I confess to want no surprises when it comes to a takeaway curry. I’m happy to experiment with unusual stuff when I eat out – for modern Indian cuisine, I still love Babur in Brockley, but when I’m loafing around in front of Heroes I want comfort food.

And Mango Tree’s food does fit that bill. Spicy but not too spicy, tasty – but not too tasty. And there’s the rub. I enjoyed this, but after the first few mouthfuls I really didn’t notice it going down very much. Of course I finished it because I’m a greedy Phantom, but I frankly forgot I was eating, which is probably not that great for my health.

It is possible, I guess, that Heroes was just that exciting but – nah…

Presumably the ‘chef’s exclusives’ are the cutting-edge bit, but as far as the bog-standard section (easily the biggest bit) goes, it’s absolutely what you’d expect from a takeaway. It’s joined my ‘eat again’ list, because I really did enjoy those first few mouthfuls, but it wasn’t quite nice enough to become a Phantom Definitive.

The search continues.

Anyone else find themselves humming that really annoying calypso from Dr No at the name Mango Tree, by now?

Just me then…

Royal Nepalese – Eat-In

Friday, November 28th, 2008

2-4, Station Crescent, London, SE3 7EQ
Tel: 020 8269 0505

I confess I’ve been a drifting Phantom as far as Indian restaurants and takeways have been recently. There seems to have been a general swapping-round of chefs in the area and my erstwhile solid favourites have been sorely disappointing recently. I’ve been forced to start my search again, randomly picking new places – and testing a few I dismissed earlier.

Now, takeaway and eat-in are two different things. Look no further than the Mehak for that – their eat-in is absolutely great (possibly a fave) but the takeaways just don’t seem to cut it IMHO. So whenever I review a new place from now on, I’m going to say whether I ate in or had a takeaway.

In my latest drive to find somewhere new I decided to retry the Royal Nepalese by Westcombe Park Station (opposite the still-pretty-good-for eat-in Coriander.)

I last ate there about three years ago. It had been one of my favourites before that but suddenly seemed to go downhill and after a couple of very lacklustre meals, I moved on.

It’s been so long that they’ve actually redecorated since I last went in – a simple, almost oriental style with sundry pictures of elderly Nepalese gentlefolk, one of whom looks distincly like she’s blowing a party blower. The reception was friendly – very friendly – we were the only ones in there, perhaps a sign of the times.

We ordered a combination of the secret Phantom Control Meal and a couple of chefs recommendations, with some puppodums while we waited, which was probably a good thing – it took some time to serve us despite our being the only table in there (though not as long as the new Ghurka place – which I’ll get onto another day…) The puppodums were crisp and light, and tasted fresh, and the chutneys and pickles were tasty and at least one of them looked home-made.

As regular readers will know, the Phantom Control Meal remains a closely guarded secret, but I guess it’s hardly a surprise that it includes rice – which was fluffy and fresh – and naan, which was pleasingly heavy and bready.

The other dishes were pleasantly-spiced (neither too hot nor bland) and although some of the ‘extra ingredients’ (nothing bad – I don’t mean creepy crawlies or anything – just unexpected) felt a bit odd, they weren’t unwelcome.

I asked if they’d changed chef – it was such a difference – but the waiter/manager said it was the same guy. I can only assume that they’ve pulled their socks up, as this was a completely different experience from my last visit. Maybe it has something to do with the competition opposite. Who cares, if it means there are now two good curry places within ten metres of each other?

I haven’t had a takeaway from them yet, so I can’t recommend that section. But I have to say I was highly impressed with the eat-in experience. At a time when we’re all cutting down (yes, even me) on eating out, the last thing we want is a duff time when we do venture out. I’m not convinced I’ve found Curry Nirvana in Royal Nepalese, but it will certainly do while I’m still looking…

Favourite Inn

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008

Today, Folks, I bring you something a little out of town – but a secret that if you don’t know it already, you will thank me for sharing with you…

We were talking recently about the lack of decent Chinese eateries, but when Henrietta asked me the other day about places to live, I was reminded of one that really deserves a mention.

Round the back of Woolwich Arsenal train (and soon to be DLR) station, lies the intriguingly-named, somewhat tatty Spray Street. And in the middle of Spray Street, about two minutes’ dawdle from the station, lies The Favourite Inn. Brightly-lit, which makes it especially welcoming on a dark rainy night, you really can’t miss it.

Don’t expect anything glamorous – simple decor, with the ubiquitous plain-walls-bar-and-strange-fairy-lights combo – but what it lacks for in ambiance is more than made up for by the welcome – solicitous and attentive – and the food.

I have never eaten a bad meal at this place. I’ve had things I preferred to others – the King Prawns with Cashew Nuts were a hit where I wouldn’t particularly order the Scallops with Ginger and Spring Onion again (nothing awful about it, just nothing exciting) – but it’s always been well-cooked and nicely flavoured.

But the real ace in the hole for those with vegetarians in the group (as we often have) is the Crispy Aromatic Duck. It’s wonderful – and for once the veggies don’t have to sit around watching the carnivores with their tongues hanging out. I have no idea what is actually in the Crispy Aromatic “Monk’s Duck” – but it’s totally vegetarian and just as tasty as the real thing, so everyone can sit around together with piles of wafer-thin pancakes, dishes of hoi sin sauce and shredded spring onion, fighting over the last shreds of crispy seaweed.

Give it a try. This is an honest, simple place that has always come up with the goods when I’ve been there. I don’t know what will happen to it when the whole area gets regenerated, but it’s survived so far…

http://www.favouriteinn.co.uk/

A Decent Chinese?

Friday, July 25th, 2008

Neil is a worried man. He says:

I was pretty dismayed to see Blackheath’s Laughing Buddha has shut up shop after 25 years of trading. A while back we also had the much-missed Treasure of China in the centre of Greenwich, but now we just have the tourist fodder of Noodle Time and similar even-faster-food establishments. Is there anywhere in the area offering quality Chinese food these days? I know only of Mr Chung’s, which is impossible to park outside even if you’re just picking up a takeaway.

The Phantom agrees.

It was a sad day when I walked past that golden belly and saw that Laughing Buddha was no more. And we have bloomin’ little other choice. Frankly I wouldn’t even put Noodle Time as being good enough to be counted “tourist fodder” – I’d say that was far too kind. Now the execrable Pizza Luna and the unaccountably-awful Alamo have gone, IMHO it’s slid into second position for “worst restaurant in Greenwich,” just behind Tai Won Mein which defies description (from me, at least.)

But onto the good stuff. Yes, Mr Chung is very good indeed. Parking isn’t great, granted, but there’s always Christchurch Way opposite – not ideal, but do-able. The other place that always was good was the Peninsula restaurant at Holiday Inn – an unlikely setting, I’ll grant you. They get very, very packed out for the weekend lunchtime dim sum. I have heard rumours that it is no longer what it once was, but I haven’t been for a while. I would welcome opinions from anyone who’s been recently.

To be honest I haven’t done nearly as thorough job of testing Chinese restaurants and takeaways as I have with Indian (I just love curry…) so please pitch-in here and give Neil some ideas…

The Golden Chippy

Tuesday, July 1st, 2008

My head is turned by many things. The twinkle of a stream as it sparkles down a mountainside. The glow of a single, shimmering star on a cloudy night. The song of a unseen bird as it flits between the trees of a cool, shaded wood. In this particular case it was a tub of puce-pink petunias balanced precariously on top of a bollard.

There is a corner of Greenwich which is forever Golden. The Golden Cafe, The Golden Vineyard and the Golden Chippy form a little row of er, maroon shops in Greenwich High Road, opposite yet another building site which is squeezed in next to the waterworks and that new restaurant.

In fact I had intended to review Bar 57 – and I will, I promise, very soon. But sometimes a Phantom just has one of those fish-and-chip moments. This was one of them.

It really was the magnificent floral display that did it. A whole bunch of sundry pots and tubs filled up with bedding plants and arranged artistically on the ground next to a distinctly wobbly aluminium table and chairs. Can’t have cost them more than a few quid – but that wasn’t the point. I was particularly taken with the glowy-bollard with the Petunia hat. Sorry. Fish and Chips won out over fancy new paintwork and a pool-table sign.

I like The Golden Chippy. They’re friendly – slightly on the wacky side, but really – in a good way – and they have all the things you remember about childhood fish suppers. The collection of greasy newspapers to read while you’re waiting, the giant sauce bottles, the ‘classic’ selection of fish which they cook to order.

On this particular occasion, to celebrate the petunias, I wanted to sit outside and enjoy everything that Greenwich High Road in summer can provide. We sat back with our copy of The Express and read all about the terrible things that are going on in the world, most of which seemed to have something to do with Fergie.

“Let me know if you want more chips,” said the guy as he brought out the most enormous plates of cod and chips I’d ever seen. A kind, but probably futile gesture – there was no way I was going to get through that lot, let alone need more. I’d only ordered the ‘standard’ fish option – heaven only knows what the supersize version would have been.

You know, folks, I do like all these fancy beer-batter dishes you get in places like The Trafalgar and the Yacht. Really I do – I had an excellent one in The Hill just a few days ago. But sometimes, just a plain, straightforward honest-to-goodness crispy batter to no special recipe is just the ticket – and that’s what you get here. Dark golden fish, ever so slightly greasy, moist insides and good, honest-cut chips.

Actually, I did finish my chips. I was brought up to clear my plate and Phantom Mum was watching over my shoulder. I sat there at a wobbly table in the middle of Greenwich High Road, surrounded by petunias, scoffing chips smothered in red sauce. What better way to spend an evening?

So. The moral of the story. If you want a Phantom Visit, install some cheap bedding plants outside your place. I am just a moth to a flame…

(Sadly I didn’t have my camera, so I don’t have any pics of the plants. You’ll just have to go yourself.)

Mehak

Monday, March 10th, 2008

Trafalgar Road SE10

I always wondered why this place used to be called The Standard Tandoori when its curries were best described as substandard, so when it was taken over and became the Mehak, I was very excited. That excitement lasted as long as my first meal there. It was going to take several encouraging emails and the recommendation of trusted friends to get me back in, even after the refurb.

I’d been particularly worried since during the redecoration, or at least during its early knocking-things-down stage, they continued to do takeaways. Note to self: avoid this one like the plague. I’m glad to say they did stop cooking when the dust got really bad, but all the same I wasn’t in much of a rush to get back.

But lovely Phantom regulars have been nudging me for some time to give it another go, so we decided to try again. It was a Wednesday night.

Am I the only person who thinks of Henry VIII, wenches and whole sucking pigs at the mere mention of the word banquet? Well, at the Mehak, Wednesday nights are Banquet Nights but not quite in that sense of the word. It’s basically an opportunity to stuff your face for £9.95 which frankly seemed too much of a good thing to turn down.

It’s a large menu, with dozens of dishes and alternate options and all the old favourites. I’m an old favourites kinda phantom, so the Secret Control Order was placed (as far as possible) and we sat back to enoy the atmosphere.

I guess I should mention that almost every last scrap of the old decor is gone – instead of flock wallpaper and arch-back tapestry chairs, it’s all white walls and sleek furniture. They couldn’t really get rid of the columns and mosaics outside, but they’ve painted them black in the hope that they will shrink into the back of the mind. I like it (though I confess that if a curry house is truly amazing, I’m a bit of a sucker for flock wallpaper…) It was about half full, mainly with couples and families. Later on we were to be joined by the obigatory Bunch of BlokesTM but apart from one guy who (much to his mates increasing irritation) kept popping outside to make phone calls (new girlfriend, I’d guess from the simpering I could see going on through the glass) they were model citizens.

The Puppodums (not included in the banquet deal but generally a good indication of the food to come) were fresh and crisp; their accompanying sauces (also extras) a bit on the neon-side but perfectly good to taste. But they didn’t prepare me for the main event.

Which was very good indeed. The starters were beautifully prepared – well-presented with thought and care. They tasted fabulous. The mains were generously-sized (maybe Good King Henry wouldn’t have felt so out of place after all) and again, nicely-executed, well-spiced and good-looking on the plate. There was no way we were going to finish that lot, but I gave it my best. I nearly asked for a doggy bag (BTW I’ve never done that in Britain – has anyone else? Somehow in other countries it seems fine but here I’m not sure what the reaction would be.)

The final course was a real throwback to the 1970s. Coffee with cream, which was somehow quite comforting in a childhood-celebrations kind of way, and a shot of Baileys – something I haven’t tasted since I was about 17 and probably won’t bother doing again. Still – it was a fun touch (probably more in keeping with the former decor) and I rather liked it. I liked the orange chocolate even better.

With the accompanying puppodums, sauces and (ahem) several Cobra beers, the entire bill came to £35 for two. I’ve paid more than that at the Bombay Bicycle Club for just the food.

It’s good, folks. I’m still not totally convinced by the only takeaway I’ve had from there, but the eat-in option – go for it…

Ministry of Spice

Monday, February 18th, 2008

Lewisham Road London SE13

With cars, they always say that intermittent faults are the worst kind. You get the thing to the garage and then look a total fool as the mechanic pokes around, sucks through his teeth and finally says there’s nothing wrong.

Inconsistency in curries is my equivalent of the motoring annoying on-and-off knocking sound. You tell everyone a place is great, they try it and it’s rubbish. Should you go back and try again, just in case it’s as good this time as the very first chicken tikka you had there but didn’t get last time, or just move on?

Some friends told me they’d just tried this place and had been quite impressed, and since I can’t resist the opportunity to test out a new curry house, we all got together last night to have a tasting.

The usual control menu was ordered, of course, plus all sorts of yummy-looking extras, and we sat down with a nice glass to wait.

Time flies when you’re having a nice glass, so it was some time before we noticed we still didn’t have any curry. I’m trying to remember exactly how long we waited (we had had a couple of extra ‘nice glasses’) but it was at least an hour and a quarter; probably more like an hour and a half. Perhaps more. Presumably they’re either busy or short-staffed or both on a Sunday night.

I have to say now, that nothing was really bad (save, perhaps, the non-specific extra sauces that arrived with the ok-puppodums – they were very strangely flavoured, strangely coloured and tasted suspiciously as though they were straight out of a bottle. Which bottle, I wouldn’t like to say.) It just didn’t shine. The rice was fresh and the puppodums were crispy (neither of which are a given, of course) but most else was really only adequate.

They’d forgotten to include the onion bhajiis – not worth calling and complaining about, of course, just worth a good grumble amongst ourselves. The meaty starter was good, and the salad (which hadn’t been ordered but arrived anyway) was varied and included olives – not very ‘traditional curry,’ but an enjoyable extra all the same. Also not very traditional, but, I understand, perfectly ok, were some little meatballs. Another side-dish was excellent.

The rest of the sauces, though, were a disappointment. Thin-feeling, with little subtlely in the flavour. One especially, was very sweet, and very hot – but had no real flavour. Our friends agreed that this was nowhere near as good as the one they’d had before which had been so nice they had considered switching allegiances. On the basis of this test, I certainly won’t be.

Has anyone else here had Ministry of Spice food? How was it? Did we just get a duff night?