Damascus Chef pop-up at the Good Hope cafe – Hither Green SE13

Souq meze with a personal touch

The Damascus Chef (Abdullah Alawayed) and his partner host Syrian meze dinners at various locations in South London. Find out about their current pop-up events on the Eventbright website where you can reserve places. It’s currently £23.95 for adults or half-price for children and you pay locally, at the end of the meal.

We went to the ‘Souq meze’ pop-up at the Good Hope cafe, Hither Green (an award-winning community cafe run by the ForJimmy charity) on Friday night and joined the 6.30pm sitting (on Friday evenings there are 8.30pm sittings too).

Arriving early, the hostess welcomed us excitedly, and talked enthusiastically about the careful preparation that goes into making the dishes on this menu. Which rubs off on customers and makes for a good atmosphere in this small, cosy space, where candle-lit tables were decorated with pomegranate seeds at each place setting.

 

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Meze with fresh bread to share

Top l-r: Fool mudamas bi humous (fava beans crushed with chickpeas, chopped tomato, parsley, olive oil, lemon + cumin) and humous (crushed chickpeas blended with olive oil, tahini, cumin + garlic)
front l-r: Mutabbel (flame-grilled aubergine infused with yoghurt, tahini, garlic + cumin) and lebneh (thick, canvas-strung cows’ yoghurt)

 

We ordered a bottle of Rioja (@ about £16.00 – very reasonably priced and very nice too) and were blown away by the fresh tastiness of the meze starters. The food is familiar as middle-eastern but with a specific Syrian style – for example, humous is made with a ratio of more chickpeas to tahini, and is thicker and creamier for it. The mutabbel (aubergine dip) was absolutely gorgeous and the lebneh (really thick, creamy yoghurt) was a winner too. Shared starters are served with a variety of fresh breads and are limitless (if you dare).

Next came this shurbat adas, a traditional Syrian lentil soup with coriander seeds and cumin:

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Lentil soup

 

For main course, there was a selection of three dishes (we’d had to choose our main course in advance, when reserving):

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Kawaj – Levantine courgette, aubergine and green pepper casseroled in tomato sauce, sauteed onion, garlic and fresh coriander; topped with fresh chives and served with yoghurt and cucumber, pomegranates, walnuts, pine-nuts + fresh tabouleh

 

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Syrian lamb stew – Diced organic leg of lamb stewed with freekeh (smoked green wheat) infused with pine kernels, cashews, pistachios, almonds, green peas + raisins, served with optional yoghurt + cucumber (not pictured) + fresh tabouleh

I had this lamb stew. It tasted as though it had been slow-cooked and was steeped in many flavours. Really good.

 

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Jaj bil muhammara – Chicken thigh braised with lemon, coriander + pomegranate syrup, on a bed of crushed mild chilli muhammara, served with walnuts, yoghurt + cucumber, and tabouleh salad

 

For dessert, the choice was baklawa with ice-cream, or ice-cream with watermelon. I had baklawa:

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Jiljil wa hab ruman – Traditional filo pastry baklawa made with flour, syrup, honey, butter, egg white + pistachio, served with ice cream. Laden with fresh mint, pomegranates + pistachios.

 

For the fifth and final chai course, we had a choice of fresh mint, cardamom or cinnamon + walnut.

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Chai – cinnamon + walnut tea

 

The verdict: Good value for such a freshly prepared, unique and tasty banquet. The hosting couple put their heart and soul into making this dining experience enjoyable and relaxing for customers – the kind of personal touch that you don’t easily find in high-street restaurants. And the choice of venue for this pop-up makes it even more worthwhile. Eat, drink and be very merry – your money goes to good places.

 

Pop-up info:
– Lardbutty rating: 4 / 5
– Type: Syrian, middle-eastern
– Location: venues vary – this was at the Good Hope cafe, 216 Hither Green Lane, London, SE13 6RT
– Contact: chef@damascuschef.com
– Website + menus: Damascus Chef website
– Damascus Chef events (reserve places): Eventbright website
– Photos of Damascus Chef: Damascus Chef on flickr

Saigon Cafe – Catford, SE6

Vietnamese cafe with bring your own booze in upcoming Catford, South East London

While Saigon Foods cafe has a ‘bring your own booze’ policy (as they’re not licensed to serve alcohol) that keeps costs down, we chose to ‘take-away’ the other evening after work, and relax at home.

 

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Summer rolls – rice paper wraps two rolls @ £4.00

 

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Bo la lot – grilled beef in leaves with rice noodles and salad @ £7.85
 

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Bo la lot – minced beef filling

 

We ordered summer rolls – rice paper wraps with rice vermicelli, lettuce and herbs with a peanut sauce, Vietnamese spring rolls (pork and prawn rolls which were unfortunately omitted), bo la lot minced beef in betel leaves (vine leaves) with rice vermicelli, mixed salad, Vietnamese dressing with chillis and peanuts (the beef leaves and sauce were very tasty), and a chicken pho – flat rice noodles in broth served with fresh vegetables, herbs and seasoning sauces (very healthy although – aside from the aromatic basil leaves – slightly lacking in flavour).

 
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Chicken pho – rice noodles in Vietnamese broth @ £7.85
 

This was a healthy meal made from fresh ingredients – plenty enough for two – and really good value given I had change out of £20.00! I can imagine that this food would taste even better served fresh in the restaurant and intend to visit again soon.

 

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Inside Saigon Foods cafe

 

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Menu at Saigon Foods cafe, Catford

 

The verdict: Cheap, cheerful and healthy. And something a bit different for Catford.

 

Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 3 / 5
~ Type: Vietnamese, BYOB
~ Address: 24 Catford Broadway, London
~ Postcode: SE6 4SN
~ Nearest stations: Catford Bridge, Catford
~ Website + menus: Saigon Cafe website
~ Photos on flickr: images of Saigon Cafe
~ Location: Saigon Cafe map

 

Saigon Foods Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Babur – Indian fine dining in SE London

Babur offers creative, stylish and thoroughly mouth-watering Indian food that’s a cut above the rest

While you can dine in the restaurant near Forest Hill, we wanted to stay at home and be pampered. For us, this was a whole new, fine-dining-at-home experience.

There are two delivery menus to choose from – traditional or premium. The premium menu offers dishes from the restaurant menu and – unless you’re on a budget – is excitingly enticing and irresistible. Take a look, you’ll see what I mean.

For starters we shared:
~ Punjabi paneer sandwich: char-grilled cottage cheese sandwiched with mint chutney @ £5.75
~ Goat patties: Shredded, warmly spiced patties dry-fried on a tawa (flat cooking-plate) served with tamarind and raisin chutney @ £6.75
~ Monkfish tikka: char-grilled monkfish flavoured with fennel seed + mustard, with spiced coconut broth @ £7.50

 

Stylishly different

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Starters: goat patties + Punjabi paneer

 

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Punjabi paneer sandwich with mint + mango ‘traffic-light’ sauce @ £5.75

 

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Goat patties with tamarind + raisin chutney @ £6.75

 

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Starters: Monkfish tikka – char-grilled monkfish with fennel seed + mustard, and a spiced coconut broth @ £7.50. Divine.

 

For main course, I had stone bass fish with interesting fennel flavours, and K had a chicken chettinad (lovely peppery, sloppy sauce – really good).

 

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Mains: pan-seared stone bass with a South Indian fennel chutney, green beans, channa dal and fennel pollen @ £13.95 (absolutely gorgeous even if the photo looks a bit messy!)

 

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Mains: chicken chettinad – peppery Chettiyar masala from South India in a rice dosa fool’s cap @ £10.85

 

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Baghare baigan – aubergine with peanut sauce side dish @ £5.35

 

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Crispy fried potatoes – seasoned with dried mango powder, side dish @ £3.95

 

I’m carrying delicious food from Babur
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True

Our fine-dining-at-home experience totalled £98.25 (a very generous banquet with enough leftovers for a second meal, that included a few beers too).

The verdict: On the plus side, there’s the ‘fine dining at home’ experience. But on the downside, delivery times can be long. We’ve ordered from Babur a few times and our most recent experience was a let-down. We placed the order at 5 to 7 on a Saturday evening. After 90 minutes we called them to check the status of our order and were told that deliveries usually take two hours and to wait a while longer (they didn’t check our name or order details). Shortly after 9pm (just over two hours later) the delivery arrived. It was a cold November evening and the food was cold too. While I enjoyed the cold monkfish tikka in a cold broth, K would have preferred it hot as intended. Be prepared – order early!

On this occasion, our order included a bottle of prosecco. On arrival it was very cloudy and tasted of bitter apples (overly dry and unpleasant). On discovering there was a sediment at the bottom of the bottle, I looked up this particular variety of prosecco and found that it’s a natural, unfiltered prosecco with plenty of sediment (perhaps not ideal for deliveries as it benefits from leaving the sediment to settle, rather than serving cloudy).

The LardButty rating for Babur has been lowered to 3.5/5.

 

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Cloudy, bitter prosecco with plenty of sediment

 

Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 3.5 / 5
~ Type: Indian
~ Address: 119 Brockley Rise, London
~ Postcode: SE23 1JP
~ Nearest stations: Honor Oak Park, Forest Hill, Catford
~ Website + menus: Babur website + Premium delivery menu
~ Photos on flickr: images of Babur food
~ Location: Babur map

 

Babur Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

AyaSofya Turkish Restaurant – Catford

Catford’s newest Turkish restaurant is up against some tough – and established – competition (with the likes of Turkish Kitchen, Mekan and Turquaz).

How would AyaSofya compare? K and I visited spontaneously last night, to find out.

 

Inside AyaSofya restaurant Catford
Inside AyaSofya

 

At 6pm the restaurant was empty. We were greeted promptly and quickly shown to a table. While the white wines didn’t appeal (limited choice including some Turkish wines that we weren’t familiar with and chose not to be adventurous) we ordered a bottle of Rioja, Spanish red @ £16.95. It wasn’t in stock so we settled for a Merlot wine from the Bordeaux region instead.

 

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Hellim and sucuk starter

 

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Calamari starter

 

For starters we shared sucuk (spicy Turkish sausage – gorgeous) @ £3.50, deep fried calamari @ £3.95 (light and tender, served piping hot) and grilled hellim cheese @ £3.95.

 

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Karisik kebab

 

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AyaSofya special

 

Our server was attentive and helpful, and made recommendations about the dishes when asked. For mains, K ordered a karisik kebab – chicken and lamb on the bone with side salad and rice @ £12.95 (excellent) and I ordered the AyaSofya special – chicken and lamb cubes in tomato with yoghurt, served with a side salad and rice, and chilli sauce @ £12.95 (this was great – the meat was lovely and tender, and really filling too).

 

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Baklawa and milk pudding with cinnamon (Muhallebi?) – complimentary

 

A group of ladies came into the restaurant to prepare it for a 60th birthday party, hanging lots of personal photos and ’60th’ decorations, obviously enjoying themselves and adding to a chirpy atmosphere.

 

The verdict: Nice, comfortable space where it’s easy to relax and enjoy the friendly service and great food. I’ll save room to order a dessert next time, as the Turkish milk pudding is divine. Great value too – our total bill for two including service came to £60.00).

 

Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 3.5 / 5
~ Type: Turkish
~ Address: 195 Rushey Green, Catford, London
~ Postcode: SE6 4BD
~ Nearest station: Catford Bridge, Catford
~ Photos on flickr: images of AyaSofya food
~ Location: AyaSofya map

 
Click to add a blog post for Ayasofya on Zomato

Catford Constitutional Club – craft beers + gastropub food

It’s already 18 months since Antic London’s pub presence in Catford moved from the Catford Bridge Tavern and into the derelict premises of the former Catford Conservative Club.

 

Catford Conservative Club - derelict in 2013
Catford Conservative Club – re-opened as a pub in 2013 having been vacant for 20 years

 

That was then…
While the Antic team continued to serve a good range of craft beers and excellent gastropub food at the Catford Constitutional Club (CCC) from the start, the space was – despite their best cleaning efforts – run-down and grubby to say the least (unsurprisingly, having been empty for 20 years). Not shabby-chic, just shabby. And still with pictures of Conservative ministers and snooker champions on the walls, just as it was when it was left vacant by the old conservative club.

All masked in a mouldy, mildewy smell that had built up over a long time and doesn’t just disappear overnight (off-putting when dining despite the excellent gastropub food).

 

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From the restaurant side of the room – small bar hatch to the left; old Conservative pictures on rear wall; nice bunting hides some of the grubbiness, May 2014

 

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Cosy at Christmas – the restaurant one year on, Dec 2014

 

But this is now…
Eighteen months on, the CCC feels lived in again – a homely pub that you *want* to visit. And the large beer garden with its pot plants and paintings is a punter-pleaser for the warm, summer days. It’s a real reflection on the pub’s team that they’ve worked so hard to make the CCC an attractive and appealing space in which you can relax comfortably over a craft beer or two and enjoy a good meal.

On our most recent visit to the CCC (both the bar and restaurant) we were unable to stray from our old favourites: a charcuterie sharing platter for starters, a burger for K and fish for me.

 

Here’s letting the pictures do the talking:
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Scotch egg @ £3.00 – you can’t eat at the CCC without having a Scotch egg. You just can’t. And they’re big enough to share.

 

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Starter: Charcuterie board @ £8.00 – air dried pork collar, smoked beef brisket, fennel salami, tomato chutney, bread + butter

 

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Starter: Roast pumpkin + chilli soup @ £4.75 – a winter warmer

 

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Starter: Whole box baked camembert with confit of garlic, thyme, apple + tomato chutney and bread @ £10.50

 

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Mains: Sea Trout @ £11.95 – with baby gem + samphire salad, Jersey royals, warm radishes, dill creme fraiche

 

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Mains: Hake @ £11.95 – with pink fir apple potatoes, kale, brown shrimp + caper butter

 

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Mains: Sea trout @ £11.95 – served with stem broccoli + lentils

 

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Sunday roast – lamb, Yorkshire pudding, cauliflower cheese, mint sauce @ £12.75

 

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Mains: Beef burger + posh chips @ £10.75 – burger with smoked bacon, smoked cheddar + relish in a brioche bun with ‘posh chips’ (fries with parmesan, smoked salt + truffle oil)

 

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Mains: Beef burger + posh chips – so good K’s eaten this [more than] twice

 

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Beef burger, regular skinny fries goat’s cheese instead of cheddar @ £10.50

 

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Mains: Slow-roast brisket @ £12.75 – with smoked bacon, baby onions, Brussel sprouts + creamed celeriac

 

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Mains: Courgette beetroot + ricotta salad @ £9.00

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Mains: Sausage and mash @ £7.00

 

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Mains: Pork belly @ £12

 

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Dessert: Elderflower jelly + ice-cream @ £4.60

 

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Dessert: Sticky toffee pudding @ £4.75 – with toffee sauce + clotted cream

 

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Dessert: ice-cream union @ £4.00 – Christmas pudding, peanut butter and salted caramel

 

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Sample menu – as of 19 June 2015

 

The verdict: Excellent food and great range of craft beers + ciders that changes all the time. The team’s done a great job of cleaning up an old vacant building and turning it into a homely pub. Shame it’s likely to close in 2016 as part of Lewisham Borough Council’s plans to redevelop Catford Broadway (shopping area) which is needed. But here’s hoping the Antic team will move into another new space and make that a homely watering hole too..

 

Catford. Let’s not forget the cat
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Mieeww…

 

Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 4 / 5
~ Type: British, gastropub food, real ales + ciders
~ Address: Catford Broadway, Catford, London
~ Postcode: SE6 4SP
~ Tel: 020 8613 7188
~ Nearest rail stations: Catford Bridge, Catford
~ Website + menus: Catford Constitutional Club website + Antic London website
~ Photos on flickr: My Catford Constitutional Club photos
~ Location: Catford Constitutional Club map

 

Click to add a blog post for Catford Constitutional Club on Zomato

 

Turquaz – Catford

Authentic Turkish food + live belly dancing in Catford SE6

Next door to the large TFC Turkish supermarket on busy Bromley Road, you’ll find Turquaz Turkish restaurant.

We’d walked passed it many times and not thought much of it (it’s not especially appealing from outside). It was some enthusiastic personal recommendations that led us here last night.

What sets it apart is its super-welcoming, friendly staff (who genuinely seem to enjoy themselves looking after their customers), great Turkish food and lively atmosphere with live belly-dancing entertainment by a stunning dancer.


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Turquaz Restaurant on Bromley Road


For starters we shared a mixed hot meze @ £9.90 – borek (cheese-filled pastries – outstanding), hellim (grilled halloumi), sucuk (spicy Turkish sausage) and calamari (tender squid in light, crisp batter).


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Mixed hot meze starter platter – for two @ £9.90


For main course, I had a tandir @ £13.95 – an Anatolian speciality of very slow oven-baked lamb, served on fresh, paper-thin flat bread with rice and salad. This really was special – the bread was really light and the lamb just melted in my mouth. It’ll be a challenge for me to try something different on Turquaz’s menu next time, having been thoroughly spoilt by this divine lamb dish.


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Lamb tandir – slow cooked lamb with fresh flat bread


K had lamb guvec @ £11.95 – a traditional Turkish casserole with onions, peppers, aubergines, mushrooms, tomatoes and a blend of spices with lamb cooked in a clay pot (disappointingly bland; not in the same league as the tandir).


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Lamb guvec


Along with a bottle of unoaked Chardonnay dry white wine @ £16.50 (the wine selection was limited) and a bottle of Efes beer @ £4.50, our total bill for two came to £55.80, excluding service – very good value.

The verdict: Generous food portions, fab staff and great food. The belly dancer was a really good dancer and got the odd customer up to dance and even the waiters too. This light-hearted entertainment is what makes Turquaz a bit different, although K felt it was bordering on the atmosphere of a package holiday hotel with in-house entertainment.

My only slight regret was that I didn’t resist the complimentary olives and fresh warm Turkish bread that were brought to the table on our arrival (they *were* gorgeous). I was then too full to eat all of my main course. Possibly a lesson learnt for next time. But probably not…


Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 3.5 / 5
~ Type: Turkish
~ Address: 163 Bromley Road, Catford, London
~ Postcode: SE6 2NZ
~ Tel: 020 8697 4545
~ Nearest station: Catford Bridge, Catford
~ Website + menus: Turquaz website
~ Photos on flickr: images of Turquaz food
~ Location: Turquaz map


RELATED LINKS
More Catford dining:
~ Catford Chippy
~ La Pizzeria Italiana – top Italian restaurant
~ Mekan – Mediterranean cuisine
~ Pide – Turkish pizza
~ Sapporo Ichiban
~ Turkish Kitchen


Turquaz on Urbanspoon

La Pizzeria Italiana – Catford

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Star pizza, star restaurant


There’s no nice way of putting this: La Pizzeria Italiana looks rough from outside. And that’s because it’s at the base of Eros House, a drab concrete tower in Catford.

But stick with me here, it’ll be worth your while…


Award winning architecture_ErosHouseCatford
Eros House – RIBA’s London architecture medal, 1962


This grade II listed building was awarded a ‘London architecture medal’ by RIBA in 1962, and given a ‘civic trust award’ in 1964 (an acknowledgement of the new, brutalist, concrete-slab architecture of the time?). The concrete is textured to look like wood and – being almost as iconic as the Catford cat – you might even grow to love it in time.

All I’m saying is don’t let first appearances fool you.


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Come this way – just grin and bear it a moment more…


The approach to La Pizzeria Italiana may not be appealing. But peer in through the doorway and it’s a different matter: it’s a small restaurant (about 50 covers) with frescoes of an Italian landscape and Venetian waterways. A mobile of teacups and white feather boas hangs centre-stage from a fabric ceiling; all really inviting and just that little bit different.


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Tea cups, feather boas, soft lighting + Italian hospitality


Warmly acknowledged the moment we stepped inside, our waitress was really hospitable and helpful. The patron (from Bologna) came over several times to make sure we were comfortable, and to let us know we could go ‘off menu’ (“Don’t be shy!” were his exact words) – all dishes are freshly cooked to order and can easily be adapted to individual preference.


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Admiring the sea view, Venetian waterways, inside La Pizzeria Italiana


It was a hot evening at the end of the working week and some cold bubbles were in order. A bottle of prosecco arrived, served in a solid rubber bag filled with iced water – a practical alternative to a space-consuming wine bucket.

Despite being hidden from the street, this intimate restaurant was busy, doing a good turnover of tables. And it attracted all types of clientele: we noted a group of senior citizens, a young couple, a party of three lads (in their twenties), a couple of families with very young children, and a couple of middle aged couples (we were one of them and in case you’re wondering, anyone over 35 qualifies as middle aged).

If their target market is anyone who enjoys fine quality pizza and food in a comfortable, relaxed environment then they look to be on target. That market is diverse, and all looked to be thoroughly enjoying themselves. You’d be hard pressed not to feel comfortable here.


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Clockwise: Hand grenade style Prosecco bottle, Insalata Tricolore, Caprina pizza, antipasto


La Pizzeria Italiana was first recommended to me in August 2013 by CaT here on LardButty, and I’m seriously gutted that it took me nearly a year to visit. Still, I’ve been twice in my first week so I think that says something (aside from I’m greedy).

We are committed to working our way through the menu, and have found that the pizzas are outstanding (*proper* Italian, thin crust pizzas) and everything’s freshly prepared. Given the excellent food quality, it’s also reasonably priced.

So far, LardButty can recommend:

~ Insalata Tricolore – tomatoes, mozzarella, basil + avocado starter salad @ £5.50
~ Antipasto Miso All’ Italiana – Italian cured meats + roast vegetables @ £7.50
~ Caprina pizza – Mozzarella, goats cheese, olives, red onions, basil + fresh chopped tomatoes @ £9.50 with extra mushrooms @ £1.00
~ Lasagna Al Forno – fresh pasta layers, Bolognese, Béchamel and parmesan @ £8.95

~ Tomatoey meatballs – starter @ £4.95
~ Parmagiana – baked aubergine starter @ £4.95


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Meatball starter @ £4.95


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Parmagiana – baked aubergine starter @ £4.95


~ Quattro Stagioni – four seasons pizza with Mozzarella, tomato, ham, pepperoni, mushrooms + spinach @ £9.00

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Four seasons pizza @ £9.00


~ and last but by no means least: the star special pizza @ £11.50

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Star pizza – choose 5 ingredients/toppings for each ‘corner’


This star shaped pizza had real novelty value, while also bearing a different tasty treat in every corner. My five toppings were anchovy, mushroom, chilli, dolcelatte, and olives, with loads of fresh salad.

The verdict: Don’t rush me, I haven’t worked my way through *all* the menu yet (It’s amazing. Is La Pizzeria Italiana still one of Catford’s best kept secrets? shhhhhh….)


Still working through the menu:

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Whitebait starter @ £5.95

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Calamari starter with tartar sauce @ £6.95 (squid so fresh it melts in your mouth)

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Fish stew starter @ £4.95

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Avocado and walnut salad starter @ £4.95

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Avocado al forno starter @ £4.95 – baked avocado

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Calzone Napoletano – Mozzarella, tomato, tuna, capers, anchovies, olives + ricotta @ £8.95 (superb)

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Napoletana with extra mushrooms @ £8.50 + £1.00

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Quattro Formaggi with extra pepperoni @ £8.50 + £1.00

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Special: fresh monkfish in tomato + sweet pepper sauce with mussels + clams @ £15.95 (as served)

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Special: fresh monkfish in tomato sauce – simply stunning, generous portion with lots of meaty fresh monkfish

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Special: fresh seabass in tomato sauce made with fresh ginger and chilli, served with potatoes and spinach @ £13.50

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Salad special: warm chicken, dolcelatte, and grapes @ £6.95

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Salad special: warm chicken, dolcelatte, and grapes @ £6.95

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Zabaglione @ £4.95 (divine – lovely and strong on the Marsala wine ingredient!)


Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 4.5 / 5
~ Type: Italian
~ Address: 3 Eros House, Brownhill Road, Catford
~ Postcode: SE6 2EF
~ Tel: 020 8461 4606
~ Nearest station: Catford Bridge, Catford, Ladywell
~ Website + menus: La Pizzeria Italiana website
~ Photos on flickr: images of La Pizzeria Italiana food
~ facebook page: La Pizzeria Italiana on fb
~ Location: La Pizzeria Italiana map


RELATED LINKS
More Catford dining:
~ Catford Chippy
~ FS2 – Turkish deliveries
~ Mekan – Mediterranean cuisine
~ Pide – Turkish pizza
~ Sapporo Ichiban
~ Turkish Kitchen


FourAndHalfStars


La Pizzeria Italiana on Urbanspoon