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

Station Hotel – Gastro pub in SE London, SE13

Gastro pub and hotel in Lewisham Borough

Within spitting distance of Hither Green rail station in the Lewisham Borough, The Station Hotel is a Redcomb pub – a small group of traditional British ‘country pub’ style pubs – founded in 2009, with the aim of serving “simple, honest, fresh food, well kept ales with friendly and engaging service, set in a stylish environment”.

Our visit last night (a Friday evening) was an early birthday celebration for T. We’ve drunk in the bar at this pub a few times but it was my first time eating here – the food was great and reasonably priced for good quality, carefully sourced ingredients.

For starters, we shared a mixed mezze board of houmus, marinated tomatoes, feta and olives, cream cheese stuffed peppers, tzatziki falafel, and flatbread.

 

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Mezze board – shared starter @ £11.95

 

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Box baked camembert – infused with rosemary, thyme and garlic with red onion marmalade and crusty bread @ £9.95

 

For main course, K had a Station burger; T had roasted sea trout and I had beer battered fish and chips (all very good).

 

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Station burger – short rib from English herds, brioche bun with mayo, lettuce, tomato, red onion, relish, cheddar, onion rings and skinny fries @ £12.95

 

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Beer battered sustainable North Sea fish, chunky chips, crushed minted peas and homemade tartar sauce @ £12.95

 

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Roasted Sea trout – lemon + thyme mash, creamed leeks + chives, caper, chive + tomato vinaigrette @ £14.25

 

The verdict:Good honest food, along with reasonably priced drinks (a bottle of Chenin Viognier dry white wine was £20) our total bill for four came to £175.75 excluding service. One of the better pubs in Lewisham. I’ll be back.

 

Pub dining info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 3.5 / 5
~ Type: pub
~ Address: 14 Staplehurst Road, Hither Green, London
~ Postcode: SE13 5NB
~ Nearest station: Hither Green
~ Website + menus: The Station Hotel website
~ Photos on flickr: images of Station Hotel food
~ Location: Station Hotel map

 

The Station Hotel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato