Wednesday 27 February 2013


Everyone loves a good chinwag over tea and cake. Or over a lunchtime chicken wrap and a glass of wine. Or even over an evening cocktail and a gourmet burger. But what kind of cafe is open all day to satisfy all your eating, drinking and chinwagging desires? Well, Chinwag of course! This little beauty has just opened in New Cross and is already a huge hit and just what the area has been crying out for. It means one less fried chicken shop and one new exciting eaterie, made even more special by its quirky interior, great food, enthusiastic staff and excellent feel-good tunes.

Chinwag is the result of Eren & Ellie's pure hard graft and determination - a couple who have plucked this old chicken shop back to its bare walls with their bare hands and given it a complete overhaul with their unique stamp. You enter Chinwag via an original red telephone box door, and once inside you are surrounded by bicycle spoke chandeliers; exposed brickwork; random tables (including old school desks) and fresh flowers in tin buckets. There's a giant old cash til on the counter nestling against a bunch of old hardback classic books, sneakily disguising the menus. And if you need a pee, then you just need to step behind the door of No.10 Downing Street. There's a definite buzz in the air as Curtis Mayfield and Toots & The Maytals play in the background, competing with the gurgling coffee machine. And on a decent day, you can take a pew outside on the wooden deck and drink your coffee as you watch the world go by. It's bang opposite Goldsmiths, so I reckon it's worth going to Uni, just so you can hang out here!

Even though the paint has barely dried, Chinwag is already hugely popular and still in the throws of finding its feet.  I popped along for a top notch hot chocolate and a slice of white chocolate and raspberry cake which was good but admittedly shop-bought. They assured me that once they're fully up and running, all their cakes will be homemade, and their booze licence should be in place soon to sell all sorts of lovely wines, beers and even cocktails, which means it'll be open even later than it's current 10pm closing time. I'm going back soon to try one of their gourmet burgers which I hear are already getting a reputation as being the best massive, juicy (horse-free) burgers in South East London, for a bargain £6.99. In fact, Chinwag is so reasonable, so you can treat yourself everyday if you like. And the best thing of all, is it's literally a scone's throw from my house, so I can see this becoming a regular haunt. So if you fancy a chinwag, see you there...

21 Lewisham Way
London SE14 6PP
(website hopefully coming soon)

Open for breakfast, lunch, tea & dinner
Mon - Sat 10am - 10pm  Sun 10am  - 5pm

Monday 11 February 2013

The Foragers Sunday Lunch at The Dead Dolls Club

There's a lot to be said for foraged food. The sense of thrill and achievement from hunting and gathering your own fodder by rummaging amongst the undergrowth for that perfect mushroom; catching a wild trout from a secluded river; picking blackberries straight from the hedgerow, or if you're lucky (and have the snuffling abilities of a pig), perhaps discovering a prize truffle. And for the serious foragers out there, arriving home at dusk with a brace of hare or a venison slung over your shoulder. It definitely beats pushing a trolley around Sainsbury's.

For those townies who like the idea of indulging in a feast of foraged food but don't know the difference between foraging and roadkill, and are slightly apprehensive about donning a pair of wellies and setting foot outside the M25, you need to go to Dalston, where wild boar are so rife, it's hard to get a seat on the tube! I jest of course. Well partially. You see, the team behind The Dead Dolls Club (synonomous with hearty stews and cocktails), have collaborated with none other than The Foragers, a top team of foraging chefs. And what a perfect marriage of great food and ambience they make.

The Foragers in fact do their foraging in The Shires of South East England, then bring their freshly foraged-wares to East London. Their Sunday roasts are particularly spectacular, as I found out the other day. No mundane roast pork or lamb here, oh no. We're talking roast muntjac (a small deer-like creature) served with homemade wild horseradish which was so good, I'm going to see if they'll let me have their secret recipe. I've never eaten muntjac before and it was excellent, beef-like and tender. My friend had the duo of hare leg and loin which was slow-cooked in red wine and also tender and delicious. Accompanied by mighty fine roast potatoes, proper veg and a good helping of Yorkshire pud and gravy, it was verging on epic as far as Sunday roasts go. Prior to that, we both started with the hedgerow berry-cured trout served with more of that special wild horseradish.

Unfortunately my enthusiasm waned when it came to the pudding options which I found sadly disappointing and 'un-puddingy'. I was hoping for something wintery, comforting and definitely involving custard. Perhaps a foraged fruit crumble; a steamed honey sponge or a rich bread and butter pud. And anything chocolatey would of course have got my vote. The puddings on offer included lemon posset with rhubarb; fruit cake with blue cheese, or fennel with goats cheese and honeycomb, none of which grabbed me.But that's just me. During the week and on Saturday, you can expect the menu to include simple grazing type dishes to share, such as pigeon kebab with a sticky rosehip barbeque sauce; filo parcels stuffed with nettles, dandelion leaves, goats cheese & hedge garlic mayo or that delicious berry-cured trout with wild horseradish I mentioned earlier.

The decor at The Dead Dolls Club is simple, yet effective - walls decorated with a clever mural done with nothing more than a black marker pen; long tables and benches; vases of feathers; subtle candlelight, and decadent decanters full of water (with a stick of charcoal to keep it carbonised, at least I think that's what it does). There's a little bar area at the back where you can try out one of their many imaginative cocktails. It's a lovely, unpretentious down-to-earth place to be, whether you want to while away a dreary winter's afternoon enjoying fine food and drinking good plonk, or upping the tempo by spending the evening there, especially Friday or Saturday when it's open til 3am.

There's no end to the different delights you can forage. Horse-meat burgers are already a bit passé, but I'm thinking squirrel pate, badger balti and hedgehog haggis could be all the rage soon. Only joking of course. But listen up urban foxes, if you don't behave, you may well end up on The Foragers menu!

The Foragers at The Dead Dolls Club
428 Kingsland Road
London E8 4AA
Nearest station: Dalston Junction 
@WeForagers @deaddollsclub

Opening hours:
Wed & Thur 6pm til 12.30am
Fri & Sat 5pm - 3am
Sun 1pm - 11pm
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