Hospital food – King’s

Kings College Hospital

Denmark Hill, SE5 9RS

We do hope that you will not end up in a local hospital as an inpatient, but if you or a relative do then this is a review for you. One of us ended up last year in St Thomas’s and recently one was admitted to King’s. Neither admission was for a life-threatening illness and the current one at King’s is a broken bone (tourist-related injury from a notorious fracture black spot in Sicily). My advice is to look at your feet and not the fantastic view when descending from the Juno Temple. But back to the menus.

My expectation of hospital food really relates to school dinners, soggy veg and prunes every other day so read this with a view to my very low expectations. But King’s has a fantastic menu. It extends to six A4 pages – see a couple of examples below. Lots of options, including surprising vegan ones like apple crumble and custard. The choice is pretty overwhelming at first until you get the hang of it. There are sections for starters, fish, pork, chicken, beef and vegetarian or vegan. In comparison, St Thomas’s has a much narrower choice with much less detail. 

Back to King’s where the food is cook-chill (most hospitals have this system) run by key workers who provide an essential ingredient to NHS care. Cook-chill means it is cooked, off-site usually, and reheated on the ward. This method does have an effect on the make-up and taste of the dish. Fish and chips for instance are not battered fish, it is breaded. The chips are mostly flabby as you might expect as they get steamed like all those Deliveroo orders from fast food outlets (see here as an example). You always get a vegetable – peas with the fish and chips – and luckily you get a spoon to chase them around the plate.

My favourite dish so far is the fish mornay – steamed fish, root vegetable mash and mashed potato (a particular favourite of mine) with a cheesy custard over the fish. The fish is fine – occasionally overcooked, but the cheese adds seasoning. I would like a bowlful of the mashed veg – carrots, swede and other roots. The mashed potato is not stuffed with butter, but it is smooth and generally not like wallpaper paste. My fellow patients also recommended the tomato pasta and beef curry.

There are lots of desserts including fresh fruit. For a tried and tested and really delicious one try the apple crumble and custard. The apples are caramelised just right, but not too flabby, and the crumble has a bit of a bite – I suspect some fibre to keep you regular. Although the custard is a bit thin it makes the pudding much easier to eat.

For those who want lighter fare try the tomato soup. It is real tomato soup like you might make from scratch at home, and although I am partial to Heinz (my go-to when under the weather), this was tastier, not as sweet, and felt a lot healthier as it wasn’t as smooth.

Breakfast is a bit of a mystery as I was nil-by-mouth on several days until the clinicians worked out that they couldn’t fit me into the theatre, so I had limited opportunities for early morning eating. Porridge and black coffee were passable. The porridge a bit on the sloppy side and the coffee a step up from conference coffee, but a long way from Costa. But this is a minor quibble as on the whole everything was much better than I thought King’s would be. As meals break up the day, it was a pleasant surprise that they tasted good too.

The catering staff are really helpful in making a choice and will dig something out if you missed the ordering time. All this food was at no cost, although I still hope none of our readers get to sample it.

Three Uncles: Brixton Village

Unit 19 & 20 Brixton Village, SW9 8PR

Telephone: 020 3592 5374

Web: https://www.threeuncles.co.uk/brixton-village

Monday: Closed, Tues to Thurs: Noon to 10:00 pm, Fri to Sat: Noon to 10:30 pm, Sun: Noon to 10:00 pm

Address: Unit 19 & 20, Brixton Village, London SW9 8PR

Telephone: 020 3592 5374

website: threeuncles.co.uk

We visited this restaurant shortly after it opened as there was a buzz in Brixton Village. It is a simple, very understated venue with an open kitchen and tables and stool (you might be very lucky to get a chair). Seating is limited inside, so we sat in the alleyway. No blankets are provided, so in chilly weather wear a coat. The place was crowded with people waiting for tables or takeaway, but we managed to arrive at just the right time and slid onto a two-person table. Be prepared to wait, but waiting just means looking at what others have ordered, so it is a benefit and people didn’t have to wait long. This is part of a chain (3 locations) and Brixton does have a slightly different menu, but not much. It describes itself as providing traditional Cantonese roast meats, lo mein (tossed or stirred noodles) and dim sum. Meat runs throughout the menu with varied forms of duck, chicken or pork. These can be served alone or combined with noodle soup, preserved vegetables or variations of noodles. You can also choose wontons, dumplings, fishballs or bao. They have a few vegetables, and I mean a few, so vegetarians should probably shy away.

We chose what was described as a Brixton Special – the Three Treasures platter (Duck, Char Siu, and Crispy Pork) with jasmine rice and pak choi – washed down with Brixton lager

The meat (and we are not big meat eaters) was fantastic. The duck (in the middle) was crisp and unctuous (always wanted to use that word), the pork (on the left) was indeed crispy and the char siu (on the right) was slightly sweet and aromatic. Rice and pak choi were added to make it to the status of a meal and helped to soak up some of the juices on the platter. The pak choi was crispy but not too difficult to eat with chopsticks.

The bill came to £40 including a 10% service charge and included two beers (£9.00). It provided what it says on the menu and was really tasty. We definitely will visit again to try some of the other offerings with less of a meat content, now we know they are all tasty. We also might visit for a late lunch, which will allow more lingering without the guilt of seeing hungry people hanging around.

Wood and Water

412 Coldharbour Lane, Brixton SW9 8LF

Telephone: 020 3910 1870

email: hello@woodandwater.uk

website: https://woodandwater.uk

This is the place we all knew as “Three Little Birds” which has changed its name, some of the menu and a little of the decor. It isn’t so dark as it used to seem although the menus especially for drinks are written in a faint, and very small font. The waitress told us to use our phone torch as that is what most people did. Maybe the sensible thing is to just change the font as the solution is a little intrusive to your fellow diners. This is now a restaurant rather than a bar. Diners sit pretty close which has pros and cons. Are they looking Covid-peaky? Against which you can play off the benefit of seeing what they ordered and the size of the portions. Our neighbours were very helpful – and as this is a small plates menu – size definitely matters. But first the drinks as we have no photos. We ate in January, but even though one of us stuck to the no alcohol rule there was an voluntary amendment of Saturdays off. So we ordered a St Elizabeth Martini and a Dry 75 – we won’t describe them as they may have changed but they lasted throughout our meal. We abstained from Vegan January – one step too far on this occasion.

On to the menu – small plates with nibbles. Nibbles are what you have waiting for the main event so we skipped them and went for the dinner small plates followed by dessert. As you will see they are very pretty and some are really tasty, but do not go in hungry before your pay packet arrives. This is strictly for those who do not look at the cost of the dishes.

The menu has a Jamaican feel with ingredients and dishes you would recognise and some that are definitely new on the same plate. We started with slow -cooked goat croquettes with plantain ketchup which had a bit of a kick and some goat cheese croquettes that came with a beautiful beetroot flower. These were dishes that we thought you ought to try – crispy but with good flavour and the slight saltiness went well with our drinks.

We then ordered the seared duck with cavolo nero and, although there was a promise of plums we didn’t see any – it was more sweet potato, but we were not arguing with that – it was delicious. There was also a promise of Jerk, but it wasn’t a highlight and we didn’t miss it. Although this is a small plate there was easily enough for three – especially if one of the three likes Cavollo Nero (I don’t). Then we ordered a Brixton staple – described as salted cod but was definitely ackee and saltfish with breadfruit and tomato – and no chili – however we also liked that too.

We also ordered baby carrots – described as with jerk butter – again we didn’t notice the chilli. There was another dish but we now can’t remember what it was. We knew that we were already full, but for our readers we ventured on to the dessert menu – should really have shared. We ordered from the short list a cheesecake with limoncello curd and ginger together with banana bread. They were completely contrasted with the light cake against the heavy cheesecake – we had to roll home.

We did warn you about the costs – alcoholic drinks cost about £11.00 plus. The total bill came to £100 which is a lot for anything other than a celebratory night out. The food was good, no more than just good – it was excellent – and there was a Jamaican flair from some ingredients, but it has moved away from the hot depth of flavour that Caribbean food has to offer. But for those who want a slow intro this is definitely for them. We will go back but will take more people – a small plate is for three and then the bill will be cheaper.

Upstairs at the Department Store

Upstairs at the Department Store is a members club that offers a social space and opportunities to discover new friends. The joining list seems to be long as one of us waited a few months before finally being admitted. We are not clubbing people – any sort of clubbing people – but this place offered us the opportunity to book some social spaces for private hire and some spectacular views over Brixton (summer only). The bar is always packed and the restaurant offers a range of interesting food and is linked to the two on the ground floor – Canova Hall and Bellefields (both reviewed in this blog). We went with Brixton friends so we could try as many things as possible, but that wasn’t how it ended up.

Two of us chose gnocchi and the other two the beef tatare. The gnocchi comes with beurre noisette, a parmesan crisp, and wild mushrooms. Gnocchi are always a bit hit and miss – these were light and fluffy, and dare I say it this early into the menu, one of the best things we ate. The beef tartare came with a cointreau cured egg yolk, caponata and a sesame crisp with a sprinkling of pink leaves. The dish was fine but the main complaint was – where is the beef? It was more of a veggie tartare – nice but an affront to the trades description act.

Again our group went for just two dishes – the filet mignon and the duck. The beef came with spinach, brioche, porcini hash browns (delicious) and what was called a “truffle demi-glaze”. All these extra ingredients were good, but the beef could have been rested for longer as it was a bit tough despite having the right sharp knife. The duck was similar – needed more resting and a bit more of a crisp skin.

We liked the spinach and chips and those plates were empty at the end of this course.

We did order desserts but forgot to take a photo. Posh apple crumble, sticky toffee pudding, and an even posher creme brulee. We liked them all.

We washed everything down with sparkling water, a bottle of red wine, 2 glasses of white wine and a sherry. All of which were expensive (£77.50) but we did choose an expensive-ish red. The total bill came to £326.81 for four including a service charge. But this was a whole meal, lasting a few hours and very relaxed. If you choose alcohol wisely then the bill will be significantly reduced – about £62 per person. Members only can make a reservation so you may be treated as a guest. In that case do not turn it down.

The Great Indian Kitchen

Address: 21 Tulse Hill, London SW2 2TH

Hours: Monday to Sunday 12 noon to 11:30 pm

Phone: 020 8671 9343

Just in case you are thinking about an Indian takeaway – then consider this one

If you look for this restaurant on food delivery sites (Just-Eat) it will be the one called The Brixton Cafe. They serve a long list of tasty treats and if you are hungry you will definitely over-order – but then reheated the following day is good too.

We ordered via Just-Eat but you can order and pick it up. The menu we chose follows but there is enough to choose from without being overwhelming: Punjabi samosa chaat (crushed samosa on a bed of chickpeas), tandoori broccoli (see later), Alleppey vegetable curry (with raw mango and coconut), bombay aloo (with cumin), lamb hyderabadi dum biryani (speaks for itself), bread – lacha paratha – and a dessert – watalappam

This is a short description because it was all delicious. We have ordered again, but this time left out the tandoori broccoli – it was a bit hard and not enough of the tandoor spices stuck to this vegetable. Pomegranate seeds gave a sweet burst to some very hot dishes. They do not hold back on the spicing – even when a dish is described as moderately hot so have a tissue or three handy.

The watapallam is a steamed egg custard with jaggery (cane sugar), coconut milk and cardamom – a sweet treat which was very welcome.

The bill came to £52.38 but gave us three separate meals. We have already returned and it remains on our list for the future – well done for introducing another good Indian to Brixton.

Bellefields

address: 9 Stockwell Avenue, Brixton, SW9 9SY
Tel: 020 7846 8540
bookings@bellefields.com

website: https://www.bellefields.com/

The website description is of a “family run restaurant serving Mediterranean cuisine”, which allows latitude in what they serve as there are Italian, Greek, Spanish and recipe mixtures across of cuisines (like taramasalata and padron peppers). Bellefields is part of The Department Store, which provides work and meeting spaces in the heart of Brixton. The onsite restaurant is a new addition that opened this summer. There is a courtyard – more for the hardy as autumn casts its gloom and inside there’s a bar, booths and separate tables. Art is in abundance and eclectic. I am not sure I am very keen on eating while facing a Mexican day of the dead picture, but of course you can arrange to have your back to it. This is a place for coffee, lunch or dinner – we chose the evening when it was pretty empty at 8.00 pm.

The menu is a mixture of snacks (be warned small portions), small plates, mains and dessert. We chose the taramasalata and padron peppers while we considered our drinks (see later). It comes as just what it says on the menu – scooping out the pink cream on a padron pepper is a little tough so we advise ordering some bread (maybe the menu should suggest that).

Next we headed straight to mains and you can choose from an array of pasta or roast something and veg. The pasta can be served as a small plate or large. There is a choice for veggies, but not that much of a choice. There’s also a bunch of specials that looked interesting but we stuck to their standards. We don’t buy meat at home, so I splurged on the most expensive thing on the menu – steak frites and my companion on Spaghetti alla Chitarra Cacio e pepe (this is egg pasta with a square cross section, accompanied by cheese and pepper – very trendy I believe). The “steak frites” is exactly that – a steak with some roast tomatoes and chips (they offer sauces – I had ketchup). I didn’t finish the steak as it wasn’t rested enough so was a little tough. The chips were great.

The pasta was delicious as they had got the creamy sauce and pepper just right; so the plate was left clean. We chose a salad as an accompanyment.

Desserts were thin on the ground and the one we chose to share was off the menu, so we ordered an arancini of rice pudding (sold individually) and a small piece of baklava – just a sweet mouthful each. We enjoyed them both but the rice pudding could have been a bit richer – think tinned ambrosia rich which would have been great.

You are handed the drinks menu first and it has is a long list of cocktails and a list of gin and tonics for every taste. We chose one like a dirty martini (a Spanish Gun with lemon, olive and rosemary) and one described as the Italian riviera (Tuscan gin with lemon and basil), both of course with lots of ice and tonic. There are lots of wines by the bottle and the glass too. We liked the gin – they were drinks to linger over.

Overall we liked the place and the meal, although it turned out to be very expensive. A large portion of the expense was the G&Ts (£24.00). The food came to about £50 including a service charge. We will go again and eat pasta and drink red wine, unless we are celebrating.

Jamaica Patties

Healthy Eaters, 17 Electric Avenue, SW9 8JP, http://www.healthyeaters.co.uk/#food

First Choice Bakeries, 40 Atlantic Road, SW9 8JW, http://firstchoicebakers.co.uk/

New Tings, 112 Acre Ln, SW2 5RA, https://www.instagram.com/new_tings_restaurant/?hl=en

We had been given a celebration Jeroboam of champagne (3 litres), so needed to share it with friends. For accompanying snacks we went for that Brixton staple, Jamaica Patties. So an ideal opportunity to carry out a comparison for our faithful readers. At least that was the idea, but even with 14 of us there’s a limit to how many patties will get eaten. It turned out that 60 from three of Brixton’s top suppliers was too many and we ended up having patties for lunch and supper for the best part of a week.

We were interested in the best baker, rather than the best individual flavour. On the recommendation of our local expert (born in Jamaica. lived most of her life in Brixton), we went for First Choice Bakeries (Atlantic Road) and Healthy Eaters (Electric Avenue). Other shops sell patties of course, but mostly they buy them from the same bakeries, rather than making their own. But for interest we added in New Tings, in Acre Lane. When asked they were not forthcoming about their suppliers, although they do look similar to those from Health Eaters.

Patties come in many different flavours but the widest range was from First Choice – see the picture which gives a good idea of the options that are generally available. To aid the comparison we got beef and veg’ flavours from all three options, plus saltfish from a couple (New Tings didn’t have any, or had just run out). Then we added Callaloo from Healthy Eaters, lamb and cheesy beef from New Tings, and jerk chicken from First Choice. Note that some versions are said to be vegan, but best to check.

A Jamaica patty gains it’s distinctive yellow colour from the addition of turmeric and curry power to the pastry, although in practice it is difficult to taste the curry powder. The First Choice options are a bit smaller, which when you are faced with 60 of them, might be an advantage.

A Jamaica Patty success is all based on the pastry. The filling is important, but views differ, particularly for vegetarians. So our tasters were asked to score the pastry and the flavour separately, plus an overall rating. There was a general feeling that the fillings lacked punch. This was particularly the case with the jerk chicken variety. All testers found this disappointing, but we did not take into account the effect of the alcohol.

We do not want to go further than our data allows and we have to own up that it was insufficient for a definitive verdict as the results were pretty close. My own view is that the flakier the pastry, the better they are, which ought to give Healthy Eaters a head start as the flakiest. But, our community of raters gave First Choice a clear lead for its pastry and a slightly higher overall score. The patties from New Tings got the least favourable reception, but this was mainly due to a low score for the pastry, as they did well on flavour. But our experimental design and small sample doesn’t exclude the possibility of confounding variables (pandemic clearly taught us something) – but we can say that if you buy patties late in the day the pastry tends to dry out.

So what’s our advice. The only sensible conclusion is that if you want a Jamaica patty from Brixton you need to try them all, because tastes vary. But just judging by the size of the queue, you might as well start with First Choice.

Snacks in lockdown – a guide

My work team have introduced lots of interesting activities each week to take the place of those informal contacts we used to have with each other. Some are competitive like the best character made out of a toilet roll, but some are just good fun. They contributed to the Hot Cross Buns review and now we are contributing to “snacks”. These mostly come in plastic packaging and increase our girth. They are the things we eat while on zoom with the microphone and video turned off to help us with those really boring interludes when we are staring at an excel sheet and there is no colleague around who offers to make a cup of tea. We rated them on “Texture (1 = rubbish, 10 = perfect), Flavour (1 = horrible, 10 = perfect) and Quantity (1 = nowhere near enough, 10 = perfect) – always try to be scientific about these things but we didn’t make everyone eat everything…… but here goes.

Sweet

Nakd Cocoa Orange was clearly a hot favourite with a 10 on flavour but some disagreement aobut whether it was enough and whether they had the texture quite right and we wanted more of it! The Oreos were defiitely enough – you always get more than one but were a bit down on flavour and texture. I suppose we should have drilled down a bit more to discover how they were eaten – halved and licked, with music (a la Heston) or the custard cream method which just means biting them whole. Cadbury Darkmilk Giant Buttons got high scores on tecture and flavour but although they were very creamy and indulgent, there were quite a lot for a quick snack. Nakd Bakewell great on flavour but down a bit on quantity and texture (we really need a control comparison with a Mr Kipling). Last in this group is the old fashioned Curly Wurly. These used to be a long lasting sweet but were judged as much too small these days although the flavour was perfect and the texture just a little down on a top score.

Savoury

First in the savouries and gettig top marks for flavour and texture was the Nature Valley Sweet n Salty Peanut bar. This though was judged the worst for the quantity but maybe a good thing based on the number of calories. Pickled Onion Monster Munch – a children’s favourite – was certainly enough in terms of quantity even if it fell down on the texture and flavour. Several treats were gluten free but these ones were picked out of the mix – RW Garcia Lentil with Turmeric crackers. They scored very highly on all three ratings but are pricey. Kettle’s Salt and Pepper Crisps were high on flavour and texture but lower on quantity – those bags have plenty of air in them.

Finally a new kid on the block is the M&S Marmite butter featured in the top photo. This is a brilliant innovation in the field of snacks. It is efficient requiring just a single knife for both Marmite and butter so reduces washing up. It also prevents the yellow flecks in the Marmite, for those of us trying to save the planet one washed knife at a time. Banished is the problem of the Marmite pooling on the toast as it slides over the butter. Thank you M&S – Marmite butter and toast is the EatinBrixton favourite. My team were less enthusiastic but I am hoping to convert them but that means that M&S need to keep supplying it.

In the meantime I drew plucky North Macedonia in the Euro 2020 which means I will be back snacking after the game with the Netherlands.

Dishoom – the lockdown delivery

This is Bombay comfort food but also elegant. It pays homage to the Irani cafes. There are five restaurants in London and they offer delivery from breakfast to dinner, as well as a store where you can order a marmalade mimosa and bacon naan roll kit (or the vegan version) – good for birthdays as well as lots of other cocktails in dinky bottles.

To start off our Indian week we ordered from this more upmarket restaurant which has always been advertised by friends as a great place to eat. So we gave it a try. Ours came by Deliveroo (we had no choice!). We tried a lot of dishes just to get the hang of it, and this is not a cheap restaurant so it is definitely buyer beware. They also advertise that the delivery dishes are those that can abide travel. We agreed on that – everything was in peak condition despite the lengthy delivery.

The menu comes in separate sections, but is long so order when you are not starving. There are small and larger plates, rice, bread and puddings. It is also easy to order vegetarian and vegan and there is lots of advice about the ingredients that might cause some people a problem (e.g. Black Daal contains milk). We ordered Jackfruit Biryani (with saffron’d rice with mint, coriander and sultanas), Chole (spiced chickpea curry from the Punjab), House Black Daal (a Dishoom signature dish which is cooked over 24 hours), Vegetable samosa (pea and potato spiced with cinnamon and cloves) served with a small pot of tamarind chutney, Chilli Broccoli Salad (half portion) and a plain naan. We also ordered rasmalai (milk curds with almonds, in saffron-cardamom cream) and mango lassi for dessert.

Yes you can see that we over-ordered and this was after we had filled our plates. There was nothing that we didn’t like and we were really impressed that an Indian restaurant could be so different even on a delivery. So well done.

For dessert – a rare treat – we ordered ras malai (sweet cooked cheese in sweetened milk) and a mango lassi. This is the half portion.

The following day we finished the ….. by making it into a toastie

The bill came to £51.60 which was enough food for two for at least two or three days. Will definitely order again.

Spanish Week – In Lockdown

So, on to our Spanish week initiated by our takeaway from Boqueria and our recent Tapas Room home cooked meal (coming soon). We have a somewhat fixed idea of what should be on the menu, which means the dishes mimic our choices from an Andalucian restaurant. First off was a “tortilla Espagnol” using the basic recipe with fried potatoes, onions, eggs and enormous amounts of olive oil. Cooked on the stove and then the oven. Eaten warm is best, but we were hungry… it was delicious. All the ingredients are readily available from Brixton of course.

Next was an attempt at “Arroz Negra” – rice with a sprinkling of muscles and squid with a squid ink sauce. Despite its rather unappealing photo – it was good to eat. The rice needs to be like a risotto, with a bit of a bite, the main difference being that it doesn’t need constant stirring. Having a crispy bottom – the socarrat – is the objective. Beware of putting in salt too early, as the squid ink has some already. The fish came from Brixton but the squid ink was from packets acquired on a past trip to Spain. Let’s hope it’s not too long before we can restock.

Lastly, we have a chickpea, spinach and roasted pepper dish, which expands on a family favourite with the addition of more tomato and of course chestnuts. This was served with half of a patatas bravas. We were too hungry to wait for the mayonnaise-like sauce, which meant we just ate delicious roasted potatoes. They usually have packets of the ready-cooked chestnuts at Brixton Wholefoods.