Saturday, 21 July 2007
Blast from the past
Before anyone starts accusing me of going all Andrew Brown on you and posting pictures of my dinner for no discernable reason, let me just explain.
Anyone who has lived in these parts for a more than six years or so may remember the legendary Heather's Bistro in McMillan Street, just off Creek Road. Heather's started off in a scruffy little cafe down on Trundley's Road in the New Cross wastelands; during the day it was a regular greasy spoon, but a few evenings a week, it was transformed into a vegetarian buffet which soon attracted rave reviews. Its location made it difficult to find, but kept it from getting too overcrowded.
When it relocated to a former pub in McMillan Street, not only was it more accessible but it was on much larger premises and was open six evenings a week. Having been meaning to try it for years, but never being quite sure how to get to the place, I started visiting the new premises fairly regularly.
The food was magnificent - even die-hard carnivores were forced to admit that this veggie stuff was quite tasty! It was also very good value - customers paid £14 a head to visit the buffet as often as they liked for soups, salads, main courses (usually a choice of several) puddings, home-made bread etc etc. In fact, here's the menu from 2001 just to give you an idea of the sort of thing we are talking about. They also had a great organic wine list (long before anyone else did) and I think this was the first place where I tried English wine, and was pleasantly surprised!
It was also memorable for me because of the lavender shortcake I tried there; the delicate, slightly perfumed flavour was a revelation to me, I hadn't imagined that something which was usually found in overpowering bubble bath could produce such a delicious taste.
Yesterday I decided to try and recreate it - having bought some 'culinary-grade' lavender from the Herb Garden near Chesterfield in Derbyshire. Here it is - a regular shortcake recipe (mostly butter, sugar and flour in unhealthy quantities) with a bit of lavender mixed in. I'm looking forward to a taste of it, and being transported back to that revelationary experience that night at Heather's.
Sadly, the restaurant closed down in 2001 when the owners decided to move out of London and couldn't find anyone to take it over. Writing this post has reminded me what a great place it was and how much I missed it. Although I'm generally of the opinion that change is a good thing - if places and people stay the same, they become stale and tired - but I would have liked a couple more years to enjoy Heather's!