Wednesday 28 April 2010

The Old Brewery, Greenwich

An impromptu social gathering last night saw myself, the Geezer and a friend trying out the (confusingly new) Old Brewery which opened recently in Greenwich.

I liked the look of the menu, and so we decided to eat in the restaurant (they also do bar food) after first having a beer in the garden. The bar and garden have got to be the best kept secret in Greenwich, certainly on a Tuesday night and perhaps mainly because word hasn't spread far yet.

There are lots of tables in the walled and gravelled garden at the end of the bar - it's nicely protected from the roar of the one-way system by a bit of distance and a large wall, and it was buzzing but far from crowded when we got there in the early evening.

I was happy to see that as well as a bar's length of taps with Meantime beers on sale, they also had three hand pumps with guest ales, one of which was the reliably tasty Harvey's Sussex Ale, as well as a vast range of bottled beers. I can appreciate the quality of the beers that Meantime Brewery makes, but I've not yet found one that I really like - I know lager drinkers who rate them highly but I don't find any of their ales particularly moreish so I was glad to have the choice of the guest beers.

Before long we went to take our table in the restaurant and my friend cast his critical eye over the interior decor. The vats that line one wall and the 'wave' of empty bottles that hangs over one side of the room were given the seal of approval, along with the colour scheme and furniture. But we were rather spooked by the other end of the room which looked more like a church hall - curtains hanging round the wall and a strange huddle of furniture. Luckily I was seated facing the vats.

It was pretty lively even for a Tuesday night, a good level of noise and enough customers to create a good atmosphere.

So what about the food? The menu offered a good mix of British staples and some tasty-sounding puddings. We decided to forgo the starters and go straight into mains. The 'fillets of Dorset plaice with potato & spring onion hash, razor clam, caper & parsley butter' were tasty but I was rather disappointed by the miniscule amount of razor clam. At first I thought they'd forgotten to put it on, then noticed that the half shell of the razor clam that was perched cheekily on the side of the plate was scattered with some tiny slivers of sliced clam. Tasty but all too fleeting. The fish was rather dry, and the potato cake (it was more potato cake than rosti) was ok but nothing special. Hardly any parsley butter had made it to the plate.

The steaks (one medium, one medium rare) were declared very tasty, but again the chips disappointed, looking as if they had come from the chipper next Peter de Wit's cafe (although the Geezer grudgingly admitted that they tasted 'a bit better' than that).

Sides of green beans and roasted squash were poles apart. The beans were very tasty, the squash was anything but. For a start I don't believe it was roasted at all - steamed perhaps, but certainly not roasted. The 'sage butter' again was notable by its absence, the only sign of it being a couple of green specks sticking to the steamed squash. Perhaps they were having a butter crisis in the kitchen?

Luckily the desserts cheered us up and sent us home a bit happier. I can't remember how mine was described and it's not on the menu on the website, but it was basically a piece of moist, gingery caramelly cake with a caramel sauce and some pouring cream. A whole jug of pouring cream, to be precise. I do prefer to pour my own cream on to puddings - and to have a liberal supply so that I can pour my own cream on repeatedly!

But the Geezer's hot chocolate fondant with Jersey ice cream caused a serious case of plate envy among myself and my friend. I'm not crazy about chocolate - I don't mind it but would rather have a hunk of cheese - but this just looked seriously good. And we didn't get offered a taste either, the Geezer managed to hog it all for himself, which says a lot about the quality!

The bill came to about £30 a head including service, and that also included a pint of beer each. I won't be rushing back to eat there, although it's definitely a good place for a drink and perhaps a bar meal if you are in Greenwich.

Monday 26 April 2010

Gallop coffee shop

Last weekend I made a point of trying out the Gallop coffee shop, which has just reopened for Saturday and Sunday hours.

If you've been there for shows or on previous open weekends you'll know that it's a small space, but with three reasonably-sized tables and a couple of seats outside, there is room for a dozen or so customers, as long as they are all good friends.

They have a brand new shiny kitchen at the back, which nicely complements the white tiles and artwork of the interior, and were serving coffees and teas (including fresh mint tea - easily done with Deptford's greengrocers on your doorstep!), pastries, cakes and some rather smashing sandwiches and homemade quiche.

I plumped for a ham sandwich, made with ham from the Giggly Pig, some rather good plum chutney (not quite up to my homemade, but hey, no-one's perfect!) and fresh greenery, and accompanied by gherkin and fresh radish. Spot on! The bread was good and rustic and the coffee really hit the spot.

Will definitely be back for more.

Meanwhile if you want to see inside but can't wait for the weekend, don't miss the Deptford Film Club which is trying out Gallop as a venue for this week's showing of Omkara on Wednesday. Full details here.

Friday 23 April 2010

Deptford in the green!

No, not a political post, just a comment about how our trees have finally come into leaf!

Thursday 22 April 2010

Lewisham Deptford candidates on immigration

I apologise for the fact that other commitments currently leave me with little time for blogging; luckily there are plenty of great local bloggers I can rely on to pick up things that I would otherwise be following.

I point you to an interesting post by Transpontine referring to a recent article on the BBC election website about immigration.

Meanwhile Dave Hill has been blogging about the Green Party's local aspirations.

Monday 19 April 2010

Lewisham Deptford hustings reports

Here are some links to reports from the recent hustings for Lewisham Deptford's parliamentary candidates - I was disappointed not to be able to attend, thanks to those who did so and sent me their links.

Crosswhatfields blog

Notes of an idealist

Skinny voice has posted some excellent photos and comments on Deptford Calling here and here

Thursday 15 April 2010

Surrey Canal Road station

London Reconnections tells the tortuous tale of the ongoing attempt to get a station built at Surrey Canal Road as part of the East London Line extension. And it's not over yet....

Monday 12 April 2010

Lewisham Deptford hustings

If you want to quiz the candidates standing for election as Lewisham Deptford MP, get yourself down to Utrophia Arts on Tanners Hill this weekend.

"NO2ID and Power2010 are hosting an election hustings on Saturday, April 17, 5pm, at the Utrophia Arts Project at Tanners Hill, SE8 4QD (entrance opposite the Royal George pub).
All the major parliamentary party candidates and others for the Lewisham Deptford constituency have accepted the invite, and the event is open to all residents of the constituency."

I am rather gutted that I'm going to be away at the weekend, so won't be able to attend, but trust that some of our many local bloggers might take up the challenge to report back.

If anyone from Deptford (especially north Deptford) is going, I'd be interested to know what plans the candidates have for our area, and even whether they intend to show their faces in Evelyn, Pepys, Woodpecker etc. Some of them seem to be very focussed on Brockley, Crofton Park and Ladywell area, which does not bode well for the Deptford part of Lewisham Deptford.

Sunday 11 April 2010

Master shipwright's house for sale

If you have got £5 million to spare, you could own a bit of historic Deptford, complete with river frontage and very private grounds (at least until Convoy's Wharf redevelopment).

Thanks to Deptford Misc for spotting this article.

The thought of the current owners leaving Deptford is sad, since they have such passion for the preservation of the old Royal Dockyard.

Saturday 3 April 2010

Deptford Foreshore and Creekside Walks

The FROG blog is a series of reports made by volunteers in the Foreshore Recording and Observation Group which works under the auspices of the Thames Discovery Programme. Recently Luke and Gustav made a trip to the Deptford Foreshore to see what they could find at low tide, and Luke sent me a link to the report.

It makes fascinating reading, and made me think that perhaps I might go down there and have a mooch around, except I won't be doing any scrambling, that's for sure!

Anyone know anything about the elephant?

Meanwhile on another watery topic, the Creekside Centre has released its programme of Deptford Creek Walks for the spring and summer season. Well worth making the effort; I've done one myself a few years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. And definitely no scrambling!

Friday 2 April 2010

Your councillors - they work for you!

Or do they?

I was prompted by my own musings in the previous post, about the invisibility of some of our local councillors, to take a look at the council's latest attendance records.

What with the local elections coming up and my suspicion that the political colour of the council may change, I wanted to investigate the visibility and input of councillors in Evelyn and New Cross wards as an admittedly somewhat blunt tool to assess what kind of job they've done for us in the last four years.

Attendance records for the current year are available on Lewisham Council's website if you live in one of the other wards and want to know what your councillors have been doing to earn their basic £10k annual allowance (and special responsibility allowances in some cases).

Of course this is a very crude and simplistic way of judging what our elected representatives have been up to - attending council and committee meetings is only one part of the job and if they are doing what they are supposed to be doing, they should also be very busy holding surgeries, responding to queries and requests for help from their electorate, attending local meetings and so on. Readers who are active in the local community or have had occasion to ask their councillor for assistance will be able to judge this for themselves and may have views that contradict the impression given by the attendance records.

However my own experience is that the level of attendance of council meetings is a fairly good indicator of how responsive and helpful each individual is to their electorate, and how committed they are to their duties.

In Evelyn ward our local councillors are Heidi Alexander, Crada Onuegbu and Sam Owolabi-Oluyole, all three are Labour councillors. Heidi is also deputy mayor (which earns her an additional £40k) and Crada is also on the cabinet (a £15k allowance).

In terms of attendance, Crada and Heidi are setting the standard - although perhaps this is understandable given their positions of responsibility and associated allowances. They both attended all eight council meetings out of the eight given in the stats, and while Heidi managed 18 out of 20 mayor & cabinet meetings, Crada was only just behind with 16 out of 20. At the contracts committees Heidi and Crada made it to 14 and 12 out of 16 respectively. However while Heidi has a rather long list of other responsibilities, Crada seems reluctant to commit to any other committee responsibilities to earn her annual allowance.

Sam met the same high standard of attendance at the full council meetings, but seems to have bitten off more than he can chew in the case of other commitments.

His record for planning committee A was frankly abysmal; he only managed to attend two out of the seven meetings. On the sustainable development committee his performance was improved - five out of eight meetings - and on the housing committee he made it to four out of six.

But if you want to see professional absenteeism, you only have to look at the records of councillors across the border in New Cross ward.

New Cross is represented by Labour councillors Stephen Padmore, Madeliene Long and Paul Maslin, although I use the word 'represented' advisedly. New Cross may have been represented by its councillors at the full council meetings (Paul made all eight, Madeliene and Stephen each attended seven) but as far as other commitments go, they demonstrated a distinct lack of interest in attending the committees they had volunteered for.

Since none of them is in the cabinet, you might expect them to have more time for participating elsewhere.

Not a bit of it.

Paul is a member of the public accounts select committee, but could only manage to get to one out of the five meetings over the year. He did a bit better on planning committee C which had his bum on the seat at four of its eight meetings. Ironically enough he showed up at all three of the meetings of the standards committee (Objective: 'To promote and maintain high standards of conduct within the council and to assist councillors in following the Council's Code of Conduct.').

Meanwhile Stephen didn't do too badly by comparison. Despite missing one of the full council meetings, he made three out of the five public accounts committee meetings - not bad considering he is the vice chair. He attended three of the six meetings of planning committee B and his presence was felt at four of the seven meetings of the children and young persons select committee.

The third member of the New Cross posse is Madeliene Long.

Madeliene's reputation precedes her somewhat; she has already been mightily slagged in the local press (albeit by the Lib Dem opposition who are no doubt strongly targeting New Cross ward in the coming elections) for not turning up to ANY of the seven meetings of the safer & stronger communities select committee.

But her lack of interest doesn't stop there. If the News Shopper had probed a little bit further they would have discovered that she could only be arsed to make the effort for one of the five public accounts select committee meetings and didn't show her face at all at either of the two strategic planning committee meetings.

She is vice chair of planning committee A, and yet skipped all but one of their seven meetings.

Seven council meetings and two committee meetings in the course of a year - I work that out as more than £1k for each meeting she attended. Let's hope for her sake that she's been very busy in the ward to justify this level of laziness elsewhere.

So, do your councillors work for you? You decide!

Disclaimer: I am not now, nor ever have been, a member of any political party. My only agenda is scrutiny of elected officials and an interest getting the best for the local community.

Thursday 1 April 2010

Deptford Arms/Paddy Power

When the Geezer came home last night with a tip-off that the Deptford Arms pub was slated to become a betting shop, I initially thought he was trying an early April fool joke on me.

However after a bit of digging I was shocked to discover that it was true. Earlier this month Lewisham's licensing committee granted bookmaker Paddy Power a licence to operate a betting shop at 52 Deptford High Street, otherwise known as the Deptford Arms.

In case you are not familiar with the High Street betting shops, let me give you a quick tour:

FOUR out of the High Street's SIX existing betting shops are clustered in the south end, within a couple of hundred yards of each other and all on the same side of the street. In the middle of this little cluster is the Deptford Arms, one of the High Street's remaining pubs and not a bad little boozer. Just the spot for a new branch of Paddy Power, our council licensing committee seems to think.

But to be fair to the council, they do face ongoing difficulties in controlling the number of betting shops that can open in any particular area. They are not allowed to turn down a licence application simply because there are already several similar businesses nearby - in the same way that they couldn't stop another greengrocer or butcher shop from opening. The passing of the Gambling Act in 2005, which moved the responsibility for licensing from the courts to the local councils, also restricted the grounds on which applications could be rejected.

It was not long before councils were becoming concerned about a proliferation of betting shops, many of them in very deprived areas. In fact Lewisham Council was the lead authority on a proposal that has been shortlisted by the Local Government Association and submitted to central government as a suggested addition/amendment to the Sustainable Communities Act.

This proposes that councils should have the power to cap the number of bookmakers in a certain area, and also gives them the power to turn down applications on the basis of over-saturation.

The same problems have frequently been highlighted by Green councillor Sue Luxton in her ward in Ladywell.

Meanwhile Paddy Power has also had to apply for planning permission for "The installation of new shopfronts and a roller shutter to the front and side of Deptford Arms, 52 Deptford High Street SE8, together with alterations to the elevations and the installation of air conditioning units and satellite dishes to the rear" as well as "The display of internally illuminated fascia and projecting signs to the front and side elevations of Deptford Arms, 52 Deptford High Street SE8".

I understand that although no final decision has been published yet, the council planning inspector has decided to reject Paddy Power's application to put lurid green facades all over the building. Although the building itself is not listed individually, it does come within the section of the High Street that is listed. I don't know the reasons that will be given for the application to be rejected; unfortunately I suspect this won't be the last we hear of it.

At this stage I would like to pose a couple of questions of my own; if anyone can answer them feel free to do so in the comments or email me if you are too shy.

- why were no objections to the application received from the local councillors in New Cross ward? (according to the News Shopper one of the ward's councillors seems to be shirking other duties too). Their objections might not have made any difference but surely they should be taking an interest?

- why is the pub closing? I don't believe the building has been sold and it seems to do relatively good business, so why the change? For the last couple of years the management seems to have made a big effort to improve the place, and as well as championing live music, introduced an art gallery in the basement and hosted plays/poetry/literary events. If the Deptford Arms goes, the High Street will be left with just one solitary pub - yes, the White Swan! (Be afraid, be very afraid!)