Showing posts with label restaurants. Show all posts
Showing posts with label restaurants. Show all posts

04 April 2022

Forest Cafe Bistro − Perry Vale

By Belinda Evans

Just before lockdown, way back in early 2020, there was a lot of changes being made to the row of shops at the bottom of Perry Vale near the old fire station. The existing café closed and then the barbers! We were worried, were we losing all our well-loved local shops and amenities? Was Perry Vale going to turn into a desolate row of closed shop fronts?  But luckily this was not the case. All this change was part of a fabulous redevelopment.

The owner told us that the process took over two years for everything to go through needing to organize the moving of the existing café and negotiating change with the barbers. On 1st January 2020 building work could finally start! The builders worked tirelessly developing the new sites. So, on 15th March 2020, Forest Cafe Bistro opened and much to the delight of the locals it was great from the off. It was busy, vibrant, the food was great, and the atmosphere was buzzing.

But this soon turned to total disappointment when only five days later the national lockdown was announced, the Forest Cafe Bistro, like all establishments was forced to close its doors.

It must have been heart-breaking for the owners. Forest Café Bistro was just finished after months of long days and late nights of building, redeveloping, moving, fitting, and setting it all up ready to open, for this to be so short lived. I imagine the owners thinking that all the building work could have been done in lockdown after all, and that last push for opening and getting finished which involved many long hours could have been carried out in the months of lockdown in a much more leisurely pace.

As a new business the Forest Café Bistro wasn’t ready for providing take-aways or online delivery. But it was also a good opportunity to investigate how to do this so lockdown and enforced closure did not deter the Forest Cafe Bistro. It set up online deliveries and offered take away dishes and coffee which made a real difference to all of us stuck at home and if you were like me − so bored of the challenge of shopping, cooking, and trying to balance this with working from home. To be able to grab a coffee or a tasty chicken shish wrap, that someone else had made, was a delight.
And the alterations and improvements did not stop during the enforced closure. The owners took the opportunity to create a lovely outside area for dining alfresco. A mural was painted on the outside wall so that even if we couldn’t travel abroad, we could have a Mediterranean breakfast and imagine we are dining in an exotic location. Planters and conifers were put up outside too so that the ever-noisy traffic from the cars and buses travelling on Perry Vale were masked from us all.

But what about the menu? The food is great − very fresh, fabulous range from full breakfasts, to pancake stacks to wraps, hot lunches and so much more (watch out for the size of the liver and bacon dinner − its enormous). The aim of the bistro is to provide tasty, good value dishes for locals and workers. It’s a varied menu but all such good quality and fabulous portion sizes. The healthy breakfast options have become very popular indeed as well as the grilled chicken, or falafel wrap. The charcoal dishes have a unique taste of Turkey − try the lamb shish or the lamb chops.  They also serve Efes beer which on a hot day goes down especially well. I must mention too the crockery − all sourced from Turkey and of such lovely quality.

A Mediterranean breakfast a halloumi wrap and a cold Efes beer alfresco in Perry Vale what could be better? Its open seven days a week so what are you waiting for? 

26 March 2020

The Lazy Chef

Located in Forest Hill station’s forecourt, it is easy to overlook this surprising little café, where the staff are anything but Lazy!

First impressions on entering this family run café are of a warm, friendly place to eat, featuring a menu with something for everyone. The large range of breakfast options has an international flavour with Mediterranean and American combinations to complement the standard European fare. There is also an equally varied list of lunch options ranging from chicken dishes to pasta, fish and burgers. These can be washed down with a glass of wine from Italy, Argentina, New Zealand, Australia or Chile. It’s the wide range of different meals available that makes the Lazy Chef special.

I met with Serkan, one of three brothers, the others being Sidar and Serdar who have worked together for 20 years and have run the Lazy Chef for two years — alongside their uncle Ercan, who does the cooking.

My first question was obvious: Why the name when it’s very clear this is not a lazy establishment!? Serkan explained that the name is fun, a laugh and something different to catch the eye. Continuing, Serkan said 90-percent of his customers are locals who visit regularly. Serkan takes pride in making them feel welcome. He wants the Lazy Chef to feel like a warm sanctuary where you can enjoy excellent coffee and tasty food.

Serkan and his family are Kurdish and come from Turkey, though Serkan has now lived in Devonshire Road for 23 years and loves working in Forest Hill. Before the Lazy Chef, Serkan and his brothers owned kebab shops including one in Dartmouth Road. Asked if he had any plans for the Lazy Chef, Serkan said he would like to expand the café and be able to serve more customers. Given the location, this would be difficult. I wondered whether Serkan and his brothers might want to move to a larger premise elsewhere, but he was adamant he had no intention of leaving Forest Hill.

If you fancy a good cup of tea or coffee and a tasty bite to eat, the Lazy Chef may be the place for you. And if you do visit, try the Gorlette — savoury Turkish flatbreads which are home-made by Serkan’s mum!

15 March 2020

Looking out for your Neighbours

Our community is faced with some challenges ahead, and it is at this time community is at its most important. Right now, is a very good time to introduce yourself to a neighbour and swap telephone numbers.  Particularly elderly ones, stay at home parents, neighbours with disabilities and even those who just moved into the area. If your neighbour is not at home consider leaving a note such as this one with your contact details.

Think about creating a WhatsApp group for your neighbours or street.  And remember that some people are 'off-grid', consider sharing important information whenever you hear it.

There is a Lewisham-wide Covid-19 Mutual Aid group on Facebook which is intended to put people in contact and share information on a wider scale.

Related to this are local whatsapp groups based on ward areas:
Forest Hill
Crofton Park
Perry Vale -

Shop Locally

While major retailers are finding it difficult to keep stock levels replenished, please consider shopping at local independent shops. Many continue to have good stock levels and need the support of the local community to keep it that way.

Similarly, why not consider ordering in a take away from your favourite local restaurants? (and keep your stockpile for another day).

16 March 2019

Sfizio — Italian Tapas

Belinda Evans asked the owners of Sfizio, which opened in October 2018 at 31 Perry Vale, to tell us all about their new venture.

Is this your first restaurant venture? 
This is, in fact, not our first restaurant. We previously owned and ran La Luna Pizzeria on Walworth Road near Burgess park and Camberwell, until it was sold in 2012 to a different owner. We also opened and ran one of the first pizzerias in south London, La Pizzeria Italiana, which is still open and trading in Catford and which we opened in 1986 but ultimately sold. In total, we have over 30 years of experience running and establishing restaurants which ar
e still going to this day.

Which regions of Italy influence your food? 
Our menu is influenced by various regional cuisines of Italy, since the concept of Sfizio was to incorporate regional Italian food into a tapas-sharing format.

As we are from Sarno — which is located near Salerno in southern Italy — we naturally wanted to bring some dishes from the area to our restaurant; our Melanzane Parmigiana and Neapolitan meatballs, which we serve in a tapas format, are both dishes eaten in Campania, south Italy. However, overall we would say our food is mostly influenced by central and southern Italian cuisines.

Why did you choose Forest Hill for your new venture? 
We chose Forest Hill as it is an extremely vibrant and lively area of south east London, with plenty of people who would be interested in trying our Italian tapas concept as well as our sourdough pizza. We know there are plenty of families and young professionals who wanted something different in the neighbourhood, and we wanted to properly utilise the space left behind by The Perryvale Bistro & Bar.

Everyone is intrigued by the name Sfizio — does it have a special meaning? 
Sfizio, when translated directly, means 'on a whim'; however, this doesn't necessarily do justice to the word. Sfizio is derived from the word Sfizioso, which is usually a word used to describe an action which is different, exciting or interesting. As we were introducing a new concept to south east London — in the form of Italian tapas — we wanted to choose an appropriate word which was short and to the point; and embodied our intention to do something different, exciting and interesting by going against the grain of most Italian restaurants and by emphasizing purely traditional dishes.

What is your most popular dish? 
We are fortunate enough to have quite a few popular dishes! Our Arancini, Calamari Fritti and Salsiccia con Fagioli are all very popular. Our most popular pizzas are the Piccante Calabrese pizza with Italian pepperoni sausage and Calabrian nduja, and Salsiccia Frierelle pizza served with Neapolitan broccoli and Neapolitan sausage.

We also sell a lot of our fresh pasta which we make — especially the Strozzapreti, which features Provola cheese (smoked mozzarella) and aubergine in a San Marzano tomato sauce.

Do you have a specialty dish? 
Our specialty dish is our Panuozzo, as it is something different to what most pizzerias in south London serve. It is a staple of Neapolitan street food — a pizza baguette often stuffed with parma ham, fresh tomatoes and melted fior di latte mozzarella. We have two variations: a Neapolitan-style with buffalo mozzarella and parma ham; and a Gragnano version which includes aubergine, fior di latte mozzarella and Neapolitan sausage.

How do you choose your wines? 
We try to provide a variety of lesser-known Italian wines for our customers. We really believe Italian wine is some of the best in the world, and we wanted to showcase some great organic wines on our menu too.

What's your most popular cocktail so far?
It's an even match between the Margherita and the Fragolino. We are currently running our Aperitivo Time offer between 5 and 7pm every Tuesday to Thursday, when customers can receive 2-4-1 on cocktails.

If you have time to eat out in Forest Hill where do you like to go? 
We really enjoy BOnA; whilst we make sourdough pizzas ourselves we really appreciate the good quality of pizzas they serve. We also enjoy The Signal pub and the Sylvan Post.

On your doors you have some Italian words — can you tell us what they mean?
Rillasarrsi: Relax. Gustare: Enjoy. Condividere: Share.
This was the mantra developed behind Sfizio — the concept of enjoying, relaxing and sharing your food. It's at the heart of the restaurant and the experience we want to give to every customer.

Visit Sfizio online at

18 September 2017

Little Italy in Forest Hill

We are almost reluctant to share this Forest Hill secret with you as we quite like having it all to ourselves!

We have a new hidden gem on the Perry Vale side of the Forest Hill station where you can enjoy a fantastic pizza or pasta and the best tiramisu I have tasted, all in a beautiful outdoor setting.

Piazza della Cucina at 15 Perry Vale is the venue, and it has recently replaced Cinnamon, which was a very nice Indian restaurant. It has proved to be a very welcome addition to this stretch of Perry Vale, which has seen several establishments open in the last few years, especially: Waters fishmonger and greengrocer; the Perry Vale restaurant, which is doing well; and the newly opened Clapton Craft and popular and well-stocked Crafty Beer shop, each of which have an astounding range of craft beers.

But back to Piazza della Cucina, which a group of us recently visited for a ‘quick’ after-work pizza, as the freshly baked pizzas straight from the pizza oven are marvellous. It was a warm night and we were, on entering the restaurant, asked whether we wanted to sit in the garden! Garden? “What garden?” we asked.  We were not aware that it had a garden, let alone the delight into which we walked. Walk along the upstairs corridor, down some wooden steps, and you are in Italy!

The garden is huge, beautifully designed with the most amazing timber-roofed and decked area, resplendent with geraniums and planters and an outside bar. There are tables under cover in the decked area or you can sit on the uncovered part. There are lovely metal tables and the whole garden is full of authentic Italian touches. All of the timber for the wooden structures was imported from Italy since the restaurant's owner, Jacob, really wanted to embrace his heritage and create an authentic Italian ambience.

There are few eateries in Forest Hill where you can sit outside, and the outside garden of Piazza della Cucina is the perfect place to sit, talk and eat with family and friends.

We would include some pictures here of the outside area but, to be honest, it is so special that I want you to have that WOW feeling as you enter; and a photo here would ruin the experience for you.

Go, sit outside, have a pizza, have a glass of Italian wine, have the tiramisu and talk to the owner, but don’t tell anyone… Let’s keep this hidden gem of Forest Hill as our secret…  OK?

Article by Belinda Evans

02 March 2016

Business Profile: Canvas and Cream

Canvas & Cream is a exciting mix of food and art located on London Road. It was set up by mother and daughter team Joanna and Emily Gore, and we wanted to know more about their business, so we asked Joanna a few questions:

How did Canvas and Cream get started?
From the outset this was a community venture.  We found this building on London Road - it had no electricity, no walls, no plumbing and many holes in the roof, floors, walls etc. It was a big project and we invited local people to get involved. 

We taught people how to tile, how to build walls, decorate, even wire up lights and lay parke flooring. We learnt many skills ourselves from books, the internet and from past DIY endeavours, it was a fantastic experience, a vast public art project.

What did you do before opening C&C?
Before conceiving of Canvas & Cream I was a free-lance artist for 12 years working alongside people in disadvantaged groups such as those in the mental health system and deprived youths. I studied Fine Art and went on to get a PhD in the Role of the artist in exposing and challenging hierarchical structures and concepts in institutions.

Emily, my daughter, had been working in events for large entertainment company, she also had her own small bakery business supplying cafes and markets with her homemade cakes. She is a talented baker and has since taught her grandmother to bake many of Canvas & Cream’s impressive cake offer.

After time as a lecturer in fine art at Middlesex university, and running art courses for Tower Hamlets council I got together with Emily and we decided to use our combined knowledge and experience to create a community arts hub, and close to our home in Forest Hill seemed like a great place.

What is the most popular dish on your menu (or your favourite)?
Our ‘to die for’ stack of pancakes served with berries, crème fresh and pure Canadian maple syrup, they are not only made from the usual pancake ingredients but also include cream cheese!

In the evening it has to be our oven Roasted Duck Breast with Creamy Mash, Roasted Fig, Tangy Red Fruit & Wine Jus or the Mushroom Cobbler, a Creamy Mushroom & Tarragon Stoop baked with Cheese Scones, both warming and perfectly comforting for the winter months.

I must mention our fantastic variety of delicious homemade cakes, not just because we have a fabulous display but because most of them are made by my mum!

As well as the restaurant what other activities do you do?C&C Gallery is an artist led contemporary art gallery that collaborates with artists to promote and exhibit innovative and thought provoking art by emerging and mid-career artists. We build long term relationships so as to support artists who share an interest in narrative, identity and personal and cultural histories whose work is intellectually challenging and socially relevant.

The next show up is ‘Heavy Weather’ - new works by Trevor Appleson an established Artist/photographer who has found innovative and interesting ways of photographing the weather. The opening is on Friday 11th March, 6.30pm and everyone is welcome.

We also have six studios currently occupied by three illustrators, an upholsterer/artist, a flower/sculptress, and a fashion designer and we currently have one vacant studio.

What do you think is the best thing about Forest Hill? I love the mix of people and sense of community in Forest Hill, we get customers of all ages, from elderly couples for cream teas, lots of babes in arms, to young professionals meeting friends for cocktails, families for Sunday Lunch. Forest Hill know how to be a community and it is wonderful to be a part of that.

What would Nigella say?A few years ago Nigella Lawson and Charles Saatchi visited the gallery, Saatchi bought the whole show by Rafal Zawistowski before it opened. We were delighted when Nigella tweeted about the inspiring cakes and fairy light gift-wrap.

15 February 2014

February Newsletter: Pizza Restaurant adds New Flavour to the Old Bank

The Old Bank site on Honor Oak high street has been un-utilised for a number of years and the last potential opening was an application by Dominos Pizza to convert the site into a takeaway and delivery shop. The Forest Hill Society in unison with local residents campaigned to stop the planning application. Our main reason for objecting was the poor use of a prime location which we felt should be a retail unit.

There were also concerns around parking and the noise generated by bikes serving the shop during peak hours. There were over 300 objections to the application and thankfully the Domino’s application was rejected. Although Domino’s went onto appeal this decision, through a series of demonstrations outside the restaurant, Dominos’ remained unsuccessful.

Residents had nothing against takeaways but we felt sure that this key location would be better placed as a restaurant rather than a hub for a take way delivery service.

Indeed we are delighted to report that an independent pizza restaurant/cafe called SODO has now opened on the site. This is exactly the outcome we wanted, even if it took three years for it to happen! It provides a better future for Honor Oak with a selection of top quality restaurants in a small area of South East London.

SODO announced ‘SO DOUGH’ (as in sour-dough, the traditional pizza base) opened in early February. This is the third venture from SODO, the original is in Clapton and there is also a concession at The George & Vulture pub in Hoxton. The whole ethos is based around offering the best and freshest pizza, working with local suppliers and creating a fun experience for the customer.

At University, Dan Birch the founding director worked in a kitchen and hated the fact that so much was processed and deep fried. He came across somewhere selling pizza and loved the freshness and theatre of it and this is what restaurant is all about; the pizzas are made on order in front of the customers and the kitchen is an integral part of the experience.

They came across The Old Bank site very much by accident although they were actively hunting for new sites across London. They thought the building was ‘amazing’ and immediately fell in love with it describing it as ‘a big old building with bags of character’. Dan and his team have renovated the majority of the existing features including fireplaces, brick walls and old tiles and have incorporated them into the décor. They have created an interior that’s in harmony with the building and which brings to life the period features that remained hidden for many years.

In addition to the restaurant, there is a bar with seating and space for between five and seven people. The idea is that people can just pop in for a drink or actually eat at the bar, much like you might eat tapas in Spain. If you don’t fancy eating out, you can call the restaurant for a pizza and then pick it up between five and ten minutes later. The pizzas only take a minute in the oven so this is fast (and fresh) food at it’s best! At a maximum, the take away process may take twenty minutes but that’s only to be expected on a packed out Saturday night.

The most popular pizza at the moment is called the ‘Winter Goat’. This consists of mozzarella, tomato, caramelised onions, goat’s cheese, olives and walnuts. Prices range from between £6 and £11 depending on the toppings but the average price is £8/£9. All the ingredients are fresh and locally sourced and indeed they are currently looking for local suppliers in the area.

Dan is not from SE23 so I asked what he has come to like about the area and his answer was ‘the community’ which will not surprise us Forest Hilliers! He says the reception has been really supportive and that people could not wait for them to open.

It’s clear that SODO will be a great success if his passion for freshly made pizza and the support of the local community is anything to go by. The restaurant is now open, three days a week between 12pm – 11pm and once everything is fully up and running, they plan to open six days a week.

20 March 2013

New Shops coming to Perry Vale

Since City Walk, the Berkeley Homes development by Forest Hill station, was completed a few years ago the shops beneath have remained stubbornly empty despite their prime location.

A licensing application has now appeared on one of the units for the sale of alcohol as part of, what we understand will be, a general grocery shop (not a mini-version of one of the big four supermarkets). Discussions are also well advanced on the other unit which is likely to become a restaurant.

These shops are in a key location in the town centre and we welcome new businesses opening up in this location.

14 March 2013

Roaring Hot!

Just a hop away from Forest Hill on the train - or a short but lovely walk via the spectacular outlook from One Tree Hill - Honor Oak Park's high street offers another clutch of independent shops, coffee shops and restaurants to explore.

We moved to Forest Hill just over a year ago.  Busy repainting what felt like every wall in the house,  we hadn’t  ventured 'over the hill' very many times. But with a New Year's resolution to put down the paint brush and get out more, a dark Saturday evening in January seemed the perfect moment to try out Babur - especially with the news that it had recently been awarded Zagat 2013 London 'Best Indian Restaurant'.

On arriving, the first surprise was finding a tiger on the roof of a restaurant in Brockley Rise. (Babur is derived from the Urdu word 'babr' meaning 'tiger', Wikipedia tells me, so a week after our visit, this brilliantly over-the-top ornament makes sense!) The surprises continue inside - this is much more than your ordinary Indian restaurant. Bare brick walls, polished walnut tables,  intriguing art - a relaxed, stylish and welcoming place.

We're offered an inventive list of cocktails to kick off our evening. And the menu is pleasingly brief - no compendium of 1001 curries - instead, an intriguing range of dishes which all have something a little different or unusual about them, from South Indian style mussels in a coconut milk, mustard seed and curry leaf broth or tamarind-glazed quail breast as starters, to steamed spice crusted shoulder of lamb (allegedly marinated for 100 hours!) or pan seared bream with black mangosteen, coconut and Malabari masala.

There’s a great choice of vegetarian dishes too. And with main courses, there's a suggestion of the wine that will best accompany your food. It's all incredibly well thought through - the only disappointment of our meal is the clove-smoked buffalo curry, one of the mains, which seems rather heavy handed on the cloves to the exclusion of everything else. We will know for next time – and there definitely will be a next time - Babur isn't the cheapest evening out, but it feels really special, the food is excellent, and the service is friendly and attentive.

Sitting at our table, I found myself already plotting who I could bring back, and when. But before that I need to decide what's next on my list - Le Querce, apparently another of the star restaurants in Honor Oak, The Sylvan Post , Dartmouth Arms or Canvas & Cream in Forest Hill, That’s Amore in Kirkdale, or Trattoria Raffaele in Sydenham—so much choice!

If our evening at Babur is anything to go by, some great nights out at local restaurants and pubs lie ahead.
Review by Catherine Wood

20 February 2010

23 Club: February and March

The Events Committee thought it would be interesting to widen out the scope of the 23 Club events beyond visiting local restaurants in the evening or for Sunday lunch, so you will see that this month we are going to a newly opened cafe in Honor Oak (Hopscotch), and to a fairly recently opened bar near to Hopscotch (The Stone Bar) in March. Please note you don’t need to pre-book for February or March – 23 Club seating will be signed – just turn up.

Tuesday February 23: Hopscotch : a new cafe in Honor Oak

72 Honor Oak Park SE23 1DY

Meet at 11am for coffee and/or 4pm for tea (no booking needed) – tables will have 23 Club ID

Tuesday March 23 : Stone Bar : a new Caribbean style bar in Honor Oak

68-70 Honor Oak Park SE23 1DY

Meet between 6-8pm for drinks (no booking needed) – tables will have 23 Club ID

If you decide to stay and have supper you don’t need to book. Menu info is on the website.

Friday April 23 : evening : St George’s Day Celebration

April 23rd is St George’s Day, and we think it would be fun to mark this in some way. If you have any suggestions, please do contact me so the Events Committee can consider them – dragon-slaying followed by a barbeque would be ideal, of course, but may be fraught with H&S regulations these days .

How the 23 Club works The Club is open to Forest Hill Society members and their guests. Please make your booking (if necessary) direct with the restaurant, saying you want to be seated with the 23 Club group. Everyone orders and pays separately.

23 Club email list and venues Finally please send details of anyone who wants to be added to this 23 Club email information, and also pass on any suggestions you may have for restaurants in the Forest Hill area, and ideas for other local options.

06 September 2008

23 Club - September

The 23 Club has now had three successful dinning experiences at local restaurants. But we still have many more to munch our way through in SE23 so come and join us on Tuesday, 23rd September at 8pm, at Yune, 25 Dartmouth Road. To book your place contact the restaurant directly on 020 8699 0887.

We are flattered that the Sydenham Society have picked up on this excellent way to support local restaurants and to give members a way to meet other local people. This month they will be starting Club 26 focusing on the restaurants of SE26, we wish them bon appétit!