Peter Morrell enjoys this upbeat bar, restaurant and micro-brewery in one of South London’s most fashionable areas
For people who, like taxi drivers, never go south of the river they should give it a try, they would be pleasantly surprised. I was in buzzy Blackheath recently, it’s huge expanse of heathland, village like feel and most importantly good restaurants, makes it one of London’s most fashionable areas.
My choice for dinner was Zerodegrees, one of the best placed restaurants in the village, with a view over the heath and alfresco dining for warm summer’s nights. Inside it had a light, airy bar and dining space and the atmosphere was relaxed with a good mix of clientele from couples to parents taking their teenage children out for dinner.
I had been tempted to try it as much for the beer made on the premises as the food. There are five core beers brewed, a pilsner, a pale ale, a black lager, a mango flavoured and the one my wife and I chose while perusing the menu, the wheat ale, a very refreshing drink with good fruity and floral flavours and a yeasty/malty background.
In addition to the core range a special beer is always available, this may reflect the season or a festive event, when I was there the sixth beer was a Belgian Abbaye style brew, dark and complex, it was strong and warming.
The menu offered a good range of starters with dishes like hummus, crostini and bruschetta, so it was a good mix of international favourites. My wife chose the Cajun King Prawns in a home-brewed beer batter and served with a chilli soy sauce while my choice was the crispy fried calamari.
Both of the starters were well-presented, my wife’s Cajun prawns had lots of spicy flavour and my calamari was tasty and tender with a satisfyingly crunchy coating of batter.
I liked the selection of mains, one of the house specialities was a kilo pot of steamed mussels. You can choose the traditional Marinière with garlic, onion and white wine or something more exotic with the mussels cooked in a Thai green curry. This was an example of what I liked about the menu, clever twists that made the food more interesting. There was a range of tapas, risottos, pastas and salads but my eye was drawn to the imaginatively topped pizzas which are all cooked in a wood fired oven.
The Jamaican chicken pizza looked interesting as did the spiced lamb, the vegetarian with wood roast aubergines, courgettes and mixed peppers and the seafood with squid, king prawns, mussels and anchovies. My wife finally decided on the Carne Asada with its melange of toppings – wood fired rump steak, red onions, fresh chillies, smoked cheese and a coriander pesto sauce, all topped off with fresh coriander, tomato and avocado salsa. My aromatic shredded Peking duck with spring onions, crispy tortillas and hoisin sauce was less complicated but looked equally appealing.
Both of the pizzas were delicious, the bases were thin and crispy and worked well with the toppings, we ate them slowly to prolong the experiences. Both had punchy flavours and were a step change away from the regular tomato sauce based version.
As well as the beers there was a good wine list, the whites were aromatic, including sauvignon blancs, a viognier, a Spanish verdejo and a pinot grigio. The reds were robust with an Aussie shiraz, Argentinian malbec and Sicilian nero d’avola all featuring. We eventually paired the pizzas with a Spanish El Muro tempranillo / garnacha blend. There were blackberry notes in the bouquet which developed into a smooth, spicy palate and left a long finish.
Given the size of the portions we gazed longingly at the dessert menu offering treats such as chocolate and banana pizza, home-made banoffee pie, tiramisu and affogato, we couldn’t manage another mouthful but my insomniac wife was delighted that decaf coffee was available.
After the meal I took a tour of the brewery which is visible from the dining area. It was as clean as an operating theatre. Here the malted barley is boiled, cooled then fermented before being put, unfiltered, into tanks to mature. When the time is right it is pumped direct from the tank to the bar. You can measure its journey from creation to glass in feet rather than miles which ensures that it is fresh and bright.
A well deserved mention for the staff who were friendly, helpful and very enthusiastic about the food and drink that they are serving.
I liked Zerodegrees a lot, Blackheath was pleasant to visit, the atmosphere in the restaurant was upbeat and there was a genuine commitment to create a quality dining experience. It was also remarkably good value, expect to pay £35-£40 per person including food, drinks and service.
If you don’t live in London you can still enjoy the Zerodegrees experience at their other locations in Bristol, Reading and Cardiff
31/33 Montpelier Vale
London SE3 0TJ