Peter Morrell and his wife are delighted by the inventive food, stylish décor and infectious enthusiasm of the owners at this popular restaurant in one of South London’s most fashionable areas
For people who, like black cab drivers, never go south of the river they should give it a try and will be pleasantly surprised. I was in buzzy Blackheath recently, its huge expanse of heathland, village-like feel and most importantly good restaurants, makes it one of London’s most attractive areas.
My choice for dinner was Copper and Ink, independent, well respected and one of the best-placed restaurants in the village. It’s just steps away from the station you arrive at after a 15-minute train ride from central London.
On arrival, we had a warm welcome from co-owner Becky Cummings, gluten-free baker and food writer. She gave us a tour of the restaurant, there is a large dining space on the ground floor with well-spaced tables. Downstairs, a slightly smaller space, which is available for private events, allows diners to view all the action in the open-plan kitchen. As well as seating for twos and fours there is a chef’s table for a unique dining adventure.
While we were by the kitchen we chatted to the other owner MasterChef 2015 finalist and Chef Patron Tony Rodd. It was evident in speaking to both of them that they were passionate about providing the best possible food, drink, service and surroundings in the restaurant which is celebrating its first birthday in December.
Becky has an eye for style and Tony was an architect so their combined skills were used to create the ideal décor for the relaxing dining spaces. Particularly striking is the bespoke artwork by artist Liam Brazier featuring, amongst other things, paintings of iconic music stars.
All this talk about food had made us hungry, so we went back upstairs to settle into our comfortable seats and peruse the menu. While doing this we nibbled on delicious home-made sourdough bread, and in line with Tony’s ‘use everything’ philosophy, the butter was flavoured with chicken skin.
The menu changes every month to reflect the food in season. There is an a la carte menu and a five-course tasting menu. Examples from the main menu were a sardine pissaladière with olive tapenade, smoked tomato ketchup and focaccia, which I had seen being assembled, and maple-cured pork belly with a pig’s head croquette and Marmite glazed carrot. These dishes perfectly describe the sheer inventiveness of Tony’s food.
We elected to have the tasting menu (vegetarian and pescatarian also available), which offered an exciting array of courses. With autumn in mind, our first dish was a combination of wild mushrooms, sautéed, pickled and made into paté, and served with roasted seasonal vegetables and crostini. This was an intriguing start, the natural flavours were very precise, and we loved the mix of textures created by the mushroom species and the method of cooking them.
Next up was quail breast, confit leg and pickled quail egg with celeriac puree, cobnuts, sorrel and quail jus. Both the look and the taste of this dish was exceptional. The puree was the backdrop to the marinated eggs, the tender meat and the in season cobnuts.
There is a wine flight available with a vintage for each course. We couldn’t quite manage that, so matched the first two courses with one of the wines. Becky is the sommelier and has curated a good and varied wine list. We chose ‘The Underworld’ a grenache blanc from the Western Cape in South Africa. This was a phenomenal wine with strong aromas of tropical fruit and flowers in the bouquet which continued onto the palate and were joined by flashes of citrus. The well-balanced acidity worked well with the richness of the food and the finish was bright and persistent.
Our next course was halibut fillet with oyster velouté, smoked buttered leeks, girolles and spring onions. This was a light and delicate dish, with the sweet fish complemented by the oyster veloute and the leeks.
We matched this course and the rest of the meal wine-wise with a white for my wife and I had a red. The white, Domaine de la Combe Muscadet Tradition from France, had a good flinty taste with tones of yeast as it had been left on the lees. There were both herbal and tropical fruit notes in the mouth and the finish was uplifting. My red was Le Fou, a pinot noir from France’s Languedoc. An unusual grape for south-west France, it was a winner. There were big cherry aromas on both the nose and the palate, the layered tannins made it smooth and it had a punchy finish.
We moved on to our final two courses, both desserts. The first was textures of apple – spiced, as a fritter, caramelised and a sorbet, all served with almonds. This was cleverly designed to showcase this autumn fruit. The dish was perfumed with hints of nutmeg to give it a warm, comforting character.
We arrived at our last and most indulgent course, espresso parfait with dulce de leche ice cream and chocolate-covered coffee beans. A fitting end to a very good meal.
To my wife’s delighted decaf cappuccino was available and was the perfect companion to our petit fours of pistachio fudge, madeleines and physalis.
The restaurant had been busy all evening with a smart crowd of diners, and this had added to the atmosphere. Combining with the décor, excellent and attentive service, thoughtful wine list and passion that had gone into the food, it had been a memorable dining experience.
Why is the restaurant called Copper and Ink? Ask Becky when you go and eat there!
Copper and Ink
5 Lee Road
London SE3 9RQ
020 3941 9337