As I step inside Hand Made Food – a café and restaurant on Tranquil Vale in Blackheath – the first thing that catches my eye is a row of Torres Black Truffle crisps that line the top shelf of the café’s selection of deli produce, writes Holly O’Mahony…
The crisps are my personal favourite – an indulgence that only those with a penchant for finery, even when it comes to simple snacks, will spend the extra couple of quid on, instead of grabbing a bag of Tyrrells or Kettle Chips. The stocking of Torres crisps suggests attention to quality. I immediately have the feeling I’m going to like what Hand Made Food serves, and I do.
I plonk myself down on a high table – made out of a chunky slab of wood, still reminiscent in shape and carvings of the tree it used to be – and take in the rest of my surroundings. Below the Torres crisps is an assortment of cakes, salads and sausage rolls, all of which are available to take away – handy, as when I arrive at around 11am, all tables are occupied, and have been since 9.15am I’m told by my waiter. To the left of the light bites are shelves stacked with wines, chutneys and other preserves, each marked up with a handwritten tag. A nosy upstairs disclosed a snug, intimate dining room split in two, full to the brim with diners seated on mismatched furniture, tucking into breakfast, steaming mugs of tea or coffee, and gossip.
Back on my pew, coffee arrives served in a gorgeous, rustic mug. It’s delicious, too, and while sipping it, I browse the short and simple breakfast menu, most of which, I’m told, is made up of organic and locally-sourced produce. I sign up for a plate of ‘the full works’: four rashers of bacon, two chive-scattered fried eggs, a sausage, two large mushrooms, a tomato, sourdough toast and – a somewhat rogue item– roast potatoes. There’s also a couple of cloves of roast garlic; between them and the roasties, the meal sits somewhere between Sunday brunch and lunch – so much so, I wonder if I should swap my coffee for a glass of wine but, then again, it’s still the wrong side of midday for that.
Elsewhere on the plate, the ketchup reveals itself to be homemade – a rare treat. It’s a little tangy but pleasingly textured and a welcome alternative to Heinz. The mushrooms have a chargrilled taste to them, which repeats on me several times after my plate has been cleared, but not unpleasantly so. The bacon is much more meat than fat – just how I like it, especially when there’s four rashers to get through.
It’s a generous spread and I had to roll the fourth roast spud to the side in defeat. If you dine here and order the same, I prescribe a walk on the heath afterwards to help it all go down. As well as also offering a veggie equivalent of ‘the full works’, those with a smaller appetite might want to look to one of the other breakfast offerings: sandwiches with various combinations of breakfast ingredients or scrambled egg on toast with the option to add various extras (salmon, avocado etc).
The service was excellent: speedy, friendly and efficient, which was particularly impressive given staff were operating with a full house, while politely juggling the flurry of hopeful diners queuing out of the door for a table.
I leave feeling stuffed, satisfied and keen to handover my table to the next in line. Before I go, though, I catch sight of a sign in the window advertising a three-course dinner menu (at the reasonable price point of £26, if you dine Monday – Wednesday). The menu is centred around mushrooms, hinting at Hand Made Food’s commitment to seasonable, sustainable dining. I’ll certainly be back to try it.
Hand Made Food
40 Tranquil Vale,