Eating out in Herne Hill: another lesson from history

That last post about swimming was Glad all over’s four hundredth. If I’d known, I would have written something more momentous. This blog’s about to be three years old, which means it gets an average of 2.5 posts a week, except that that’s misleading because there’s always at least one post a day during December, which means there are fewer the rest of the time. But there you go – three years and it’s still alive, and thoughtful and attractive people like you are still looking at it, which is the main thing. I always thought blogs should ideally be about something – should have some kind of focus or area of interest around which posts are written. Actually I still think that about every other blog. But Glad all over isn’t about anything. Sorry.

Anyway, that gives me the freedom to write about whatever I like, so today I’m going to write about eating places in Herne Hill. There is a Spanish restaurant and a Thai place and I haven’t tried either of those and I should and will, but at midday on a Saturday there is a paucity of places to eat in SE24, especially when you are a party of six of whom one is eleven years old. The pubs aren’t particularly child-friendly, except for The Florence, but there they have a rule that insists parties with children, even a single sober and very grown-up eleven-year-old, have to sit out back in the slightly scummy conservatory area, rather than in the nice warm bit where the bar is. Anyway I don’t like The Florence. It’s home to a rugby-shirted Clapham-ish crowd that I’m happier avoiding, and the music is too loud.

There’s Pullens, which is lovely but never not full at the weekend. There’s Café Provençal which has a charming East-Dulwichy sort of atmosphere but not particularly good food. And there’s Pizza Express, which I’m afraid is where we ended up, having ruled out all the other options. The Pizza Express in Herne Hill is new, having taken over the empty space previously occupied by Three Monkeys, the much-missed Indian restaurant which closed down within weeks of being taken over by Mela. I don’t need to describe it to you: it’s exactly like every other Pizza Express. They’ve even managed to rip out the feature staircase and gallery that was a highlight of Three Monkeys, to make it even more blandly unsurprising.

What did surprise me today, though, was that when I asked for a mozzarella and tomato salad, the waiter told me they’d “run out”. Now.  Am I mad, or is it entirely inconceivable that a pizza restaurant would, shortly after midday on a Saturday, have “run out” of the constituent parts of mozzarella and tomato salad? This is not a swanky salad with special and hard-to-find ingredients: it’s made with mozzarella, tomatoes and basil – three things that form the basis of pretty much every single dish on the Pizza Express menu. Had I been feeling livelier I would have questioned the waiter’s confident assertion, but I wasn’t, so I didn’t. But still. Pizza Express, eh? Next time, remind me to disguise the eleven-year-old as an OAP and go straight to the Half Moon, where the pizzas are cheaper and nicer and you can watch the football.

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