In A Word:
A wide variety of people. There are a few family groups, couples, friends – especially by the bar. From the way the staff communicate with some of the customers, I’m guessing there are a few regulars here too…
Blackheath is the only place in London you’ll find Zerodegrees – an Italian restaurant with a wood fire oven and their own microbrewery. Yes, they brew their own beer on the premises and have been doing so even before craft beer really took off here.
They first opened in Blackheath in 2000 and it already strikes me as being a popular spot, especially during the summer. So, let’s see what’s going on inside.
There is a kind of mix and match feel about the restaurant. As you walk in, you’re in this large, spacious bar area and as you walk towards the back, you enter the restaurant ‘zone’. The layout seems to have happened haphazardly. There’s no doors or partitions, just lots of tables and chairs filling the space which gives it a cool, lively vibe.
The low-lighting also helps to emphasise its bar-style ambience. As Jack and I sit, we can see the microbrewery which is well lit with neon lighting and again there’s nothing really separating it from the eating area. So, while the restaurant does look like it was randomly pieced together, it works well. It’s got quite a chilled atmosphere and you don’t feel awkward.
Now, I have a confession to make, I have never liked beer. It’s that lingering, bitter aftertaste I just can’t get used to. I’m more of a cider girl – lots of fruity flavours and fizz. Lovely. However, Jack is determined to get me into beer and is convinced Zerodegrees is where I’ll start to like it…
So, before we dive into the food, we take a look at the drinks menu.
The first thing to catch my eye is Mango Beer. Perhaps something fruity might tempt my taste buds? Jack orders the same. It’s served in a tall, thin glass and has a rich yellow colour similar to mango juice. I can smell mango straightaway, its sweet, juicy scent is already making me thirsty.
But how does it taste? Strangely, there is a delicate mango taste coming through and there isn’t much of that overpowering aftertaste I can’t bear. The surprising thing about this beer is that there is no mango in it. This beer has been nowhere near a mango. It’s the way in which it has been mixed and brewed that gives it that fruity hint. Jack says ‘it’s stunning.’
But has he managed to convert me? It is a lovely drink, so I’d say I’m getting there…They also do speciality beers which I’m told are worth trying out. These beers are more experimental, so some could be amazing while others, not so amazing…
To start, Jack and I order the Lobster Bisque Gnocchi, which according to the menu, is best with Mango Beer. They do something interesting here with the menu. Each of their beers has a different coloured circle next to them which also appears next to the names of particular dishes on the menu, recommending you eat that dish with your chosen beer. It’s rare to find that on a menu, to be honest, I don’t recall ever seeing it personally.
Normally if you want a recommendation you have to ask, but here it’s marked down for you.
There’s a little confusion, the waiter has got the table numbers mixed up and has gone away with our starter. Luckily, another waiter turns up with it. It’s busy in here and it’s a bit chaotic. However, they’ve redeemed themselves with this dish. Gnocchi is naturally stodgy and at times chewy – but the gnocchi here is soft and surprisingly light. The combination of coconut milk and lobster gives it a rich, pungent flavour that’s strangely moreish.
The mains are served quickly and by a completely different waiter. I have a Mushroom and Taleggio Risotto and Jack has a Salmon and Mascarpone Pizza with a side of Rocket and Parmesan Salad. Again, both dishes are full of intense flavours and we’re both impressed.
The risotto is creamy and perfectly cooked and there are more than enough mushrooms and taleggio to make this the ultimate comfort food. I would have liked the cheese to be spread out more evenly. Some bites had just a hint of parmesan and taleggio while other bites were mostly just cheese…I’m probably being a bit fussy here.
Fish on a pizza has a kind of marmite effect on people, you either love it or loath it. I don’t normally have it, but Jack’s choice has made a delightful change from the usual. There is a generous amount of salmon and rocket, and the mixture of mascarpone cream, dill and tomato makes this a light and creamy pizza. However, and it does pain me to say this (being quarter Italian) but you will have to eat it with a knife and fork otherwise you’ll make a big mess!
To finish, Jack has a cappuccino and obviously as I have a sweet tooth, I’ve taken a gamble and ordered the classic Tiramisu. I say gamble because I’ve had mixed experiences when ordering tiramisu in a restaurant. On one occasion, there was hardly any coffee and on another occasion, I think they forgot to put any sponge it…However, as another waitress lays down the plate, I silently gasp.
The Tiramisu is beautifully presented with a dollop of creamy vanilla ice cream. It’s a surprisingly large serving and the half strawberry gives it a lovely pop of colour. The proof of the pudding is in the eating as they say, and I think it’s one of the best tiramisus I’ve had. There’s a right amount of everything here and I’m pleased to see they’ve used savoiardi biscuits (sponge fingers). Just what a proper tiramisu should have.
There’s enough expresso coffee infused in the sponge to give it flavour and retain its shape so it doesn’t fall apart. The mascarpone and marsala cream gives it that sweetness and the strawberry piece and drops of strawberry sauce provides an expected fruity kick. I could have another!
This is a trendy, laid-back restaurant that certainly pulls in the crowds and I’d say it gets a fair few regulars. Despite the slightly chaotic service, Zerodegrees is the ideal place if you want to grab some dinner and beer without the fancy extras. The food is amazing. Full of strong, interesting flavours, good portion sizes and excellent presentation.
OK, I’ll admit it, the beer is pretty good too…
29-31 Montpelier Vale, London SE3 0TJ
Tel: 020 8852 5619