By Maggie Majstrova
This week, I got to see how the other half live. Thanks to our Best Man Tom (of The Commis and Viva Magazine fame), my fiancé and I had the chance to accompany him on a ‘proper review’ to Zerodegrees in Blackheath.
Starting its life in 2000 and now with four restaurants across the UK, Zerodegrees is more than just a restaurant. It also has a microbrewery on site. Dedicated to the craft beer revolution, the beer cannot get fresher than when you sip on a pint you know was brewed on the premises.
With a nice range of beers to suit most tastes, from a pale ale, to a black lager and a pilsner (extra points for the Czech inspired beer, of course!), a special beer rotating regularly and individual dishes paired with particular pints, there is nothing left to be desired on the beer front. Believe me, we managed to sample most of the menu over the course of our dinner between the three of us. My personal favourite, despite an initial ‘Are you going to be able to drink the whole pint?’ from our friendly Manager (challenge, accepted!), being the black lager.
The décor is modern, but fits with the microbrewery concept, with most seats boasting a view of the brewing machinery through the glass and an open buzzing kitchen, colourful walls and an outdoor area, which will be perfect for sunny summer evenings.
The food menu itself is Italian-inspired, with a full page of pizza options, including Peking Duck and Jamaican Chicken (but also the classics), and also includes six or so mussel options. You may have guessed – this is our personal heaven: good beer, pizza and mussels.
Between the three of us, we gave the menu a pretty good go too, starting with Crispy Fried Calamari, Beer Battered Cajun King Prawns and Spiedini (£6.50 each). The Calamari, served with a sweet chilli sauce, were just as they should be – crispy on the outside but soft on the inside. The Spiedini (halloumi cheese with sage wrapped in parma ham) was arguably a little too salty for my taste, courtesy of the natural saltiness of both the cheese and the parma ham, but still a lovely treat.
The real star of the show though were the prawns. Battered in the pilsner (browny points from the Czech!) and served with the most delicious chilli soy sauce this side of the English Channel, the dish is an absolute delight. I could eat it all day, but apparently it’s polite to share (boo!).
So with a strong start, where else could this go, you ask? Further up, is the answer to that! In an attempt to give the mains as good a chance as the starters, we went for a pizza (Carne Asada, £13.50) and two sets of mussels (Lobster Bisque (£16.95) and Thermidore (£15.95)). Fancy? Yep!
At about 10” and fresh from a wood fired oven, the Carne Asada (rump steak, red onions, chilli, smoked cheese and coriander pesto sauce) is a delight. Though a little heavy on the pesto for me, the steak was perfect and it all reminded me of a philly cheese steak come pizza. Win, Win.
Both sets of mussels were cooked as well as you could imagine, transporting you to the coast of France in your mind’s eye, served with fluffy skinny chips and elevated with some great flavours reminiscent of lobster and cheese.
As we were getting towards the end of our dishes, the waiter came over to ask if we needed some bread to soak up the remaining sauce. Always yes! The baguette that we were brought was the most buttery, delicious piece of bread I have ever tasted. Although this MAY have something to do with my attempt to be on a diet and therefore cutting out carbs (no it’s not going well), I genuinely believe this was one of the highlights of my night and I’d like to personally thank Zerodegrees for restoring my faith in moules mariniere, after the debacle that was my visit to Belgo recently.
By this point, we were as full as can be, but we were also on a roll and what better way to end the night than a cocktail or two? We retired into the outside area (granted, a chilly May evening is not the best setting) and after a quick perusal of the cocktail list, we’d made our choices.
The list is a nice mixture of classic cocktails, mocktails, cocktails using the beer from the microbrewery and some interesting, modern takes on a classic or two. I have to say, I think the chef at Zerodegrees is a bit of a magician, but the bartenders are right up there. What they can do with a cocktail you thought you knew inside out, is something to behold.
At the end of the night, I can’t tell you whether the winner was the food, the ambience, the cocktails or the company – perhaps everything together – but what I do know, is that (at least for me) Zerodegrees is a local gem. Pop down and try it some time, I know I’m glad I did!