Greenwich is known for many things. Nautical history and the accompanying benchmark of world timekeeping. Old pubs and great London views from the royal park. Foodie highlights? Less so.
But there is hope, for an area which as a microcosm of tourist London is awash with tacky Tex-Mex venues, generic chains, smelly chippies and all you can eat Chinese buffets.
The market is a slightly condensed Spitalfields, with solid coffee from the Dose Espresso cart. Or if you’re daring, you could venture into the madhouse café Red Door. The abysmally named (and yet rather decent) Hola Paella offers Monmouth Coffee, the paella of course, but also a fully stocked Spanish deli and wine store.
Two recent meals I had were at Buenos Aires Café and The Hill. Buenos Aires café is on the villagey stretch of Royal Hill, with no shortage of Ye Olde Worlde cosiness, but not much in the way of modern hospitality trends. There is a fantastic butcher, greengrocer, fishmonger and cheese shop, but nay a flat white, negroni or rare iberico pluma in sight. Borough, Bermondsey and Maltby are not far however, and yes the traditional feel is Greenwich’s appeal. I’m not sure that this should apply to food though.
But on to Buenos Aires. It’s an Argentinian deli and café, which is to say ostensibly a regular Spanish or Italian deli, but with malbec, Quilmes and the odd empanada. I’m not sure which came first, but they also have a steak place in Blackheath, which is really where the Argies come into their own. My empanada here was fantastic, as are the sandwiches constructed to order using freshly sliced meats and cheeses from their extensive deli offering. Cheap too.
The Hill is an old pub converted into a neighbourhood Italian. But with a very regional British feel. There are huge pizzas, pastas and pints on offer. It’s a little bit like the inexplicably lauded restaurants of leafy Cheshire. That said, the staff are lovely (and Italian) and the food is reasonable.
We shared a charcuterie platter (£9.50) and both had the tagliatelle al cinghiale – wild boar ragu, at about £11. It was sweet and well-flavoured but a little bit too mushy for my taste. I like my ragu slow-cooked for hours, with meaty solids and less of a sauce. It’s an ok option for a local, but not worth travelling for.
Greenwich itself is a little of everything we have in London. At the better end and not covered here, they have a Rivington Grill here as well as the fancy dining room at The Spread Eagle. But the good options are outweighed by the rubbish. To be fair, at weekends tourists outweigh locals – but this is seven minutes to London Bridge, not Sevenoaks itself, so the many '90s offerings are inexcusable.
Southeast London is on the up; Brockley, East Dulwich, New Cross, Bellenden Road – all these areas are dynamic and evolving. Greenwich would benefit ridding itself of a lot of the absolute rubbish in the centre, and keeping up. Contemporary dining does not detract from the many historical attributes of London’s film set.