Mini Restaurant Review

SeaSalt Mediterranean Kitchen – Bar, Barnes

My friend Sean took Maggie and I out for some mid-week lunch recently (while I was still lady-of-leisure) at the new restaurant ‘Sea Salt’ on White Hart Lane, Barnes. He had travelled over from East Dulwich and completely underestimated how long it would take to get to leafy Barnes, so we didn’t get to the restaurant until nearly 3pm. Unsurprisingly the only other punters were just leaving as we arrived and we were just in time for the lunch menu which was due to finish. Despite this, we were treated like kings and there was no sense of being rushed to finish our meal quickly. A high chair arrived for Maggie and she happily played with her toys and ate her baby food while we savoured a delicious and tasty Mediterranean lunch.

We chose the set Lunch menu which was 2 courses for £10.50, with the idea that we’d share a starter and dessert. To start with we had smoked salmon salad with a zesty lime and orange dressing. Maybe a little too much greenery for the amount of salmon on the plate but otherwise it was perfect, a fresh and refreshing little bite to get the taste buds going.

For the main course, Sean chose seabass fillet served with sautéed vegetables and mash. I had the Tavuk Sis kebap, basically chargrilled chicken skewers with rice and a side salad. The flavours were distinctively Mediterranean and the portions were extremely generous. I did wonder if we had been given extra as we were the last lunchtime customers. We shared a crumbly and delicious baklava for dessert with a side of vanilla ice-cream and a sneaky glass of vino each.

There was a piano in the corner which was just tempting someone to play it. Thankfully I didn’t attempt it, considering my very limited Grade 5 exam pieces repertoire. I do wonder though if someone comes in to play a bit of jazz in the evenings. I think that sort of jazzy cabaret restaurant would work on White Hart Lane, but I just wonder whether this restaurant has the right atmosphere yet to create that laid-back vibe.

It was such a shame to see ‘SeaSalt’ so empty while its neighbour ‘The Orange Pekoe’ was crammed to the gills, as it always is. That, despite the fact that their food is menu is not as extensive or as sumptuous. But it always feels like a treat to go to ‘The Orange Pekoe’, while ‘SeaSalt’ lacks the same ambience. It doesn’t help to have that large plain window at the front of the restaurant so you sit at your table like a poor doggy in the window. But I was still impressed, and really wish it every success. In the words of Arnie (and with a dodgy Californian accent): ‘I’ll be back’.

Example dishes from the menu include: kuzu sis kebab (lamb kebab) which is priced at £9.50, tavuk sis kebab (chicken kebab) at £9.00 and a meze selection (hummous, cacik, babagannus, roasted red pepper) for £5.00. There’s also grilled hellim (£4.50) while for dessert the choice includes baklava at £3.50.

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Friday: lunch 12 noon – 3:00pm, evening 6:00pm – 10:00pm
Saturday: lunch 12 noon – 4:00pm, evening 6:00pm – 10.30pm
Sunday: lunch 12 noon – 4:00pm, evening 6:00pm – 9:00pm

5 White Hart Lane, SW13 0PX, 020 8392 1111

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To Pray or To Pay

I met my old boss last week for a colleague’s leaving drinks at The Marylebone Pub. He’s originally from Norn Iron, married to a girl from Belfast and has settled in London with his four kids. Before long we were sharing notes about childcare, accents and primary schools.

We have recently moved to Barnes, one of the so-called ‘Nappy Valley’ areas of London. That is, an area where bugaboos outnumber automobiles and other modes of transport, and where that oft-quoted entity known as ‘yummy mummy’ resides. We didn’t actually move here for its Nappy Valley credentials, but now we are here we can see the huge advantages for kids – the facilities, the quality of schools and childcare, the general baby-friendliness of it all. The downside of living in Nappy Valley areas, however, is that there is generally tough competition for school admissions, particularly faith schools it seems.

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Some parents apparently give serious thought to which primary school their child will go to before they have even given birth. Many primary (and secondary) schools are oversubscribed, particularly in cities, and obviously this issue is even more compounded in London’s ‘nappy valley’ areas where there are just so many children in the area who want to get into the high achieving local school. In fact, the admissions criteria is usually so strict that even if your child goes to a nursery linked to the school of your choice their place isn’t necessarily guaranteed. This is why parents-in-the-know plan ahead and find out what they need to do for their child to get a coveted place in a ‘good school’, long before they need to apply, which is in the autumn of the year when they will turn four.

I have only started to appreciate the complexity of the whole school admission malarkey now that I live in Barnes and talk to other mums-in-the-know about it. And so the conversation went with my old boss, who has been through the school admissions nightmare four times (apparently it doesn’t even get easier with each one, as having a sibling at the school isn’t one of the admission criteria). ‘So, do you go to mass?’ he asks me. ‘Mass? Well, of course I do. In fact, I’ve just joined the folk group’. He was thrilled. ‘Brilliant. Brilliant’, he says. ‘And at what age did Maggie get baptised?’ ‘She was actually only 4 weeks old, ’cause John’s uncle is a priest and–’. He stops me there. ‘Perfect’. No need for further explanation. It was evidently a good thing that I was a mass-goer, and even better that I had proof through her early christening.

He explained: some over-subscribed faith schools have a points-based entry system, which gives points for early baptisms and parents who help in church. Nothing wrong with the principle of course, so long as the enthusiasm of parishioners is motivated by faith rather than the fate of a school place. I read about an oversubscribed Catholic school in Croydon, South London which was told to change its admissions policy by England’s admissions watchdog, as they argued it was discriminatory. In their investigation they were told that some parents were deliberately carrying out church activities in order to gain extra points. They heard evidence of one parish where there were 100 children on the waiting list to be altar servers!

So, after all this effort, what happens if your child still doesn’t get a place? The general consensus is that you pay for them to be privately educated at a high achieving public school. ‘So’, I said to my old boss somewhat incredulously, ‘you pray or you pay, is that it?’ He smiled. Now I was getting it. ‘Precisely’.

Barnes Olympic Cinema drinks evening

Last Thursday night 9 Feb John & I headed to a drinks evening at the new Olympic cinema in Barnes.

Billed as a ‘hard hat’ event, I was a tad nervous about having to wear a hat and dirty old hi-vis jacket over my leopard print coat but thankfully that wasn’t the case! Mairead had done an incredible job making the building look inspiring inside, despite it still being very much a building site.

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The evening was for Founder Members and was to celebrate planning permission being granted to turn the Olympic back into the cinema it once was. In the intervening years it has been a theatre and latterly the great Olympic Recording Studios where, since the 1960s, bands from The Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix to Madonna and Oasis have recorded. U2 were the last band to record at the Olympic with ‘No Line on the Horizon’ in December 2008.

We had a great night mingling with the Barnes locals including Alistair McGowan and enjoying drinks and nibbles including Jameson Irish mule cocktails, Appletiser, mini hot dogs and mini ice cream cones.

The Olympic Cinema is due to open this summer, boutique in style, but with plans to show mainstream films on general release as well as showing art house and children’s movies at the weekend. There’s also talk of a members club and cocktail bar. I’m so excited to have somewhere like this in sleepy Barnes, and secretly hope that Cameron Mackintosh will decide to premiere the Les Misérables film at the Olympic in 2013!

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