Adventures in Catering: Opening Night at The Orchard

Brockley's newest bar, The Orchard, opened last night on Harefield Rd (next door to The Shop On The Hill), and your dedicated BC correspondent popped in undercover to scope the place out.

The decor is fresh and modern, without feeling cold, dominated by brickwork, wood and paintwork in shades of cream and green, with vases of flowers and candles scattered about and a few cosy leather sofas thrown in for good measure.
The kitchen is entirely open to view behind the bar - a brave move that's partly the result of financial necessity (due to the prohibitive cost of re-plumbing and re-fitting the units elsewhere), according to proprietor Ed. A set-up like this takes a lot of confidence in one's chef and serving staff (BC has worked in kitchens which definitely wouldn't prosper if exposed to the scrutiny of all and sundry), but from what BC could see, Ed's trust has been borne out so far.

The chef is a local chap who previously worked at a restaurant in Mayfair but joined the Orchard team to avoid his daily commute - a wise move. The kitchen is open for lunch and dinner, and the menu provides plenty of variety, focussing on classic British and European dishes. They plan to do roasts on Sundays. On other days, the menu is subject to change, but here are last night's dishes:

Starters
King prawns
Goats cheese salad
Carpaccio of beef
Grilled calamari

Mains
Asparagus risotto
Italian sausages & lentils
Sea bass with spinach, cherry tomatoes & mushroom sauce
Sirloin steak with chips & grilled tomatoes
Rack of lamb with spinach & mashed potato
Tuna steak with mixed vegetables
Very slow-cooked belly pork with spinach, grilled tomatoes & apple sauce

Sides
Green beans
Spinach
Rocket & parmesan salad
Mixed salad
Mashed potato
Roast potatoes

As for the vital subject of drinks, the Orchard has a decent selection of wines (including rose and fizz), and there should be something for everyone in the beer selection. On tap, they've got Aspall cider, Freedom organic lager, Staropramen, Becks, and Adnams Explorer - a light, citrussy ale. Among the bottled beer selection are Guinness, Leffe, Hoegaarden, Desperados and Corona. Ed is keen to stock a variety (it's a free house) and is open to customer suggestions. BC has already put in a plea for London Pride.

There were a couple of first-night teething problems - the extractor fan wasn't working, meaning that the room became smoky at one point and the large front windows had to be opened, which was somewhat chilly. And be warned - they were taking cash only while payment systems are set up. But the staff coped admirably and with courtesy.

All in all, this was a fantastic start for what is shaping up to be strong competition to local heroes Jam Circus and the newly-launched Talbot. Location-wise it fills a definite gap in the market, and we hope that the rest of Brockley welcomes it warmly. Best of luck Ed & Emily, and staff!

38 comments:

Lady said...

Hurrah!

Ben said...

Excellent news. Menu looks good, although the puritan in me rails at asparagus in December. But apart from anything else it will be good to have somewhere near the station to go for a drink without feeling dirty.

Look forward to trying it...

Paddyom said...

Cant wait to try it...

Maradoll said...

Kate - thank you so much for posting the menu. I prefer food to drink and this looks delicious. Can't wait to try it out.

In saying that I do have to say that I have an intense and inexplicable fondness for Desperados beer - am excited that they're serving Tequila beer...this is probably why I prefer food to drink.... ;)

Anonymous said...

I was in town last night with work but popped my head in through the window on my way home just before 11. It looked great - exactly what Brockley Cross needs imo.

Anonymous said...

I like the look of that menu...

Anonymous said...

A pretty cool bar.

Lots of different areas where groups can socialise - some comfy sofas. A nice bar for barflies to exchange wisdom. Tables for couples to start and finish relationships over dinner.

The fish tank is still there, which is a nice feature, though it looks as if it needs restocking.

They still need to sort out the lighting in one corner and a few teething problems with the extractor. Some people actually liked the haze, took them back to the old days of smokey bars.

The staff were lovely and working well under pressure.

They close a bit early, hope they get a late license at some stage.

A flying start.

quick brown fox said...

Sounds great - I'm looking forward to giving it a go! Thanks for posting the menu, plenty of attractive options there.

Anonymous said...

Vegetarian options look decidedly sparse. Risotto is hardly imaginative?

Beer Belly said...

London Pride - pahhhhh

How about some draught Bishop's Finger??

Anonymous said...

good for them.
I must say I'm amazed at how the Talbot and the Orchard have managed to open on time and have such successful first nights.

It just goes to show that there is huge potential here - as Nick says, build it and they will come.

Anonymous said...

Some decent Cider on tap round here at last.

The Cat Man said...

I'm going tonight...!

Anonymous said...

On the back of all this positive feedback and BC's review I'm going tonight as well... roll on 5.30! Happy Weekend people!

the beerhunter said...

I had a feeling that this place would only be selling poncily titled industrial lagers, so glad to hear that Ed is a bit of beer-Head. Also nice to hear they're already doing Adnams (their Broadside is a consistent award-winner), but Pride on tap is a marvellous suggestion.

A few bottles of Belgian Abbey/Trappist/Kriek tucked away would be a fine addition too.

Food is for wimps.

Anonymous said...

Why the obsession with London Pride? I'm not knocking it, but you can get it practically everywhere! Explorer is a good start, but I vote for Abbott Ale next or if they have to stick with Adnams, like Beerhunter, Broadside please!

Anonymous said...

Agree with anon.

Any menu is sadly lacking if it's only got one veggie option
on it. As a veggie I no longer eat out anywhere where I can't choose.

Anonymous said...

Just had dinner here with our small son. Kitchen opens at 18.30 but flexibility to take our order early. The mrs., not a great fan of tuna, was convinced by the chef to give it anther try. He didn't dissapoint her. Had the seabass myself, which was equally good. I would rate the food on par with Le Querce, maybe even better, but in much nicer surroundings. All washed down with a few Freedom lagers (and glasses of red for the mrs.). Our little boy made a mess, throwing over a glass of wine and a beer. Staff were friendly and understanding.

We will definitely be back and would reccomend it to anyone. Good luck to Ed & Emily and the rest of the team.

Michael Dinner said...

Opening night was a bit premature with no extractor fan (open windows) and "wet paint" warning signs on various areas. (A tosh job at best.)

The Bad

A request for the 'bill' resulted in a figure seemingly brought out of the aether. When it did finally appear (scribbled on a note? that we begged for) - it did not tally with the menu. (A genuine mistake, though it's not too difficult to predict the flash forward should they not get a till - sharpish.)

The What was Good

The owners are really pleasant and young and enthusiastic with a vision and excitement that will invite the hapless punter in out of the cold.

The A Bit Iffy

The pricing seemed a bit West End, but a great peppered steak (delicious) washed down with a good bottle of (Chilean) wine at £14) was very tasty indeed and may cause some Brockleyites heading for London Bridge to pause with rumbling stomach.

Most of the other punters seemed more than pleased.

Knives and forks crossed that The Orchard can make it past the 6 month post. (The reason why I am staying the hand of any additional critiscism and I predict that The Orchard will lean more on the bar side with bread and cheese preventing further strains on the kitchen.)

Brockley Kate said...

@ Anon - Where's the nearest place you can get Pride? Genuine query, was discussing this with some friends last night.

Pride Hater said...

Kate

At a guess New Cross or Lewisham . . . but why bother - the Talbot, Ladywell Tavern, the Brockley Jack and now the Orchard have much more interesting offerings . . .

camilla said...

We went to the newly opened The Orchard this afternoon. We were very happy with the drinks on offer and viewing the kitchen this way is very interesting and the food that came out looked gorgeous. We will try it for ourselves very soon. They were all very welcoming and I can see this place being our new hang out for coffee and cake during the day and Aspall cider in the evening. So happy we finally have a place like this.

Anonymous said...

Cake! Did someone say cake! Expand please!

Tamsin said...

Well, they already are if they're eating cake.

Like the brownies at the Broca too.

graeme said...

just to let you know how much this blog can influence my life, I'm presently revisiting my past by watching a download of Glengarry Glen Ross while comparing the taste of Tesco sourced Adnams bitter and the blessed London Pride.

I had a life once.

Anonymous said...

yes I really liked it this afternoon (sunday), having hated the Aquarium and the useless, poor service Ecosium.

These guys and the Talbot guys know how people want to be looked after and serve normal food at acceptable prices.

BTW, I don't like the Brockley Mess which comes across as a sort of ungracious mothers and babies' canteen so I am delighted to find some good places within striking distance.

Brockley Kate said...

Anon - how busy was it?

Paddyom said...

Tired the Mess AGAIN this Sunday and our group of 4 still couldnt get a table - thats probably the 6th time I have tried it and failed. Had an excellent TM2 breakfast instead. Was at the Orchard Friday evening and it is lovely, from nice sofa areas to chillax in to big tables for larger groups to chat around. Only slight criticism was the price of the desserts which at £4.95 a pop put my group off - if it had been more circa the £3 range we would have bought at least 3, so perhaps sometimes charging less can earn you more. Apart from that I realy like the Orchard experience and look forward to trying the dinners!

Anonymous said...

Fuller's ESB on tap, only ever seen it in one pub near Oxford Circus. Unfortunatley I took advantage and can't remember which one!

Anonymous said...

Indeed, these places have got to get their prices right.

The cost of starters and deserts are quite crucial. I always narrow my brow if I see a main meal in clear need of side orders to complete the meal. A not so subtle price hike.

Other local eateries are also looking quite pricey.

These places seem to be aimed at the 'once per month eating out in a restaurant' market.

However a bar or cafe should appeal to casual diners who may visit more frequently. They are much more price sensitive.

The Brockley Mess has got its prices about right for a cafe though it is not the sort of place to linger during the day. Hopefully it will become a bar in the evenings.

The Toad is an expensive cafe and reasonably priced restaurant.

The Orchard seems to be a bar restaurant. Quite a nice bar, but the menu is not a bar menu, it is a restarant.

I don't think any of these places have a kitchen big enough to cope with the intensity of a restaurant during a busy time.

Getting the balance right to maximise the appeal to different types of customer given the available resources is not easy.

4x4 said...

@Paddyom-you say 4.95 is expensive for puddings in a restaurant-where have you been eating? I understand the cost of the lease at The Orchard is expensive and there are so many other overheads to consider.
All business owners need to get their margins right in order they make a profit. That profit also has to reflect the level of risk attached to the venture.
It seems to me that there are many people (not all) on here who want all of these new wonderful businesses opening up, but do not want to pay realistic prices.
The critisisms levelled at many of these ventures in unfair. There are many cheaper places to eat, shop etc but if you want better fixtures and fittings, produce, services, cooking etc-you will normally have to pay a little bit more for them.
If we want the area to improve, it is better we have a variety of establishments catering for the community as a whole-not only people on a tight budget.
Personally I am happy to pay more for choice.

Tyrwhitt Michael said...

Took time out to visit the Orchard last night only to find it shut.

It's a shame someone could 't have posted the limited opening hours on here.

flip side said...

Thanks for finding out.

Anonymous said...

Are they open tonight(Wednesday)?

Do they have a phone?

Anonymous said...

I HAVE BEEN THERE ,AS IT IS NEAR THE BROCKLEY CROSS NEAR WHERE I LIVE DURING A YEAR,REYNARD CLOSE,BUS GOES TO LEWISHAM AND TO CATFORD

Monkeyboy said...

Sounds like Yoda likes it.

dc said...

I visited that hyper-pretentious pub today and ordered a coffee from their selection of 100% organic fairtrade arabica menu!!!. All very well, but it would be more important to learn how to make coffee!!! The milk was burned beyond recognition giving it that unpleasant smell of burned milk. As a result I've seriously burned my tongue!... I asked for another coffee as the one I was served was undrinkable and while I was waiting for someone to go to the shop and buy milk (!!???!!!!!???) and while a friendly member of stuff offered me some ice water to soothe my burned tongue, I was approached by the 'manager' who in a very cocky way 'informed' me that "coffee is hot mate!". That attitude epitomises the whole place and the total disrespect for their customers... It suggests that I was wrong in my coffee knowledge and tastebuds and that coffee 'should' be as the boiling brown liquid they are offering... The milk in espresso based coffee should be at 60 C. Milk starts burning at 80 C. I found his attitude not only extremely unprofessional but also insulting as I was asked to leave upon my request for details in order to inform the management about the staff attitude. - I appreciate that the stuff needs training in making what they would like to offer in their menu. A pseudo-intellectual decoration (with books and chalkboards and signs about organic produce) means nothing if they are unable to deliver. They should also be informed that customers can be forgiving about a staff mistake, but we shall not tolerate cockiness or insults!... They might as well offer instant coffee... I hope they can boil a kettle without setting fire to their customers!....

Ladywell Borders said...

Last night I had yet another disappointing experience at The Orchard. Once a great place to grab a drink, food and some time with friends. It seems that walk-ins are no longer encouraged and that service is declining. Please decide - are you a bar or a restaurant? Last night was particularly irritating given that we tried to order food and drink several times at the bar, but were not allowed! Instead we were told that a server would come to our table - sadly it took ages and 3 visits to the bar to get anyone to come to us. Not to mention, a few prompts to get our drinks to the table. We ordered a baked Camembert that came with toast. 2 small pieces appeared and when we asked for more we were told they hadn't made enough bread that day and that we were 'out of luck'. Wow. If you don't plan properly, don't make me pay full price for a sub par dish. Just take it off the menu! Not sure what is going at The Orchard, but I hope things improve soon. If not, I'll take my trade up the road.

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