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:

King prawns
Goats cheese salad
Carpaccio of beef
Grilled calamari

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

Green beans
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!