So my first blog about somewhere I've eaten at that I feel stands out from the crowd.
When I first heard the news that another cake/coffee shop, Black Vanilla, was going to be opening in Blackheath Village I thought the owners must me mad.
The village is swarming with coffee shops and I really couldn't see how it could be anything different that would attract its own range of customers. Like several other shops that have been before I thought that there was a good chance it wouldn't last a year. How wrong I was...
It is not just another coffee shop- it describes itself as a boutique bakery and gelateria and that truly is what it is.
The above pictures are taken from their website but the products that they have in the shop really do look as good as these ones. The shop is based in the heart of the village (just over the road from the train station).
On a rare lunch out with just my husband without our children in tow, we decided that rather than having pudding at the end of the meal we would go and try the gelato at Vanilla Bean. The shop is quite small but there is still a scattering of tables and cube chairs for eating in and it is clean and tidy and fresh.
The idea is a simple yet inspired one- cupcakes, gelato, a caffeteria and a few cakes. Their uniqueness comes from the gelato (ice-creams) and frozen yoghurts. The main counter contains the various flavours that they have on offer that day with a range of cones and pots. A piccollo cone is only a pound and good for treating the little ones without succumbing to a big ice-cream if mealtime is near. But a normal cone at £2.50 (they do go bigger than this!) is good value for money and the ice-cream is so good it definitely satisfies any sweet cravings!
Their website explains:
"Crafted like no other, Black Vanilla's indulgent collection of gelato and frozen yoghurt creates moments of pure bliss. We rely on a blend of naturally intense ingredients which provide passion and pleasure in every bite. Our gelato & frozen yoghurt are prepared on site daily with 100% organic milk and no preservatives, artificial colourings, flavourings or hydrogenated fats. Frozen yoghurt is fat free and our gelato contains 50-60% less fat than traditional ice cream.
We believe our exquisite ingredients produce exquisite desserts. We use only the finest ingredients like Valrhona and Callebaut chocolate, Lescure butter and of course the unsurpassed Madagascan Bourbon Vanilla.
All our cupcakes are lovingly hand baked, iced and decorated; containing only the very best natural and simple ingredients that Mother Nature provides"
My sister-in-law is Italian and having visited Italy on several occasions I know what good gelato is like (and to be honest most UK cafes and restaurants are unable to rival their Italian counter parts). But Black Vanilla really does produce gelato to the standard we've sampled in Italy. And the range of flavours is interesting and exciting with different flavours each time we have visited. They explain that they use a 60 year old recipe from Naples and it shows.
We returned yesterday afternoon with our two girls as a treat before our eldest's parents evening. However good the produce from a shop like this- if the staff aren't friendly it is off-putting for any parents. But the staff are truly delightful- both times we visited both with and without the girls they were happy for us to try out the various flavours before deciding which we wanted. They are also happy to discuss how the gelato is made and discuss flavours with you. They don't rush you even when the shop is busy into making your choice. This just adds to the experience.
Yesterday me and my girls all went for the chocolate with real chocolate pieces.
My husband had the strawberry with proper pieces of strawberry throughout. This is their strawberry gelato taken from their twitter page:
The girls both gave their ice-creams the thumbs up. While we were there the place was swarming with parents and children after school- already there is obviously quite a following (and this was on quite a cold wet March day- I can't imagine how busy it will be when summer arrives!)
They also have a lovely range of cupcakes that changes all the time. Again here is a selection of their special cakes that they have posted up on their twitter page and all the ones in the shop look as good as these:
They also have a range of cakes:
And will custom-make cakes for customers and again this is an example they have on their site:
As well as cakes and ice cream they also do FANTASTIC coffees and my husband really enjoyed their hot chocolate.
So anyone local (or even not so local!) to Blackheath village- I would really recommend visiting Black Vanilla. I see on their website that they are opening a Champagne Bar and Gelaterie in Greenwich this spring- two of my favourite things right on my doorstep- now I can't wait to try that one out. Definitely could be a different venue for a girls night out...!