Right at the beginning of my time in London, I remember chancing upon Blackheath whilst wandering past the boundaries of Greenwich Park. With its wide common (and its stunning church right at the centre) and the streets lined with charming shops and cafes, I made a promise to return one day to explore more of the area.
I’m sure other Londoners relate when I say this: there’s so much to do in this city that vows like these take a little time to uphold. So, it was a while (ahem, a few years) before I got back to Blackheath but, on that day, we were there for a very special experience.
The sun was shining when we first spotted Zerodegrees, which occupies an enviable position on the edge of the common. Locals were clearly taking advantage of the summertime weather, as all of the outdoor tables were completely occupied. Zerodegrees is obviously a popular spot in the neighbourhood.
And it has been for a while. Zerodegrees had its start in Blackheath in 2000, naming its restaurant after the nearby Greenwich Meridian. A small team dreamed up the idea of creating high-quality craft beer within a restaurant setting – and so Zerodegrees was born. The microbrewery-meets-dining concept took off, and you can now find Zerodegrees branches in Bristol, Reading, Cardiff and, of course, in Blackheath, London.
We were very keen to see this concept in action so, with high expectations, we took our seats. Since we arrived in time for lunch, we were rather hungry and got straight into the task of perusing Zerodegrees’ food menu.
You can find things like Thai green curry and sausage-and-mash on the menu but, for the most part, Zerodegrees focuses on Italian cuisine in its food offering. You’ll find Italian staples like pasta, risotto, gnocchi and pizzas but there’ll be some unique flavour combinations to choose from. To make their menu even more memorable, several dishes are marked out as good matches for the different Zerodegrees craft beers. If you’re after a beer-and-food pairing menu, Zerodegrees is the place to go.
For our starters, I opted for the calamari, which arrived crumbed and lightly fried along with a small salad. I already thought my dish looked as pretty as a picture… and Chris’ dish took this positive impression even further. Although its name might not give much away to most people, spiedini is – in a nutshell – Chris’ version of heaven. Thick slabs of haloumi are wrapped in Parma ham, which are then served on rocket, cherry tomatoes and a balsamic vinegar dressing. With glasses of Il Banchetto Blanco wine from Italy to complement these dishes, we couldn’t have had a better start to our meal at Zerodegrees.
For our mains, we both went for Italian classics. I chose a risotto, while Chris went for a pasta. Flavourful and cooked to perfection, I ate my risotto – featuring garlic chicken, parmesan, mascarpone and spinach – extremely slowly as I didn’t want it to disappear too quickly (although I felt like I could have inhaled it all).
The pasta at our table, Chris’ porcini and spicy Mexican sausage pappardelle, underwent the opposite fate, as he wolfed it all down in no time. There are many forms of appreciation, yet when it comes to restaurants, meticulously cleared plates have to be a biggest compliment of all.
Needless to say, we were a little full at this point, so we thought it would be a good idea to take a wander around the Blackheath venue.
Since the restaurant is home to a microbrewery (more on this shortly), the rest of the restaurant reflects a modern-yet-industrial style. There are chairs made from recycled metal and an assortment of smart-looking tables, and the ceiling consists of exposed metallic beams and quirky light fixtures. On one wall of the restaurant, there’s a bright artwork highlighting the entire process of beer making.
The outside dining area and downstairs dining room can get a bit busy, especially on sunny weekends, but you might find a quieter space upstairs. There are larger tables, perfect for group gatherings, while the other dining room up here is a little more old school, with cosy leather chairs and bookshelves.
Having walked off the first two courses a bit, it was time to make a tough decision – which dessert would we order? Ok, I lie. If there is cheesecake on the menu, I will, 99.9999%, go for that cheesecake. So I did.
Zerodegrees’ version is a cherry and amaretti biscuit cheesecake and it tasted even better than it looked. It miraculously managed to not be overly sweet and it went on to be one of the best cheesecakes I’d had in a long time. Chris decided to order something a little more adventurous: a dessert pizza.
With a name of pecan pie and salted caramel, I don’t think he knew what to expect, but he was very happy with what arrived at the table. Made of a sweeter pizza dough and lashings of salted caramel sauce, this dessert was another winner.
The food at Zerodegrees left us feeling utterly impressed and we would have been thrilled if that was all our afternoon involved. But, as I stated at the beginning, Zerodegrees isn’t just a restaurant.
Zerodegrees’ microbrewery holds pride of place within the venue, with the large holding tanks standing right next to the dining area. You can get the best view of the beer-making equipment from upstairs but we were lucky enough to get a tour.
As all of this suggests, Zerodegrees is unique as its beers are brewed on site. Their brewer comes into the restaurant and brews in clear view of the customers. Made from scratch on the premises, Zerodegrees aims to create excellent beers that are not pasteurised (meaning that they will always be fresh) and are made without the use of additives.
There are five core beers brewed at Zerodegrees. These are the Pale Ale, Pilsner, Black Lager, Wheat Ale and Mango Beer. In addition to these, Zerodegrees will always have a special on tap, where their resident brewer whips up a new brew for a temporary period.
To end off our afternoon at Zerodegrees, we had the opportunity to taste all of the beers. All of them were high quality with the Pale Ale bearing the hoppy flavour of craft beers, while the Black Lager was as easy-drinking beer. My favourite, unsurprisingly, ended up being the Mango Beer (thanks to that incorrigible sweet-tooth of mine).
If you end up loving the beer at Zerodegrees, I have excellent news too. You can grab a five-litre mini keg of your top Zerodegrees beer – which is ideal for parties or picnics. This option is surprisingly affordable as well.
After a lengthy (and boozy) afternoon at Zerodegrees, it was time for us to leave. In terms of a verdict: We were, quite simply, blown away by Zerodegrees. Yes, the food was flawless, as were the beers, but the venue manages to execute this high level of service and quality whilst still feeling like a casual local neighbourhood hangout.
With Chris already speculating on the many different occasions that would require a mini keg, I have no doubt that we’ll be back at Zerodegrees – and Blackheath – very soon.
Have you been to Zerodegrees? Or do you like the sound of the combination of microbrewery and restaurant? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Note: We were invited to Zerodegrees for the purpose of a review but, as always, all opinions and the tendency to eat really (really) slowly when I have something good in front of me are entirely my own.
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