Tel: +44 (0)20 8670 4052
Address: 56 Westow Hill, London SE19 1RX
Cuisine Type: modern European
Gypsy Hill, Crystal Palace
There is so much competition in London’s restaurant industry that a restaurant does well to survive its first year. Customers are demanding, discerning and notoriously fickle, so making it past the 12 month mark is no guarantee of long term success either. The fact that Joanna’s has been serving customers for 27 years from the same site in Crystal Palace is testament to its popularity, good value and excellent service.
The decor is traditional brasserie – wooden floors, mahogany tables and a miscellany of chairs, even those round the same table often mismatched, lending it a laid-back charm.
The menu has something to appeal to everyone and we found it hard to choose between the many dishes. For my starter, I decided on caramelised pear, pecan nut and Roquefort salad (£5.50), the sweetness of the pears contrasting with the crunchy nuttiness of the pecans, the creaminess of the cheese and the peppery watercress leaves, making this a perfect summer salad. The Bloke chose the crispy belly of pork (£5.50), the accompanying apple puree spiced with a hint of ginger.
There is a particularly good choice for seafood lovers, the starters menu featuring mussels in a Thai green curry sauce (£5.50), grilled king prawns peri peri (£6), or salt and pepper squid with fresh chillies (£5.50). This is equally true for the main course, with dishes such as Thai baked fillet of sea bass (£15.50), seared scallops with baby spinach, potatoes and bacon chive butter sauce (£16) and the traditional deep fried battered haddock with minted pea puree, hand cut chips and tartar sauce (£12). I opted for the pan fried fillet of John Dory with braised fennel and herb Jersey Royals (£16), beautifully fresh fillets cooked just so.
Those who prefer meat are just as well catered for, the roast sirloin of beef with Yorkshire pudding, fresh vegetables and roast potatoes (£12) a popular choice amongst our fellow diners. Chargrilled lamb cutlets with crushed minted new potatoes and spinach (£14.50) or maple-cured pork loin with grain mustard tartar, greens and mash (£12) sounded good, but The Bloke couldn’t resist the calf’s liver and bacon with caramelised onions and mash (£13), a rich dish successfully combining several strong flavours
For those on a working lunch during the week, or popping in a for a relaxing brunch, Joanna’s offers a separate menu, with down-to-earth options like organic smoked salmon and scrambled eggs (£6.50) or cottage pie with greens (£5.95).
From the wine list, there are several by the glass, including our choices of a Chilean sauvignon blanc and a shiraz from Stellenbosch (both £5.95), while bottles range from £12 to £43. Otherwise, choose between cocktails, beer and a selection of spirits.
We finished with a decadent baked vanilla cream with French prunes in Armagnac (£5.50) and a selection of indulgent ice creams (toffee and hazelnut, Dutch chocolate, cinnamon and honey, vanilla bean and pistachio, £4 for 3 scoops), and rounded off the meal with a couple of Gaggia coffees.
Walking along the high street back to the car, we passed several restaurants, none of which were as busy as Joanna’s. There is no doubt that the restaurant is a firm favourite in the area, and it wouldn’t surprise me if Joanna’s is here for another 27 years to come.