Joanna’s, Crystal Palace

Had a mediochre day blighted by tedium and annoyances? Feeling lacklustre and needing gastronomic comfort and a back rub? Well, Joanna’s in Crystal Palace doesn’t do back rubs, but their food is the next best thing. It’s the kind of place that every neighbourhood should have, serving delicious and well-executed food that is reasonably priced, and cleverly manages to feel posh and luxurious without being intimidating. And they make the best posh fish and chips I have eaten anywhere.

The restaurant, distinctive from the outside by its smart navy awnings is just swanky enough for you to feel special when you are eating there, but has a lovely snug laid back atmosphere. The waitors and waitresses are all super friendly without being overbearing, the bar staff make a mean cocktail, there is a great wine list and you can imagine that no matter how shite a day you’d just had, popping in to Joanna’s would somehow make everything seem better. Who cares that your boss might be a dick or that your job sucks when you can come to Joanna’s? Hmm?

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The food is a mixture of British, European and Asian dishes – hearty portions presented beautifully. The decor is all dark woods, brass lamp fittings and mirrors. There is even a private booth nicknamed the ‘train carriage’ tucked away at the back which you can book out and have a tiny private party in. I did just that, last year, and it was brilliant. We felt so naughty!

Last night hubby and I popped there for a mid-week treat after both having experienced incredibly average days and needed cheering up. We thought we’d try the fixed menu as it was amazingly good value – £16.75 for three courses. We’d have been fools not to. At no point did we ever get the impression that we were eating from a pared-down bargain menu…just check out this amazing tucker…

Starter of mushroom soup – so much intense wild mushroom flavour, with a crisp garlic crostini:

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Starter of chargrilled squid with chilli and rocket: great flavours, and the squid tasted as though fresh off a Greek beach barbecue:

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The poshest fish ‘n chips: beer-battered goujons of haddock with homemade tartar sauce and minted pea puree – simply stunning:

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Look at those bodacious chips – ooh me hearties:

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Shepherd’s pie made with a combo of beef and lamb, with magnificent gravy – what a perfect slab of comfort (even though I dislike lamb, I couldn’t help but admire this creation):

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A very decent Stilton and quince jelly:

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A heartstoppingly-good chocolate brownie and vanilla ice cream sundae – there was a whole untouched wodge of brownie in here sandwiched in between molten vanilla ice cream on the bottom, and a ball of vanilla with choc sauce on the top. I actually couldn’t stop shovelling this into my mouth, even though I was totally full. Ah…greed…

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For some reason, I always have the sensation that Joanna’s feels very much like a New York brasserie. I have a very limited knowledge of the New York dining scene, only having visited the city once in my life, but I have the idiotic fantasy that I will walk into Joanna’s one evening and see someone like Ted Danson propping up the bar, soaking up the swing jazz music, nursing a Whisky Sour. Whatever – the place is very definitely British, but I love the idea of it being like a portal that whizzes you directly to a neighbourhood on the Lower East Side! Great escapism.

I can’t believe we don’t go to Joanna’s more often – it’s just around the corner from our gaffe, and the chef cooks like a dream. Seems crazy – maybe we subconsciously always save this place ‘for best’. The meal we had above, including two glasses of wine and two cocktails was £30 per head. This menu is available from Mondays to Thursdays. Get your gourmet-loving asses down there!

Got a neighbourhood gem where you live? I want to hear about it…

Joanna’s
56 Westow Hill
Crystal Palace
London SE19 1RX

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3 comments

  1. Oooh I LOVE Joanna's! We took the boyfriend there for his birthday last year (he had that soup and scarfed it down with omnomnom noises), slow cooked pork belly, and the cheese plate. It was wonderful, and the atmosphere is so friendly. I wish I lived nearer!

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  2. We recently went to Johanna's and would definitely go back despite a few flaws: -my martini had to be made three times before it tasted like more than melted ice and vermouth (I requested it VERY dry). Luckily, the bartender was super nice and extremely accommodating and the third time was definitely a charm!-Our main complaint, however, was that the recipes were EXCELLENT, but the food was poorly prepared. My scallops were in a delicious sauce, but they themselves were hard and rubbery. My husband's fish was similarly cooked. Really a shame because the sauces were so delicious! We'll keep going back, however, because the service was wonderful and the food has such promise! (The pate we had as an hors d'oeuvre was to die for!!) Perhaps a cook on a different night would be better at executing Chef's recipes!

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  3. Yes indeed, we had a meal at Joanna's recently, and also found it to not be *quite* of the previous high standards – but will forgive them this hiccup because we've been going there for years and they are always unfailingly friendly and the food has been excellent.

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