Yet, the truth is that the name can be sourced back to the 12th century when it was an administrative area called a “hundred”. This unit allowed subdivision of land for administrative purposes. In the US, the use of “hundred” survives to this day in Delaware, where it is still used in the description of real estate transactions. The true source of the name is much older than the plague pits that once scarred the landscape.
This is an incredibly beautiful open area, with views to the Shard on a clear day from some locations. The All Saints’ Church on the South side of the heath is striking any time of day or night. The heath is surrounded by open air, kite flying, some ponds, and great places for the ubiquitous Sunday lunch.
Weekend breakfast or brunch outings are quite common in the US, but in the UK it’s the Sunday lunch (or Sunday roast) that brings folks out on a Sunday afternoon. Combinations of roast beef, roast potatoes, carrots, broccoli, various other vegetables and a Yorkshire pudding are traditional, Yet, the roast beef can be substituted for pork, chicken or a nut roast for vegetarians. But, it’s not just about the food.
Sunday lunch is a great opportunity to relax, perhaps after church or a long lie-in, and be out and about one more time on a Sunday afternoon. Some Sundays get topped up with a football match in the late afternoon, but the time to chat with friends and family, catch up on the news or gossip, and people watch over food is what adds to the occasion.
Americans eat lunch earlier than the native English. An American might not think twice about booking in at 1130 or 1200 o’clock. But lunch, and Sunday lunch in particular, is a later affair. Whereas a normal lunch hour might start at 1300 (1PM), you’ll find people streaming in at 1400 or 1500 on a Sunday to enjoy this main meal of the day. You won’t have room for dinner this particular evening after this outing.
If it’s just us, we’re booking at 1230 because our 7 year old will be over his elevenses and hungry by that time. Elevenses? Hobbits eat this meal between second breakfast and lunch, but many in England have a snack about this time. Generally, it’s a cake or biscuit (cookie) with tea or a coffee. But, in our house, the little one goes for a packet of crisps (chips) and a sparkling water “top”. Top for the little one means splash of cloudy apple juice at the top of the glass of sparkling water. If you order your lager “top”, it means a splash of lemonade (7Up or Sprite) over the beer.
With friends out, we’re booking anywhere from 1300 to 1430 and usually getting home between 1700 and 1900. It’s a long day. Kids play together in gardens in the summer or with traditional games or electronic ones during inclement weather whilst adults share duties for ordering rounds (there’s an entire etiquette here that demands further explanation at another time.)
If out in Blackheath, we’re spoiled for choice as to where to eat. The Princess of Wales (traditional), on the Eastern side of the Heath, is a lovely choice as is The Hare and Billet (gastro pub) on the West side. Both are welcoming after a small walk out of the Blackheath village and along each respective side of the Heath.
Also sharing views of the heath, on the North side of the village, are Cau (an Argentinian steak house), Buenos Aires Café (another Argentinian, but one that serves great pizza too), a Côte Brasserie (for a French interpretation) and Chapter’s All Day Dining. We’ve eaten in all of them and there’s more than enough here to take on an alternative lunch to the traditional. Chapter’s is a favourite of my family, but the others are equally good.
The Crown and The Railway Tavern are also great pubs for traditional Sunday lunch. Other restaurants include Locale, for an Italian spin on an alternative Sunday lunch option. And, there are many other fine locations to choose from – all within minutes of walking around the small village shopping area.
A plus on Sundays is the Farmers Market next to the train station. As it’s only 5 minutes on the train from our place, we’re there before noon on a Sunday with our bags to pick up fresh veg, fresh bread, organic meats and local milk or eggs. Then, it’s off to lunch. If I’ve been a good boy, I might take in the 1700 (5PM) football (soccer) match of the day with some mates or top up the evening at the quiz night in our former local, the Dial Arch, at the Royal Arsenal. All in all, Sunday lunch is a tradition beyond food alone.
Philip is an American, and European. He has adopted London, but must share it with 8 million residents and 16 million visitors each year. Philip lives in the Royal Borough of Greenwich ( Zone 3) with his wife and child, the only one in the family actually born in London. Having grown up on the beaches of Southern California, London is penance for having perfect weather most of his life. No one ever moves to London for the weather.