I’m not sure if, two restaurants in, I can claim to be noticing a trend, but trend is the only way I can describe this. The Hamlet, which I can see across the road through the fairy-lit windows of Perfect Blend, is a place that isn’t 100% sure exactly what it is. With The Hamlet, this added to the overall charm. It was a bit of a mishmash, but it was nice, an enjoyable space to spend a couple of hours. Perfect Blend, on the other hand, doesn’t quite get away with it.
I theorise that maybe because of the geographical hostility of Streatham High Road, businesses think that they have to diversify to the nth degree. This means it has to be a bar, a restaurant, a cafe, a changing room, a gallery, an office, a blacksmiths, a chiropodists. At all times of the day it must don a different mask and be something else. What it sacrifices in identity it, I guess, makes up in broad appeal. In the case of Perfect Blend, its appeal is surely anything but the food.
Perfect Blend has an all day menu in the truest sense. Its breakfast fare, from full English to eggs Florentine, runs from opening to 4PM, alongside its lunch menu. The interior is a mini maze of big, thick pleather armchairs, the sort you see in all chain coffee places, and cubed stools at long communal tables. Straight ahead is a counter with cakes. To the left is a bar with draught beers.
I arrive in the purgatory period between breakfast and lunch (blunch? Leakfast? Is there a word for this?) service and dinner, so waited with a beer and some tooth-chipping mixed nuts. I got the ‘St. Reatham’ lager from the local Inkspot Brewery.
Here’s a problem I have with myself: beer, and the extended ale universe, makes me feel like a real peasant. I like to think that, in most other spheres of my life, there exists at least a dribble of refinement of taste. But not with beer. Beer, I like it sugary, tasting like poisons, like a drinkable cigarette. I will plough through a keg of Stella before I’ll ever order even a thimble of Proper Job or Gamma Ray or, god forbid, some beardy fat man dreamcatcher called The Hog’s Piglet or Avalon’s Revenge or whatever. So when I say I don’t like this Inkspot beer, I fully accept that this is most likely a deficiency of mine. I’m a hoppy philistine, an idiot, uncultured. Back to the potato patch with my can of Red Stripe.
There were a slew of strange characters coming in and out of the place as well. One very shifty looking man with a bag-for-life filled with nightmares sat outside chain smoking cigarettes. Another, a large, bear-like man with a gigantic gaping and exposed wound on his knee rallying round for a pound on his Oyster. This has nothing to do with Perfect Blend, but it made the Inkspot go down like a pint of mercury.
Fate had decided it wasn’t their day, so maybe the food would come to the rescue. Sadly it wasn’t to be. The starter of jerk wings tasted like they had been constructed, seasoned and cooked by a white person – maybe the whitest person ever to have lived, a real indigenous Bri’ish. It was imbued with a fundamental misunderstand of what jerk is. Dry meat, with a salad so vinegary it elicited a face on me like that of a baby gnawing its first lemon slice.
I asked the waitress (both who served me were working their first ever shifts, and they did a top job, asking the right questions and giving the right answers) what she recommends. The 12-hour slow cooked cajun pork tacos catch my eye, but the ‘Perfect Burger’, I’m told, is the flagship dish, so I opt for that and a mixed salad. The salad is the most acceptable part of the whole experience. The burger, from top to bottom, is quite a sad thing. Overcooked dry patty, soggy bun, a strange mayonnaise that tastes like something has gone very wrong at some stage of its creation, and some anaemic fries. It wasn’t totally disgusting, if I was hungry enough I’d have eaten it, but I wouldn’t have been happy about it, not one bit.
This seems to be a problem when your place of business is a juggling act. I don’t doubt that, after 10 years of being open, Perfect Blend do a banging coffee, maybe the cakes are first class, and the beer, to a more refined palate, is something to behold. Maybe the breakfasts are great too – the bacon on the burger was by far the best bit, meaty and salty. Based on what I had, however, perhaps dinner is a spoke they should remove from their wheelhouse.