South River Coffee: A Velvet Rose Brownie By Any Other Name

Brownie Basics

South River Coffee is a small independent coffee shop in Balham, where I found myself earlier today. There were two brownies on offer: a standard-looking chocolate one, and a very non-standard vegan ‘velvet rose’ brownie.

Made with 100% British rose, one assumes.

Brownie Backstory

I’ve been to South River Coffee a whole bunch of times and I really like it for a few reasons: the staff are really friendly; the coffee is really good; and the food scratches my occasional itch for something simplistic but done well. The world is full of sourdough toasties, exotic cheeses, pulled pork and ham hock etc, and while these are all delicious things there are times when I just enjoy a bunch of ham slices and some cheddar in between two slices of bread, like you get in this place. This simplicity also has the advantage that one time I turned up and really wanted a ham and cheese toastie but they’d sold out, so the guy working the counter just made me another one. Which you would think shouldn’t be a huge deal, but apparently this is a tricky proposition for most coffee shops!

I feel like I’ve not had any of the cakes here before, but I accept the possibility that I have and just didn’t pay enough attention at the time. It certainly seems unlikely that I’d go here as often as I have and never give any of their baked goods a shot. They always seem to have a different selection available, although some of the staples like flapjack, rocky road and brownie stick around. I went in today with the direct intention of buying a brownie to go with my coffee and was just expecting to end up with a standard chocolate model, but I’m glad I got the chance to experience ‘velvet rose’.

I wasn’t really sure what the ‘velvet’ part is supposed to refer to here, and a quick Google hasn’t given me any obvious suggestions. Since the rose petals are presumably not artificial, and therefore unlikely to be made of velvet, my best guess here is that it’s somehow meant to be associative with a red velvet cake. The word ‘velvet’ in ‘red velvet cake’ is entirely meant to describe a certain type of texture that said cake possesses, and from looking at this brownie, I’m not convinced it’s going to live up to that? (Sidebar: I wonder if a ‘red velvet brownie’ could work…)

On the other hand, I’m all about the use of rose as an ingredient – it’s one of those edible plants that seems underused in the West for some reason (see also dandelions and nettles). When I was young I tried to make rose ice-cream using an old Tudor recipe I found in a history book. It didn’t really work, but I should stress that this was for reasons unrelated to using rose petals for flavouring. Don’t let my childhood clumsy mistakes put you off!

Brownie Points

Taste: The brownie tastes pretty good, the rose petal flavour is nicely balanced with the chocolate and it’s overall very nice. 8/10

Texture: This is less compelling. The brownie had clearly been sitting in the fridge too long, but even so, a good brownie base wouldn’t go as hard as this one from refridgeration. It made the brownie quite thick and chewy, admittedly not in an awful awful way, but it’s not a good brownie texture. 4/10

Presentation: It’s obviously very home-made, but that’s the point of it right? I like the fact that the top has a chocolate drizzle and dried rose petals to make it look more interesting than just ‘another piece of brownie’. 3/5

Value: This was £2.50, and although it’s not very long or wide it is surprisingly thick (almost a brownie cube) and so there’s quite a lot of brownie there for the price. It’s reasonable value at 6/10

Fudge Factor: I like this coffee shop a lot. And a rose-flavoured brownie! Nom nom. 2/5

Points Total: 23

Should I Buy And Eat This Brownie?

Solid yes if you’re also excited about eating rose flowers and sad you don’t get to do it enough. Otherwise I’m a little sorry to say that if you are in South River Coffee, or passing by, I think they have other cakes which are better suited to the fact that their cakes sit in a fridge cabinet all day. Things like flapjack or tiffin are designed to be stored like that: brownies, not so much, and although I’ve been a bit generous I feel that this brownie is designed to be a fridge cake first and a brownie second.

Closing Thought

Does anyone else find themselves getting unexpectedly tired in the summer because the nights are so short?


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