Sunday, December 04, 2016

Riverside Fish and Steak opens.


The photos above show the opening day of Riverside Fish and Steak in Erith Riverside Shopping Centre. I was invited along to get some photos of the brand new restaurant ahead of its official opening on Monday, when many local dignitaries will be visiting. Bearing in mind the Maggot Sandwich is published once a week on a Sunday, I thought that I would try and get a scoop on the place. They had opened very quietly at lunchtime, not expecting much trade, but the place was soon full of customers, both to sit down and have a meal, and for those who wanted fish and chips to take away. I arrived on site at around 4.15pm, well after the lunchtime service, and before the dinner service was due to begin. As you can see from the photos above, there was only one couple eating at the time - not surprising, as they were either having an extremely late lunch, or a very early dinner. The place looks amazing - you walk in to be greeted with a traditional fish fryer counter, but when you look around, you are in a clean and modern European restaurant. Click on any photo above for a larger view.  The menu is extensive and very reasonably priced. The level of local interest about the new fish and steak restaurant has been intense. The owner, George, already owns the massively successful Mambocino coffee shop / cafe in Erith Riverside Shopping Centre - a place that quite regularly has queues out of the door, especially for Sunday lunch. The problem Mambocino has is that it is forced to close at 6pm then the shopping centre security gates are closed. The new restaurant has entrances outside of the area protected by the security gates, and it can stay open until late in the evening. Riverside Fish and Steak is a more upmarket venue which will be fully licenced from Monday (the licence should have been granted before the opening on Friday lunchtime, but as will be of little surprise to anyone, Bexley Council cocked up the paperwork, so the licence has been delayed until next week).  Nevertheless the choice of location and cuisine is spot on. The restaurant will, I predict be extremely popular - the fact that they offer both a proper "sit down" service, and a takeaway option will definitely appeal to many local people. There is nothing remotely similar in Erith. At present the Riverside Fish and Steak restaurant does not have a website or online presence, but I think that it will not be too long before something will appear online, even if it is just a Facebook page such as already exists for Mambocino.  Have you tried the new restaurant? What did you think? Leave a comment below, or Email me at hugh.neal@gmail.com


The photos above show that work has begun on the redevelopment of the old Erith Riverside Swimming Bath site on the corner of Erith High Street and Walnut Tree Road. After what seems like an age (actually six years from initial inception), the project to build 12 mews houses and 55 apartments overlooking the River Thames has started. I know that some people have been concerned about the proximity of the Walnut Tree Road electricity substation, which I understand takes power from Essex via large cables that run under the River Thames and feeds the power from them into the National Grid. This structure will be pretty much next door to the new development, and from what I have been told, there is absolutely no prospect of it being relocated, as it forms part of the regional power infrastructure. The former swimming baths site is actually somewhat larger than it appears when viewed from the High Street; a corner of the space actually exists behind the car park of the Running Horses, which many locals may be unaware of. London and Quadrant were the organisation that originally submitted a proposal for the Thames Gateway Project back in 2010 – the notorious plan which showed the Riverside Gardens being built upon. This was what prompted the formation of FORGE (Friends Of Riverside Gardens Erith), and the campaign to preserve the gardens. It turns out that it was a mistake at the printer – London and Quadrant at no stage wanted to build on the gardens – it was a cock – up with the printer using the wrong file; by the time they realised it was a couple of weeks later and thousands of leaflets had already been distributed. Last year I was told by a London and Quadrant senior executive that the gardens and the scenic view across the river was the reason they wanted to build on the swimming pool site in the first place, and that they would hardly shoot themselves in the foot by building on that very view! I think many locals are justifiably cautious about the development, wondering if it could be "creeping redevelopment" with the Riverside Gardens merely being a further, future phase. The Riverside Gardens are an absolute gem and deserve to be preserved for the enjoyment of all local people for the years to come. The image below shows the new Riverside Baths site development in an artist's impression. 


Bexley Police seem to have a revolving door policy when it comes to Police chiefs. Chief Superintendent Geoff Boothe, is leaving to move to Croydon this month, having held the Bexley role for only around eighteen months – in my opinion not nearly enough time to understand the particular problems and issues that Bexley has to deal with. This is not the first time that Bexley Police have had a very short time in service leader. Boothe was interviewed recently in the Bexley Times; he said of the recent riot in Northumberland Heath. "The word gangs is very emotive. If you are saying there is potentially a gangs problem in Bexley, I would say there is not. Was there a disturbance? Of course there was. Did our officers respond to it? Of course they did. The question is what was the cause and the approach has been what can we do in partnership with others to find out what the cause was? We have been working very closely with schools to identify whether or not there are issues. There is an ongoing investigation and there have been a number of arrests. It is not a gangs issue and not specifically a schools issue. Because Bexley is quite a low-crime area, when you have incidents like this it appears worse. In any other area, it probably would not have made such headlines.” Regular Maggot Sandwich reader, and occasional contributor Chairman of Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association Dana Wiffen said the borough appeared to be “the breaking-in ground for borough commanders”. I cannot say that I disagree; I am not going to quote any specific incidents to support my view - some of you will already be aware of my personal experiences - but that is most definitely a story for another time. 

Some very unwelcome news was released on Friday. The NatWest Bank in Northumberland Heath is due to close,  which will mean that no bank will have a physical presence in the town in the future. The Bexley Times have reported that local MP Teresa Pearce said: “This is very bad news, NatWest is the last bank in town and is extremely busy. I have asked NatWest for more details on their rationale for closing this branch as it is very well used. The bank say there is a branch in Bexleyheath, but if Northumberland Heath closes there will be no NatWest in the north of the borough.” According to the bank, a dramatic rise in the number of people using online and mobile banking was the driving factor for the cause. The fact remains that the demographic of Northumberland Heath does contain a significant proportion of older people who are statistically less likely to be comfortable, or even familiar with online banking, potentially leaving a large hole in the Natwest service for the area.

The government are currently discussing the future of traffic calming measures, mainly in an attempt to reduce the level of air pollution caused by the emissions of internal combustion engines. A report was published on Thursday which recommended that speed bumps should be removed, speed limits made variable on England’s motorways, sometimes dropping as low as 50mph, and a congestion charge considered in more cities to cut air pollution and save lives. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) released a series of recommendations on Thursday which it said would “promote a smoother driving style” and help keep emissions down. Health officials said vehicles created more emissions when they were speeding up and slowing down, as on congested motorways. To keep a more consistent speed, they said, the limit could be temporarily lowered to 50 or 60 mph when traffic is stop-start. That represented a “more sensible” approach than having lower fixed limits, Nice’s Prof Mark Baker said. The officials added that some speed bumps encouraged people to speed up, then slow down. They urged planners to consider using average speed technology on the roads to promote smoother driving. Locally, when Manor Road in Erith was resurfaced back in July 2014,  a series of speed bumps were installed.  Locals have since seen the law of unintended consequences come into play. The speed bumps are primarily located on the stretch of road to the East of Frobisher Road, and are designed to slow traffic heading towards and from the long, straight section that connects to the various industrial estates that make up the Eastern half of Manor Road. The bumps are in the form of low, square shaped areas that are highlighted in fine red gravel. I stood for around ten minutes on Saturday morning, watching the behaviour of vehicles approaching these speed bumps, and it was not what I was expecting. Instead of slowing down before driving over the bumps, almost every single driver instead chose to swerve into the gap between the bumps, and continue without slowing down. This has the effect of forcing traffic in both directions to share the middle of the road. It would appear that the speed bumps are actually making the road more, rather than less dangerous due to the irresponsible behaviour of drivers. I am not sure what can be done to remedy this, other than constructing a barrier down the middle of the road, which would be neither practical or desirable. If you have recently travelled on the road, what were your experiences? Did you feel the new design was inherently less safe than the previous one, or were you satisfied with the new configuration?

Every day I get Emailed stories from public relations companies promoting all sorts of tat and rubbish; most of the messages go straight into the virtual bin, but the following press release caught my attention - and I think that you may well find it of interest too:- "Morleys department stores to open its ninth store in partnership with NewRiver and London Borough of Bexley. 25 November 2016: NewRiver and the London Borough of Bexley are delighted to announce that they have secured Morleys as a new anchor department store for Broadway Shopping Centre, Bexleyheath. Morleys, one of the UK's leading independent department stores will take a 50,000 sq. ft. store, creating another high-quality anchor for the shopping centre, swiftly occupying the former BHS, which closed in August 2016. The new store marks a further enhancement of the town centre retail offer and importantly will create up to 100 new jobs. With a total footfall of 9.5 million shoppers per year, the existing shopping centre already boasts an excellent line-up of national retailers, anchored by M and S, H and M, New Look, TK Maxx, Boots and Sainsbury's. NewRiver REIT, the long leaseholder of the shopping centre and retail park, have worked closely with the London Borough of Bexley, the freeholder, to secure this exciting new retail offer for the town, part of NewRiver and the Council's ongoing investment in the town centre. Founded in 1927, Morleys is one of the UK's leading independent department stores with eight existing stores in the UK, including their first store in Brixton together with Wimbledon, Ilford, Holloway, Tooting, Upminster, Newbury and Enfield. Spanning two floors, the new department store will trade as 'Morleys', retailing fashion, beauty and menswear on the ground floor, with a full home, gift and toy offering on the first floor, complemented by both a cafe and restaurant in store. The new addition will be Morleys' ninth department store and follows on from their recent redevelopment of 'Camp Hopson' Department & Home store in Newbury, West Berkshire. The new Morleys store is expected to open in April 2017 following significant investment and a comprehensive modern fit-out. Bernard Dreesmann, Executive Chairman of Morleys said: "We are excited about the opportunity in Bexleyheath and are confident that we can bring something new and fresh to the area". Nick Sewell, Director at NewRiver said: "We acquired Broadway Shopping Centre and Broadway Square in April 2016 and have worked closely with the Council to secure a desirable new anchor store to replace the former BHS Store. We are delighted to be introducing Morleys Department Store who will bring an excellent, aspirational and high-quality retail offer for the centre and town centre, further enhancing the retail mix for our shoppers." Cllr Teresa O'Neill OBE, Leader of the London Borough of Bexley said: "In partnership with NewRiver, we are pleased to have swiftly secured an excellent new department store with Morleys. We have met with the management team of Morleys and are confident they will introduce a fantastic new offer to complement the already thriving town centre as part of our ongoing regeneration plans for Bexleyheath." Personally I had never heard of Morleys before, but as the store intends to employ around a hundred local people, it can only be a very good thing indeed. If you have experiences  of Morleys stores elsewhere, then please either leave a message below, or Email me at hugh.neal@gmail.com.

When British supermarket chain Tesco launched its Clubcard back in 1995, it was a forward-looking idea, so much so that Lord Ian MacLaurin, then Tesco chairman, suggested that he knew more about his customers after three months than he did after 30 years in the retail business. More than 20 years later and despite advancements in technology elsewhere in retail, and with the advent of things such as CRM (Customer Relationship Management software), the loyalty card remains very much the same. Still, they are logging items purchased by customers, gathering data that helps retailers build a profile then target them with offers or incentives to come back to the shop or restaurant again. But with new data streams now available to retailers, it raises the question: is the importance of the loyalty card scheme and its data diminishing? Do you still find you use loyalty cards, or are you leaving them at home and using a mobile app instead? I get the feeling that the next year will show a substantial change in the way shoppers operate, with a greater use of "buy online and then collect from the store" - I think that shops are already beginning to become collection points - as we have already begun to see with Argos, and to a lesser extent with other high street big names. The fight is clearly on for market share, and retail organisations which show flexibility and better levels of service to their customers are going to be the winners. 



I get the occasional bit of feedback over the choice of content in the Maggot Sandwich; as it follows a magazine type format, I try and have a fairly broad selection of subject matter, most loosely based about news and opinion in respect of the local area. From time to time I will branch out to cover a subject of a broader interest, usually with a science or engineering theme. This week I am exploring a subject that until now has been firmly in the realm of science fiction (which links in very nicely with the poster above - who says that i don't plan these things?), but may actually have a basis in scientific fact – if it does turn out to be true, it could well be the biggest single discovery of the 21st century. There have been hints in recent news that NASA may be on the path to discovering warp bubbles that could make the local universe accessible for human exploration. NASA scientists may be close to announcing they may have broken the speed of light. According to state-of-the art theory, a warp drive could cut the travel time between stars from tens of thousands of years to weeks or months. The catalyst for the trending warp-drive excitement is the Electromagnetic Drive or EM Drive, a thruster that was engineered to steer rockets which eliminates the use of a propellant originally intended for moon missions, Mars missions and low-Earth orbit operations. The experiment that led to the possibility of faster than light interstellar travel took place in the vacuum of space. According to posts on NASASpaceFlight.com, a website devoted to the engineering side of space news, when lasers were fired through the EmDrive’s resonance chamber, some of the beams appeared to travel faster than the speed of light. If that’s true, it would mean that the EmDrive is producing a warp field or bubble.  But "How?" If the laser beams are moving faster than the speed of light, then it would indicate that they are creating some sort of warp field, or bubble in the space-time foam, which in turn produces the thrust that could, in theory, power a spaceship bound for the centre of the Milky Way or one of its dwarf galaxy satellites. The bubble would contract space-time in front of the ship, flow over the ship, then expand back to normality behind it. It would be inaccurate to describe the spaceship as moving faster than the speed of light, but rather space-time is moving around the ship faster than the speed of light. Harold G. White, a physicist and advanced propulsion engineer at NASA and other NASA engineers are trying to determine whether faster-than-light travel — warp drive — might someday be possible. The team has attempting to slightly warp the trajectory of a photon, changing the distance it travels in a certain area, and then observing the change with a device called an interferometer. In 1994, a Mexican physicist, Miguel Alcubierre, theorized that faster-than-light speeds were possible in a way that did not contradict Einstein by harnessing the expansion and contraction of space itself. Under Dr. Alcubierre’s hypothesis, a ship still couldn’t exceed light speed in a local region of space. But a theoretical propulsion system he sketched out manipulated space-time by generating a so-called “warp bubble” that would expand space on one side of a spacecraft and contract it on another. An Alcubierre Warp Drive stretches spacetime in a wave causing the fabric of space ahead of a spacecraft to contract and the space behind it to expand. The ship can ride the wave to accelerate to high speeds and time travel. The Alcubierre drive, also known as the Alcubierre metric or Warp Drive, is a mathematical model of a spacetime exhibiting features reminiscent of the fictional "warp drive" from Star Trek, which can travel "faster than light”. Alcubierre-warp-drive-manifold “In this way, the spaceship will be pushed away from the Earth and pulled towards a distant star by space-time itself,” Dr. Alcubierre wrote. Dr. White, the New York Times reports, has likened it to stepping onto a moving walkway at an airport. Alcubierre’s theory, however, depended on large amounts of a little understood or observed type of “exotic matter” that violates typical physical laws. Dr. White believes that advances he and others have made render warp speed less implausible. Among other things, he has redesigned the theoretical warp-traveling spacecraft — and in particular a ring around it that is key to its propulsion system — in a way that he believes will greatly reduce the energy requirements. But ”We’re not bolting this to a spacecraft,” he said of the technology. Richard Obousy, a physicist who is president of Icarus Interstellar, a nonprofit group composed of volunteers collaborating on starship design, said “it is not airy-fairy, pie in the sky. We tend to overestimate what we can do on short time scales, but I think we massively underestimate what we can do on longer time scales.” Dr. White likened his experiments to the early stages of the World War Two Manhattan Project, which were aimed at creating a very small nuclear reaction merely as proof that it could be done. Personally this all sounds fascinating – and potentially it could be an amazing development. I get the feeling that the reality will be somewhat different. The science is barely understood, and I am certain that there will be setbacks and problems as yet unimagined by the physicists and engineers currently researching warp drive. Nevertheless it remains a tantalising possibility of what may be to come – perhaps Star Trek is not quite as far-fetched as many had imagined? Only time will tell. What do you think? Leave a comment below, or Email me at hugh.neal@gmail.com.