April 13, 2013
Visited, Thursday 11th April, 2013
Lydia’s is part-caff, part-cafe. Wooden tables, chairs and floorboards, flyers advertising arts and cultural events. But breakfast and a cup of tea on offer. I found it pleasant to be in, friendly and welcoming, although I have related below Another’s experience which was less good.
The problem with the hybrid model is that one’s expectations are raised. I opted for an avocado, mozzarella and pesto sarnie. It came on olive focaccia with a massive portion of salad and chips. The sandwich itself was fantastic. However, the salad was tasteless leaves from a bag with no onion or dressing and the chips standard ‘no potatoes on the premises’ fries. And although condiments available included peri peri sauce and pomegranate molasses (for heaven’s sake) they didn’t include any balsamic vinegar. Of course it was streets ahead of the iceberg, beetroot and grated carrot combos you get in ‘ordinary’ caffs, but the quality of the ambience and the sarnie made me hope for more. Besides, it was £6.50, partly because of the size of the portion, but if I’d been able to pay less and have no chips, I’d happily have done so. Tea? I ordered an earl grey, which came in a mug, but milk already in it, which is a bit dangerous for an earl grey and it was too milky for me. Teabag was left in though.
NB My experience at Lydia’s was fine. However, I subsequently heard a friend’s story of waiting for 45 minutes for breakfast and being threatened with the police being called when they said they were just going to pay for their drinks and leave. The threat didn’t have much effect since said friend a) worked for the police and b) thought a drive-by shooting on the upper clapton road would probably take priority over slow service in Stoke Newington Church Street, but it doesn’t sound like very good customer service. Friend was told never to come back to the cafe again, which I don’t think she was tempted to do. And, although I *loved* my sandwich, there’s enough choice on Church street that I don’t need to either.
March 23, 2013
Tripadvisor review here
Interior:Although the shiny tables and part-metal part-pine chairs give off a look of recent refurbishment, there’s a solid mediterranean sandwich bar feel to the Carlton. Theatre posters, a lovely servery display case and dark wooden fittings made me feel very comfortable. And the efficient and friendly proprietress helped too. I was a little surprised to go through the door to the toilets to find myself in the open air, but that’s what you get with historic Soho buildings and it wasn’t actually snowing at the time. And was all spotless.
Food:Nothing special going on here: egg and beans perfectly okay, bacon a little salty for my taste (but generous portion of back bacon), mushrooms horrible slimy tinned things and the toast the usual weirdly foldable triangles. However, the tea was extremely nice.
At £5.90 including the tea it was about what I expected for the area. However, I realised as soon as I’d finished that I shouldn’t have ordered the breakfast, as poached egg on toast would have sufficed and I really would have preferred tomato to beans or mushrooms. I was suckered in by the fact that egg and tomato on toast would have cost almost as much as the breakfast. No wonder there’s an obesity problem.
August 13, 2012
First visited: Sunday 12th August 2012
Interior: Sometimes the biggest disappointments come when there’s a mismatch between the food and the decor. Dalston Emporium, one of a number of cafes which have sprung up to serve coffee to Dalston’s new young cool people and their hangovers, is lovely inside: wood, flyers, just enough natural light, sofas, yes, but tables too. The service wasn’t a match for it, alas, with items forgotten (and weirdly, accompanied by a ‘nobody told me you wanted the croissant, wasn’t my fault’ when it finally arrived) and nobody bothering to tell us that if we wanted dressing for our salad it was available next to the counter. And, gosh. It’s expensive.
Food: Although weekdays the Emporium proudly advertises full Englishes, on Sundays the only cooked breakfast they offer is scrambled eggs, with cheese or smoked salmon, on toast. For £4.50, you get exceedingly dry scrambled eggs (microwaved?) dusted with dry parmesan served on supermarket sliced brown, with a few lettuce leaves and cherry tomatoes and no dressing (see above). What makes this incomprehensible (apart from the price: remember juice and hot beverages are additional to this, as was 2 extra slices of buttered factory brown at a cost of £1.50) is that Dalston Emporium sell a number of quality food items: olive oil, bottled artichokes – and really good, decent bread. Good enough to sell to take home, but not to serve to customers. I can’t tell you how disappointed I was with this breakfast, in a way I wouldn’t have been if it had been featureless or filthy. And did I mention the price? Not recommended.
August 13, 2012
Visited Saturday 4th August 2012
Interior: An unexpected gem: far more like an seaside or even urban coffee shop than a village cafe. Small but perfectly formed, with nice posters on the walls advertising the Norfolk Broads. And a very friendly welcome.
Food: Small English was a good size – one of everything but not overwhelming. The sausages were proper meaty butchers’ numbers and the accompanying tea in a large pot and very nice indeed. The black pudding, which I ordered extra was dryer than I expected, but this could just be a regional trait – some butchers use less fat than others. The only other complaint, not from me, was that the baked beans were ‘touching the mushrooms’. You have been warned.
July 14, 2012
First visited Saturday 14th July 2012
L’Angelo’s been here since at least the early 1980s – I can remember seeing it from the 214 bus on inter-parental visits when I was a child. Its interior is cosy-old rather than antique, however and very comforting on an excessively wet Saturday. With dark yellow walls and the only natural light from under the awning-obscured front window it had the potential to be dingy, but was small enough that it seemed warm and welcoming (the smiley proprietor helped).
Food: I had a vegetarian breakfast which was the bog standard mushrooms, beans, tomato and egg, no bubble or anything exotic. I was thinking that it was nothing special, but actually that’s no bad thing when the mushrooms aren’t soggy, the beans not mushy and the egg completely to my taste (read: probably not hard enough for some). The toast was the usual foldable mass-produced fare but it soaked up the beans easily enough. My tea could have been stronger – they left the teabag in, so I think it must just be an underpowered brand. Not somewhere I’d come to specially, but at £4.20 it was good value and was plenty filling.
March 3, 2012
First visited: Wednesday 29th February 2012
Interior: Crown Cafe, which I used to live very near, but never visited (hard to justify paying for a cuppa when you have a kettle at home) has a slightly odd interior. The wooden boards on the walls give it a strangely rustic look, perhaps even a country and western one. The ‘formica’ tables were fairly standard and the chairs very modern but the pictures include two rather strange collages representing ‘London’ and ‘New York’, the former which included an image of a Routemaster bus but the photo had been reversed so the destination was back to front. Or maybe it was supposed to be reflected in a car wing mirror? Anyway, it’s always suffered from a dark interior, which was another reason why I didn’t use to visit it when I lived nearby, but it’s quirky decor made up for that.
Food: I had mushrooms on toast which were delicious. The bread was the usual supermarket bendable foam rubber, but the mushrooms were really tasty. My teabag wasn’t left in, but the tea was just strong enough. My only objection was the price – £3.80 seemed a bit steep for what I had, but then I suppose mushrooms are luxury items in caffs (more so than sausages). Anyway, sometimes you need to pay for what you need, and I needed mushrooms on toast.
March 3, 2012
First visited Saturday 25th February 2012
Interior: Town Cafe is a cut out and keep standard caff: ‘formica’ tables, laminated menus, tiled floor, Heart on the radio. Nothing wrong with that and the staff were very friendly on my visit. It’s also clearly a popular local hangout as it was busy too.
Food: I had a composed breakfast: beans, mushrooms, tomato on toast with egg and bacon, which was exactly as you might imagine: lots of beans, fresh tomatoes, nicely grilled. The mushrooms were a bit tasteless but I’ve had worse and the egg was just right (for my tastes – I like a runny yolk). The bread was nothing special but worked very well as a recipient for the other things on the plate. It was a small piece of bacon, but I didn’t mind that – it was just enough to add salt, fat and texture to the other ingredients. Because what I had wasn’t a set breakfast, it came to a bit more than it should, but that’ll teach me to order bespoke.
January 21, 2012
First visited Thursday 19th January 2012
Interior: When I first walked in the door of Poppins, I thought, here’s an interior that hasn’t changed for more than 40 years. On closer inspection, the tables and chairs (tasteful medium brown varnished wood, thank you very much) are clearly recent, but overall they have managed to preserve a real sense of the traditional London caff – I’m so glad they didn’t get rid of the 60s hanging lamps! Old fashioned sit-down caffs are hard to find in the City – I don’t think many city workers go out to a caff for lunch anymore, it’s either something nicer and / or healthier or a takeaway sandwich. Perhaps Poppins manages it because it’s tucked away in an alley. Nobody was looking, so they felt free to keep the burgundy and cream paintwork, lino floor and ceiling tiles that I hadn’t realised you don’t see in offices anymore. It felt like a real find.
Food: I have to admit that I wasn’t eating at Poppins. I had a lovely bright orange mug of tea (a mug!). But there were a decent range of breakfast options, including my favourites, bubble and black pudding, jackets and sandwiches. But it’s definitely one to remember next time I need a breafkast in the City.
January 7, 2012
First visited: Sunday 1st January 2011
Interior: Soho Brasserie doesn’t look like a caff. It looks like a neighbourhood Turkish or Italian restaurant, with wooden tables, tiled floor, plants and a mirrored bar reflecting back bottles of spirits in a very un-cafflike way. However, it assuredly was one, offering cuppas and breakfasts as well as an evening menu. And at 3pm on a ridiculously rainy new years’ day, frankly, anything that would sell me tea was welcome. And in fact the waitress, working on her own, was very friendly (even when the owner came in and berated her for the wet floor – what did he expected when every customer in there had wet coats and umbrellas?).
Food: I had scrambled egg on toast which was okay. Nothing worse, nothing better. The scrambled egg was on the dry side for my taste, but I know this isn’t everyone’s and it was certainly made in a pan not a microwave. The toast was cotton wool white bread but was fine under the circumstances. Tea was in a pot with a cup (I’d have expected nothing else given the decor) and was fine, much as I’d have preferred a mug and a teabag. Together they came to less than a fiver, which wouldn’t be much of a boast in many places, but on Greek st, came as a relief.
All in all, there’s nothing special about the Soho Brasserie, but if you need some comfort on a grim wintry day in Soho, you could do (much) worse.
December 30, 2011
First visited January 2011. Last visited 30th December 2011.
Interior: A proper modern classic this one: shiny plastic tables and chairs with red leatherette trim, fake brickwork on the walls and bright, laminated menus. The welcome was so-so for me but extremely cordial for the many locals, so I’m guessing you have to earn it with regular visits.
Food: I had a really excellent vegetarian breakfast. Loads of mushrooms, a grilled tomato, fried egg, beans and lovely patty of bubble. In some ways it didn’t feel unhealthy enough but was very welcome given the hangover I was treating. Tea was on the milky side but strong enough that it stood up to it. And in a mug. I had two. Given the first one was included in the set breakfast price, a fiver seemed like a bargain.