Friday, January 30, 2009

The Breakfast Club, D'Arblay St

Great name for a cafe. I wonder why no-one's thought of it before?

There are two branches of Breakfast Club, this one in Soho which opened in 2005 and another in Camden Passage in Angel which opened in 2007.

Inside you are greeted by nice, friendly staff and a ragtag-style interior made up of seemingly reclaimed items of furniture. The atmosphere is either Bohemian or cheap, depending on how you look at it, and reminded me of places I would frequent as a student. It's certainly a place with character and a great alternative to the ubiquitous chain coffee shops.

One word of warning: I sat at the back of the cafe and noticed that the cooking smells from the kitchen were quite strong so I'd recommend trying to sit at the front if you can.

The menu is has a very un-British feel to it. By that I mean it's something I would expect to find in the US or maybe Australia; Wraps, smoothies and salads all feature heavily as well as the more conventional breakfast items. Obviously, the sausage sandwich was all I was interested in.

This was quite a hefty sausage sandwich, made with thick slices of a good quality, fresh bread and two sausages. The sausages were meaty and of decent quality. Overall the sandwich seemed a little dry - perhaps due to the thickness of the bread or the amount of time the sausages had been cooking. Still, it's a substantial and satisfying sandwich made with ingredients that won't fill you with remorse after eating. Can't fault the price either.

3.5 out of 5 (Bohemian in a rickety chair kind of way)

Website: The Breakfast Club Soho

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Canteen, Spitalfields Market

It's believed that there has been a market at Spitalfields in the East End of London (corner of Lamb and Commercial Street) since the thirteenth century. The market survived the Great Fire of London, declined after the 1820s before reviving again when it was redeveloped in 1893. The market expanded steadily until it had to be moved to larger premises in Leyton in 1991. The old site was then extensively redeveloped in 2005 and is now a covered market for small stalls with a range of restaurants and cafes.

It's a nice area to walk around: You leave the bustle of Liverpool Station, surrounded by the tower blocks of London's financial district and within minutes you're in the wide open market with its eclectic range of shops. Step beyond the market and the East End streets are full of character - there's an undeniably interesting feel about the place.

There's a fairly good mix of places to eat too although not quite the grazer's heaven that is Borough Market. After a quick scout around, I decided to give Canteen a try.

There are three Canteen restaurants, all in London. The mini-chain is devoted to high quality British food served in fashionably retro-modern surroundings that are like a cross between a library, a train station waiting room and a works canteen.

As you probably guessed the prices and not very canteen-like and the high quality of the ingredients used in the cooked-to-order menu is reflected in the prices.

I visited in the mid-morning and decided to go for the sausage and roast onion sandwich at £5.75.

This is more than I would normally expect to pay for a sausage sandwich so I was fairly skeptical when the sandwich arrived but I didn't have to be.

What you get are two, dense, pork sausages. Not strongly seasoned or herbed, fairly well cooked although I would have liked them a little more browned. The casings were thin. They are very good, thick, plain pork sausages. The roasted onions were sweet and soft and were not overcooked. The bread was little on the thin side and the melted butter - whilst it tasted very nice - did make the sandwich quite soggy. So much so that I didn't feel like I could add any condiments otherwise the whole thing might have fallen apart into a wet, messy pile.

Taste-wise everything worked. The onions were mild and complimented the meat. The buttered bread had its own flavour and wasn't overpowered. The only minor quibbles are that I'd have preferred a more distinctly flavoured sausage, cooked until a little more brown.

I initially was going to mark the sandwich down because of its price but by the end, the quality of the ingredients shone through and 6 quid for a very good sausage sandwich in these surroundings is not a bad deal, I think. Worth a visit.

4.5 out of 5

Link: Canteen