I love it when places take bookings. You know you can be guaranteed a seat at an exact time and you don’t have to guess how long the wait will be, or stand outside in the freezing cold for what feels like hours. I completely understand why most popular London brunch spots don’t take bookings though; they’re small, always packed, and people (including me!) are prepared to queue for quite some time to eat good food. It sucks though, when a place claim they don’t take bookings then they close early for a “private function” (read: booking!!) meaning you can’t get in. The problem is with some of the best brunch spots too, is that they’re a little out of the way so it’s not ideal when you’re left unable to get in.
That’s exactly what happened to us when we planned to go to The Good Egg in Stoke Newington. We’d agreed to meet friends there for a long overdue catch up, and rather than brunching first thing, we had a lie in and a relaxed breakfast at home, and met them at 12 instead. As always, I was put in charge of choosing the place, so I was already a little apprehensive about making them travel out of central to one of the many untried places on my brunch list. When we arrived they were fifth in the queue, with two parties of two and two parties of four in front of us. We waited for around 15 minutes, only to be told by the waitress that we wouldn’t get in by 12.30 and that was their last sitting as they were holding a private function that afternoon. In hindsight it was a good thing, as I hate being rushed anyway but even more so when I’m catching up with friends, as we can chat for hours! At the time it was so frustrating though – I’d decided on this place ages ago, seen some amazing pictures of their symmetry breakfasts online as part of the #CookForSyria campaign, and we were out in north east London where I had no idea where to go. My list of brunch places is longer than my arm, but I have no idea where each one is in relation to each other or to where we were.. Cue Google to the rescue. Whilst they chatted (and I felt slightly rude!) I was lucky enough to find The Haberdashery online which I loved the look of. Just a few minutes’ walk away, we wandered there and thankfully we only had to wait five minutes for a table (it really was freezing!) and it turned out to be a great experience. It’s located on the main road – not the nicest main road and not the greatest of views, but there are tables outside complete with blankets for Winter! We opted to sit inside though, and were seated at a simple table with old fashioned wooden chairs that wouldn’t look out of place in a primary school. As the name suggests, all of the decor is seriously old and haphazard, but it has a certain charm about it.. We couldn’t tell whether the old cracked tiles were intentional or not but either way they certainly made it unique and memorable.
They serve coffee from Nude coffee roasters (Brick Lane) which was a good start and despite the fact that I got half a mug full (more than likely this is the same if not more than you get at any good independent coffee place, but it was served in a builders mug rather than a coffee up and I don’t like the concept of a half full mug – the first thing I think is “where’s the rest of it!?”.. the picture below is as it was served to me – I hadn’t drunk any of it!!). As expected, it was a good coffee though. I also had a soy flat white which came perfectly presented in a pretty tea cup which made up for the lack of presentation of my Americano.
They have a fairly extensive menu – longer than your average brunch spot, with breakfast, brunch and lunch options. Torn between several choices as always, I eventually went for the vegan breakfast! To add to the tough decision they also have lunch items which sounded amazing too – an array of sandwiches, burgers (including a falafel and hummus burger!!) and lunch plates – a “main” such as falafel, meat or fish cakes with two sides of your choice. I even loved the sound of the porridge (not surprisingly I guess given my love for all things oaty!) which came with poached pears, blueberries, cinnamon and honey. The vegan breakfast was probably one of the most non-standard dishes on the menu though, and knowing I’d get to try other people’s food too I went for it. Each of their breakfasts came with a couple of large slices of sourdough. It’s sad that most London eateries are so stingy that I feel as though two slices is a generous portion nowadays (when really it should be the norm) but I was pleasantly surprised to be presented with two thick slabs. It was bloody good sourdough too; chewy and full of flavour, though unfortunately it was also cold and slightly underdone, so it was at the odd stage of being exactly half way between bread and toast; half crunchy and half chewy. Luckily the butter was soft so at least it spread nicely even if it didn’t melt ( 😦 ). I suppose toast goes cold quickly anyway.. and my friend also only had half a slice.. So guess where the other one and a half went.. 😀
The scrambled tofu was absolutely lovely, and something I’ve surprisingly never had before. Clearly it didn’t taste anything like eggs (and I can’t see myself giving up one of my favourite foods any time soon!) but it was a lovely alternative, cooked in a mix of spices and went perfectly with the wilted spinach. The polenta chips were decent – having never had them in such thick blocks before (I think I’ve had them as little deep fried cubes), I was surprised at how incredibly stodgy they were. I strangely enjoyed them but they certainly took some chewing! They had an almost cloying texture and I can imagine that they certainly wouldn’t appeal to a lot of people because of this. I’d perhaps have preferred them to have been a little crispier round the outside, but dipped in ketchup they were a lovely alternative to the traditional hashbrown. I did try their hashbrown that came on Marcus’ breakfast, and I loved that it was homemade. Again, it could’ve been a little crispier round the edges but it was tasty with a lovely rustic look, packed full of shredded potato and onions.
One of our friends ordered from the king menu – he got the schnitzel with polenta chips, sauerkraut and slices of sourdough on the side. That looked lovely too – I’d definitely have been tempted if I didn’t have such a big obsession with all things breakfast related!
It’s when we go out with friends that we realise it’s not perhaps that normal to order multiple courses of food – and having polished off all of our food ready for more, we often realise that our friends are actually full (yes we’d do well to realise that such a feeling does exist.. and some people often stop when they feel that way 😛 ). Unfortunately one of my friends had to rush off to work anyway, but with London being so big and so full of incredible cafes and coffee shops, I’m ever sad about having to hop between them for my various brunch courses – in fact we often choose to do that so we can try more places! I also didn’t see any cakes on display here, and the only sweet option on the brunch menu was French toast, with the other options being more dessert-like, so moving on to Covent Garden Christmas markets and Hummingbird Bakery was a great decision in my eyes 😉 To be honest, Hummingbird is still yet to win me over – I think that for such a huge and successful cake chain it’s highly overrated.. but this salted caramel cupcake was a decent place to start 😉
All in all, the Haberdashery is lovely little cheap and cheerful cafe serving great coffee. It’s not going to win any prizes for innovative dishes and it certainly isn’t one of those places where you’ll be unsure of exactly what you’re going to get but it does all the breakfast basics to a good standard and it’s very reasonably priced. Despite it being a decent meal, it certainly doesn’t stand out in London, but we’re spoilt here; in any other city (probably even St Albans) I’d probably visit frequently.
Would I recommend it? Yes
Worth going out of your way for? No
Would I go back? No .. Unless I fail to get into the good egg a second time round!
Link to their website: www.the-haberdashery.com/