Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Review - The Living Room, Alford's Deli, Caravan

Definitely not with a kiss. Morning breath plus a predisposition to retching when I put solid things in my mouth pre-noon (ha) makes this unappealing. I guess that means I just don’t like eggs or indeed anything in the morning. But that doesn’t mean I miss out on breakfast. I eat breakfast for lunch (to be distinguished from brunch) pretty frequently. Those will be discussed a little bit later.

Firstly, I feel the need to confirm that I’m not indiscriminately positive about everything I eat. So, to talk about an uninspiring meal I had. The Living Room in Tower Hill. We had a sharing platter to start which looked not-unlike someone had laid out various ingredients for a sandwich on a board. So I made a little sandwich for myself. 
It was alright, nothin’ special. The mains were where it went awry. My friend was presented with a tiny piece of mackerel. The waitress was NOT lying when she recommended that he order a side with it. But even so, the size of the fish was appalling. He mentioned, very politely, that perhaps they’d forgotten a bit of it? But no, nothing to be done. 

I had two starters as a main because I wasn’t enthused by any of the mains and also ‘cause I’m a maverick. Underseasoned prawns in garlic and parsley butter. 
Moroccan pearl barley tomato (?) soup.
That was quite nice but the bread that it came with was cardboardy. The pudding did look good but I was feeling too disappointed by everything else to risk it. 5/10. It probably would’ve fared better if the vibe in there hadn’t been so weird. The waitress was at once overly familiar and hostile and they seemed really put out by the fact that no one wished to order alcohol. Oh and there was a poor singer on a piano covering songs which were originally not so bad.

So, anyway, back to breakfast lunch/brunch. I presented my friend with two choices for lunch: Mugen or Alford’s Deli. I was a little disappointed that he didn’t choose the former since I was craving Japanese food (NEVER FEAR- I found some really tasty tempura prawns and curry at a stall in the evening, it didn’t have a sign but I’m pretty sure they’re usually to be found in Venn Street Market) but he wanted to be as full as possible so he would’ve have to pay for overpriced festivl food later in the day. 

He still spent £30 on food later but not because Alford’s failed at its appointed task. £5 for a full English with a tea or coffee. And what a breakfast it was! Nothing was too salty or swimming in fat. Even in Oxford (usually a little cheaper than LDN) I expect to pay at least £6 - £8 for a breakfast not drowning in its own grease. And even those breakfasts make a thing of being a bit fancier than the usual full English by adding thyme (unnecessarily?) to the mushrooms and making everything slightly smaller. Alford’s didn’t do this. It stayed simple but just did everything so well. Bacon not too salty, sausage plump and browned, mushrooms/scrambled eggs good and buttery, proper thick cut non-supermarket bread, toasted on a grill instead of a toaster. The Hickory smoked BBQ sauce on the tables was a welcome accompaniment too. I’m so pleased to find a breakfast which isn’t trying to be anything but breakfast but does everything really well and without clogging the arteries too much. I love the St Giles breakfast but I did appreciate having thicker than supermarket bread and non-‘plastic’ sausages. And the coffee was good too!
Anyway, I have no objection to fancy. As long as it’s proper-interesting instead of just trying to set itself apart by adding some green where none was necessary. Caravan did this very well. After failing to find Clerkenwell Kitchen, a friend and I went in search of Exmouth market. We had a little wait for the table which we spent salivating over the menu and trying to match up menu options with what was being brought out.
I had the ham, poached eggs, hollandaise sauce and bubble and squeak. Friend went for something very different: baked eggs with red pepper ragout and avocado toast. 
It’s really impressive that Caravan can do such different styles of foods equally well. We also had cocktails as a result of a discussion about the ‘boozy brunch’ which a friend living in New York had told me about. The waitress commented that I was touching the poached eggs quite tentatively. I was just psyched about breaking it open. Soft-but-hard then soft yolk, perfect. To begin with I thought the ham was a slice of ham on toast. It turns out the ‘toast’ was all ham. A thick, smoky slab. I was so pleased! 
This was a good weekend for breakfast foods.


  1. Right, I would like you to write a review of a breakfast at NB Room VII staircase I. October. Many thanks, M

  2. The theme is simplicity! Dayesford organic scrambled eggs perhaps!