The Most Important Meal Of The Day
I think Hackney must be approaching cafe critical mass. Kingsland High Street is lined with Turkish cafes, Church Street has got the yummy mummy market covered, Broadway Market has got a bit of everything crammed in there and at the weekend I read that Chatsworth Road has now reached saturation too. Cafes are also springing up all over the borough in less obvious places. Towpath have managed to carve out a cafe in a tiny bit of frontage on the Regent’s Canal, two have sprung up on Wilton Way and now Mouse & De Lotz have opened up at a slightly stranded location on Shacklewell Lane. It has the ubiquitous grey sign and nice, minimal decor and, to be honest, it stands out like a sore thumb. Fingers crossed it lasts because it is a nice place but it wasn’t exactly busy when I went last Sunday (and, although the service was very friendly, I do question the wisdom of insisting that your customers order at the counter when your cafe is empty).
It has an extremely limited menu, presumably through necessity but very much the opposite end of the spectrum to the Turkish cafes just round corner, so I skipped straight to the lunch section and ordered cheese on toast. This was a massive success: two wodges of sourdough, slathered in mustard, loads of cheese, tomato slices humming with worcester sauce and even a bit of chutney as well. When I’m served something like this it makes me wish all restaurants would hack their menus down and pour their love into a few dishes.
Then again, I am a fickle thing; I do like to rove around a menu and there is precious little chance of that here. Mouse & De Lotz strikes me as much more of a coffee house for composing your novel than a cafe for eating off your hangover. Perhaps it is a bit too sophisticated for me which could also be said of Homa on Church Street where I had breakfast yesterday. In a typical Sunday morning outfit of hoodie and stained trousers, I felt decidedly under-dressed. They welcomed me with open arms nonetheless.
The split-level building used to be a basement bar and pizzeria but they have completely overhauled it and now there is a cafe upstairs and restaurant downstairs. I think, I didn’t go downstairs and there there is a slightly confusing sense that Homa is trying to be all things to all eaters (the website is equally vague). Usually this would be a warning sign but I think they’ve pulled it off. It helps that the refurbisment is absolutely wonderful, mixing contemporary with antique in a way that is easy to get wrong but looks so good when it works. So there are high gloss yellow plastic units and dark wood cabinets as well as reclaimed wooden counter with lots of stools and lots of sockets for the manuscript wrestling coffee drinkers.
This aesthetic and the underlying care taken with it applies to the smaller things too. My tea was served in ex-hotel silver (the teapot came from the Ritz, the milk jug from Claridges) which could have seemed pretentious but actually charmed me completely. It was a also a bargain as the pot was big enough to have served two. I then kept with the hotel vibe by ordering egg Florentine with smoked salmon which was another generous portion and perfectly presented and cooked.
If Homa was just high-end hotel breakfast without the hotel that would be good enough but I suspect it is lots of other things as well. I will have to return for a proper investigation.