If you wanted to follow the buzz on the street to choose a venue for your brunch in east London, chances are you would find yourself in the Good Egg, certainly because it’s a cool place to eat, definitely because it serves very fresh and unpretentious food. A friend has become a regular and was dying to take me, as much to read my review as anything else.
There’s no doubt Good Egg stands out from the crowd, which at 93 Church Street, Stoke Newington puts it in the heart of where it’s at for ambitious restaurants. I also like that they have developed with sympathy a building with character and history, as thoughtfully described on GE’s website blog (see here.)
But it’s not just become another British upmarket caff either, as with the nearby Haberdashery, but marked by influences including Israel and the Middle East, Montreal, California and beyond – and doubtless reflecting a trend started by the Ottolenghi, whose empire includes an eatery in nearby Spitalfields and whose breakfast menu looks decidedly similar to GE.
That the menu is not standard British fare is fine by me, but what I definitely approve of is the attention to detail that comes with top quality bread, good strong coffee, tantalising cocktails – in fact, doing stuff properly.
To illustrate this, it’s worth mentioning that since we had not booked there was a wait for a table, which gave us an opportunity to observe what everybody was eating and drinking. To a nearby table, the charming waitress brought a plate of scrambled eggs on toast; chives apart this was a very simple plate, yet it contrived to be both welcomingly generous, perfectly cooked (which is to say, properly creamy with scrambled chunks), and the deep yellow colour that only comes with the very best eggs money can buy (Burford Browns), short of keeping hens out the back.
Ah yes, the eggs; with a name like The Good Egg you would expect plenty to be knocking around. From our table we could see above the nearby cooking station immaculate white-shelled eggs piled up, and by the back door stacks of boxes, each containing 15 dozen. In fact, they also provide excellent evening dinners, so I hear, but at brunch eggs are king, as witnessed on the weekday brunch menu.
The narrow interior is relaxed, the stripped back floor and tables supplemented by shelves housing wines, fruits, preserved foods and more besides. On the other side the bar, kitchen and coffee/cocktail station are hives of industry, or appear so at first sight. The atmosphere is mellow and laid back, which is probably what you want for brunch – unless you are late for work.
Our drinks came quickly: Bloody Sunshine (tequila, horseradish, lemon & yellow tomato juice) for me and “seasonal fizz” involving elderflower and lemon for my friend, plus a black Americano for me since my caffeine levels were not yet topped up. The cocktails were a good idea, even without the need for hair of the dog. Both enlivened tastebuds, and the bloody sunshine certainly gave a horseradish kick.
Two slight disappointments to report: one was that they were apparently out of merguez sausage to accompany the signature Shakshuka (now a London-Med brunch standard since Ottolenghi’s arrival: baked eggs with with tomato and peppers, preserved lemon yoghurt & sumac), so I had to make do with halloumi; and the kitchen was leisurely in its turnaround, which could have been an issue given that we had tickets booked in mid-afternoon. In fact, the timing of my photos demonstrate a 25 minute gap between the arrival of drinks and the food, which I am assured is longer than typical.
That apart, everything was splendid. The halloumi looked like deep fried tofu from the outside but gave a cheesy hit on the inside. The eggs with a tomatoey base and yogurty coating, were delicious; plaudits too for the fact that supplies of the promised challah roll had also dwindled, but the slices of toasted sourdough with butter and a splodge of pesto were, if anything, better.
Without the cocktails we would have been looking at a £24 brunch, but even with them it was a not cheap but far from unreasonable £40. As always, my policy is that I am happy to pay a good sum so long as the establishment has its heart in the right place and endeavours to do things right. On this ticklist, you’ll be glad to hear GE scores good marks.
Good Egg is not perfect, but it certainly hits enough top notes to justify a second visit and especially on being the place to go late morning in Stoke Newington. Next step will be to try the evening meal, particularly the attractive Montreal smoked short ribs, currently all the rage, though personally I can easily find more things to try on the day menu (Montreal Smoked Meat Hash springs to mind) – particularly if they add some side dishes so we can customise our brunch.