The Haberdashery, Stoke Newington

The Haberdashery in newly gentrified Stoke Newington, an urban village teeming with quality micro eating establishments, may indeed have once been a haberdashery (they have a few cotton reels and a few other accessories by the door.)  However, the stripped-back decor has revealed glorious old tiling on the walls, suggesting a previous life maybe as a chippie or a pie and mash shop.  Sadly that detail is not provided on the website, but it does come with a list of promises of the two establishments, the other being in equally fashionable Crouch End:

  • We source fresh and seasonal ingredients
  • We create wholesome and indulgent recipes
  • We are passionate about coffee (“coffees from Brick Lane’s Nude espresso micro-roasters”)
  • We like a good party
  • We have an eclectic and vintage decor
  • We support our communities.

It also proudly displays a list of glittering awards and reviews, including these:

  • Best Coffee Shop in London, London Lifestyle Awards, Grazia Magazine
  • London’s Best Breakfasts, Time Out – 7 Best North London
  • London’s Best Brunches & Best Vegetarian Restaurants Evening Standard
  • UK’s 50 Best Cheap Eats, The Independent.

Clearly this cafe has its fans, all the more reason to go see what the fuss is about, even if they don’t quite party 24 by 7.

They do, however, stay true to their word about eclectic vintage furniture (which extends to the vintage crockery too).  In a fine dining establishment you might complain about the rough and ready interior, but here it is part of the character, down to asking the waiter for some cardboard to prop up a wonky table.

This is a small place, tables fairly close together, but somehow that helps it retain the characteristic ambience of an old fashioned café, though better than the dreary old commercial cafés you might remember from the 60s.  It has the sort of atmosphere you can’t paint on by the yard: authenticity is now name of the game in the restaurant business, chains and brewery makeovers notwithstanding.  I say café, but it also keeps to the spirit of true French brasseries, being open all day for meals, coffees, juices and a few wines, beers and cocktails for later.

On this visit it was brunch we sought, starting with coffees and progressing to proper breakfasts.  My black Americano, served in a mug in the same way as recently experienced in Tomfoolery at 34, was far better than that served in the Alderley Edge diner but could still have given a stronger hit of caffeine to purse the lips.  Since I wanted black coffee, it would also have been welcome had they filled the mug to the brim rather than leaving room for milk, but that’s a minor beef.

We ate one full English and one eggs Benedict made with spinach.  Immediate good signs were properly hand-poached eggs and what appeared to be exactly the right quantity of home-made hollandaise, a sauce that can go badly wrong in the hands of lazy kitchen staff.  Keep whisking as you warm in a bain marie and the eggs will not curdle, but will thicken into a pleasing yellow sauce, as here.

My fried eggs stayed in the pan marginally too long, such that the yolks just slipped past the runny stage, while not setting into tough yellow cannonballs.  Even the best restaurants get that wrong once in a while, so no criticism.

The rest of the breakfast was absolutely ace: homemade hash browns (not crispy but certainly tasty), perfectly griddled bacon, what looked more like a bratwurst than a traditional English sausage (boiled then griddled maybe?), grilled portobello mushroom and tomato that actually tasted of tomato; also two huge slices of wholemeal sourdough toast, possibly from the local craft bakeries where I later bought an excellent white sourdough loaf.  The cakes on display will tempt many, perfect for afternoon teas.

Value for money?  Good for food, though coffee on a par with Starbucks (ie. not cheap): four drinks and two breakfasts came in at £28.  This is the however kind of food, drink, atmosphere and service I welcome and support where possible, since it provides the best available without indulging in highfaluting snobbery, and keeping the menu simple – but then, shouldn’t every restaurant and diner keep menus simple but take infinite care to get every dish spot on? Way better a place like this than a chain.

Not hard to see why the Haberdashery has won awards, though I would have to sample a lot more to see whether it wins the Millward award for excellence above all others.  A very rare and sought-after award, that one! 😀

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