New River Cafe, Stoke Newington
271 Stoke Newington Church St
020 7923 9842
by Malcolm Eggs
Thanks to Fiona, a reader via Londonist, for pointing us in the direction of the New River Café. It’s on the North end of Stoke Newington Church St, very near to where the Stoke Newington of the jazz dad becomes the Highbury of the folk father, or the Newington Green of the dub uncle. Through enormous windows Mabel Syrup and I watched a cold bright dawdling Wednesday unfold in a post-Christmas Clissold Park stuffed with dogs and children and lightly seasoned with snow and, yes, real-life reindeer. The walls held tinsel-framed mirrors and also paintings, one of a princess on a medieval shore near a palace, another of maritime warfare. It was classic décor ambiguity for a midbrow caff: this was to be a normal breakfast.
All set breakfasts are between £3.20 and £4.85. I asked for a ‘number two’ (sausage, bacon, fried egg, beans, tomato, toast, plus tea or coffee) with extra hash browns, she for the first vegetarian option (vegetarian sausage, scrambled eggs, hash browns, beans, mushrooms, plus tea or coffee). What we received was neither very bad nor very good. My egg was a decent over-easy and the hash browns were the right kind of crunchy. But Mabel’s scrambled egg was overcooked, her mushrooms non-descript and there were tomato-based issues for us both: nebulous, watery tomatoes and over-juiced beans, which threatened to flood the entire plate, even overflow onto the table. The bacon had an undercooked appearance, but it turned out to be recorded specimen (1) of an intriguing phenomenon: ‘closet crispy’.
The plates we left weren’t empty but the walk home was pleasant, briefly joining the 27-mile New River Path from which the café takes its name. A pretension-free breakfast with a nice view but there’s better cooking, we hear, to be sampled in either direction.