Leo's Café and Restaurant, Dalston
12 Stoke Newington Road
020 7254 5952
by Megan Bacon
There is no middle ground at Leo's. Everyone is either happy or sad, insane or fashionable, young or old. We choose to feed our hangovers at this no-frills Dalston greasy spoon because it shares its name with Leo Johnson, one of our favourite characters in Twin Peaks. You know, the one who beat his waitress wife with a soap-in-a-sock. (Hopefully no such thing occurs in the backrooms of Leo's: the staff are so lovely that it must mask some inner darkness.)
We sit ourselves at a table by the window, in a prime location to be tutted over by Leo's very own Statler and Waldorf (from ‘The Muppets’), two old grumpy hecklers who point and bitch in the direction of anyone who walks through the door. In one corner, a lone man cackles over his mad breakfast of plain toast and Coke. A group of suited young men eat chicken and rice, whispering suspiciously to each other. Two semi-famous indie band members wolf down their food with some bird off the telly, who talks loudly about celebrities she has met.
By the time our food arrives, our heads are practically spinning. The coffee is more like a coffee-flavoured milkshake, three-quarters milk, the rest sugar. Delicious. The Set Meal 1 has everything. There’s a perfectly gloopy fried egg, basic beans, subtle tomatoes, a sausage that tastes a bit cheap, but in a good way - but the star is the bacon: tender but crispy and dreamily salty. Suddenly, the sun shines through the window, as bright and yellow as an egg yolk. The telly bird has left. Even Statler and Waldorf flash me a smile. Leo's breakfast won't win any prizes, but surely this is what happiness is all about.