Belle Epoque, Newington Green
37 Newington Green
by Phil English
The average LRB correspondent strikes me as a stout and wholesome figure, the kind of chap or gal who starts the day with a breakfast that would sustain a Victorian infantryman on the march to Balaclava, Cawnpore or Rorke's Drift. The tendency on these pages is towards the more gut- and hangover-busting medleys of egg and porker; a menu policy to which, as my name suggests, I generally lend my full support.
The breakfast at Belle Epoque was not, however, your usual LRB plateful. The Victorian infantryman might have been able to teach a Frenchman a thing or two about bayoneting but, as is invariably the case, the French lead the field in starting the day with finesse.
In my humble opinion the fact that there is only one breakfast option available here speaks volumes for Gallic style and (justified) self-confidence. I would undoubtedly have erred and chosen something more robust had it been available. But, there was only "Le breakfast basket" - and it was an absolute triumph. Four slices of lightly toasted rustic-yet-refined French bread accompanied by delicious Beurre D'Isigny and Bonne Maman strawberry jam were ample for a Tuesday morning. There was also a generous measure of freshly squeezed orange juice and a large cappuccino soaring with cocoa-dusted foam. All this for £4.25 which, I think you'll agree, is an absolute steal in this city of two quid mochas and innocent smoothies.
The venue is a delight as well - light and spacious and airy, with a garden for brighter, less February-ish days. As you would expect there are also pastries and cakes; and you can even buy some quintessential French iron rations, such as asparagus in a jar and tinned cassoulet. There's French music on the stereo and the language itself being spoken by staff and customers. Frankly, who needs the Eurostar?