The Grocery, Shoreditch
54-56 Kingsland Road
020 7729 6855
by Des Ayuno
I wanted to hate the Grocery, an earnest supplier of organic puy lentils and 18 varieties of tofu metres from the edge of the UK’s poorest borough. But I knew I had to give its café a fair chance. The kitchen was set up by the magnificent Elaine, ex of Smallfish. Elaine once told me of a customer who complained that his breakfast was “dry” and demanded beans to remedy this problem. She frog-marched him out. Such conviction demands admiration.
M, J and I racked up late one Sunday and settled at beautiful, solid oak, country-kitchen tables. For at least half an hour we waited, without even tea to wet parched throats, though the surprise appearance of a bedraggled-looking Kevin Rowland cheered us no end. (He didn’t eat; just browsed the papers quietly.) By the time he ambled out, our food arrived. The lone waitress, already sitting down with her own lunch, handed over the brown sauce with a growl; the requested red never appeared.
As is the fashion these days, a tower of full-English ingredients was buttressed by toast and topped with a poached egg. With the exception of a very dry sausage (come on, Elaine!) all was juicily, flavourfully moreish – in fact, I nearly demanded more tomato than the miserly half offered. But it was the toast about which I still dream. Savoury sourdough, easily an inch thick, it was drenched in olive oil and transported us all to some sun-kissed Tuscan hillside. On a scale from “For god’s sake burn it down” to “I’m in heaven”, the toast trumped the dreadful service to secure the café a rating of “More please and thank you”. But when the waitress sprayed eco-disinfectant on the table, and my arm, the team that meets in the caffs headed home.