Orient EspressO, Borough
59-61 Borough High Street
0207 7407 6266
by Bree Oche
Borough on a drizzly Sunday is a depressing place. The Saturday hustle of the market a lingering memory, the streets are sparsely scattered with lost tourists and harried-looking locals. It was with great disappointment that I registered the Sunday closure of Harpers, a friendly-looking Italian spoon whose neon “Full English £3.70” had been whetting my appetite for some time. A slightly soggy hangover scrum ensued, the result being a table for two in the colourful and slightly manic Orient EspressO.
The café exuded the potent whiff of a youth hostel or college canteen, the tables covered with a montage of tourist mockery and popular culture icons, plastered down with sticky backed plastic. Despite there being no Full English, a dose of Eggs Benedict clocked in at a mere £3.50, whilst the friendly atmosphere and brightly lettered blackboards lent the room and feeling of heartfelt sincerity. A quarter of an hour after ordering, our coffees finally appeared on the distant horizon of the service counter, the sole waitress / barista / chef coping remarkably well under the obvious duress of staff shortages. Despite her best efforts however, the quality of the food was another matter.
What I was presented with was the kind of meal one would expect to stumble across in a McDonalds, should they ever decide to create ‘Eggs McBenedict’ - two rubbery poached eggs perched lopsidedly on a fold of cold ham on a semi-toasted English muffin, drowning in a sea of yellow, packet-mixed Hollandaise sauce. Oh, with a side of toast and blackcurrant jam, on the same plate, also sat in the Hollandaise. Fittingly, there was also a shortage of actual cutlery in the building, so I had to make do with the dreaded plastic variety.
Five minutes and one broken fork later, I physically could not bring myself to continue eating. The mere memory of the slimy, solid eggs and the puckered skin of the sauce turns my stomach even now. Indeed, as a way of comparison, I even began to believe that the combination of jam and Hollandaise was actually pretty good. Enough said.