S & M Cafe, Spitalfields
48 Brushfield St
020 7247 2552
by Malcolm Eggs
Friday morning in Spitalfields, East London. It’s 9am to be precise.
The very last delivery truck is leaving, and as far as my eye can see are hoards of fruit and vegetables, piled high into flamboyant pyramid-shaped displays. A flat-capped trader struts across the road, booting a grubby, discarded old apple as he goes and... Oh! Sorry, my mistake. Look how low his trousers are: he’s a local hipster. And in fact, on closer inspection, the truck is from an artisan bakery. They’ve just dropped off a few designer tarts at Patisserie Valerie. But of course – it’s 2008, not 1958, and actually nothing I can see even remotely resembles a pyramid of fruit. No excuse for that one.
S & M Cafe must be acting like a pair of 50s-tinted spectacles, all those mock-gingham plastic tablecloths and framed adverts for Bird’s Custard. A Winston Churchill plate on the wall, ducks-in-flight plates too. They really have pulled out all the stops to synthesise a bygone version of England, one that is now of course completely extinct, unless you go to Rossi round the corner.
The pastiche even sort of extends to the food, which hits the exact average of every full English ever served by any caff anywhere. The fried egg is a pin-up model (and I’ll be damned if she doesn’t know it) and her boyfriend the sausage is as handsome as you’d expect from a popular sausage outlet. Sadly they are let down by the company they keep: the beans being tepid, the bacon being that strange purple-ish bacon you get sometimes, the bubble and squeak being just a bit too true to the 1950s.
The radio is playing Oasis and outside a blues band sets up their kit.