Cafe SO, Tower 42, Broadgate
25 Old Broad Street
London EC2N 1HQ
by Bloody Mary
Today, I breakfasted where I work - a security threat called Tower 42. It is my favourite skyscraper in London, a scored metal behemoth shaped in the celtic bud of the Nat West symbol, with a proud glowing blue head. Tower 42 used to be the tallest building in London but whilst it now stoops limply beneath Canary Wharf, its style keeps it firmly entrenched in Londoners' affections. Eerily, floor 13 of the tower does not exist - or rather, it is physically there, but in permanent darkness. No lifts stop there and the fire escapes block it off. Rumours of CIA/MI5/FSB headquarters abound.
The new Cafe SO at the bottom of the Tower is a "deli cafe". A deli cafe is a US freemarket invention, minus any nod to US customer service. A purchase involves pointing and grunting at someone dressed in plastic who probably hates you, in order to make up "sandwiches" from filmy, multicoloured filling variations plus mayonnaise, a choice of iceberg or a tomato slice, served on any of a choice of breads (all of which seemed to be bagels). Pre-coffee, it’s an imposing assault course. I know how to point at things, as I am a brilliant shopper. However, I am a terrible cook. I don’t know how foods like to be combined. This is why I go to restaurants.
Big steel army vats of “fried breakfast” were a nice addition to the sparse sandwich “bar”. The sausages looked sizzlingly hot and everything was sparklingly clean. It is difficult to miscombine a fryup, but I only knew everything was clean because most of the vats seemed to be empty. This at 8.30, their busiest time.
Though the staff were friendlier than anticipated, it’s unavoidably claustrophobic to breakfast at the bottom of a skyscraper. The heaviness of the floors above you, suits around you and hours before you weigh on your choices. I panicked. I chose anything that looked pretty. I pointed at prawns, then at an inoffensive bagel, then at cheese. This didn't taste as good as I had hoped. Thankfully the coffee - hot, strong and foamy - washed away the taste.
Café SO is challenging. Some people like challenges, but I’m afraid I need more help with breakfast. I might have to leave the plotting to the spies on the thirteenth floor.