Wild Cherry, Bethnal Green
241 Globe Rd
020 8980 6678
by Joyce Carol Oats
I am meant to be in Chicago this Bank Holiday weekend, eating spongey pancakes drowned in sticky brown syrup that tastes of twenty different E-numbers, accompanied by my nice ex-boyfriend and the faint hope that Ira Glass might turn up in the diner. But alas! A twist of fate has left me in Bethnal Green - usually my favourite place on the planet, but not when I'm meant to be in Chicago. To simulate the experience I crave, I decide to breakfast at Wild Cherry: they do a passable American-style pancake, albeit with a maple syrup that doesn't require quotation marks.
Wild Cherry is a not-for-profit operation, run by the London Buddhist Centre, which is next door. And maybe this is why the service is so appalling. The staff members get orders wrong, fail to bring food altogether, or sometimes just blink and smile beatifically. It's the kind of behaviour that would make me very short-tempered anywhere else, but here it makes me sigh affectionately and think, 'Oh, you guys' in a way not dissimilar to how I regard my untrainable but lovable border collie.
The breakfast menu - only served on Saturdays – has two things worth eating. There are pancakes with fruit, maple syrup and mascarpone (and variations thereof), or a vegetarian full English affair which includes by far the best scrambled eggs I've ever had the pleasure of interacting with: fluffy and not greasy and decorated with chopped fresh chives. I assume they are the product of zen hens. There is also some kind of muesli, but I have never seen anyone order it (what kind of person orders muesli in a restaurant?) and a choice of wraps that look less than delightful.
The garden outside is non-smoking, which pleases me, since I am an asthmatic square. When the pancakes arrive they are a little thinner than usual, like someone forgot to add the leavening agent because he was thinking about more spiritual things. But they are still whole wheat-y and delicious, topped what must be more than £6.25 worth of chopped seasonal fresh fruit alone, a generous blob of thick mascarpone, and a glistening pool of syrup that was once actually part of a tree. I am sad that the café upgraded its old drip coffee maker (free refills) to an espresso machine (non free refills, and tastes burnt). But munching my way through the pancakes and reading an interesting essay on Beckett in the New York Review of Books, I think: OK, no Ira Glass, or E-numbers, or ex-boyfriend. But almost.