The Floral Hall
0845 034 7300
by T.N. Toost
Malcolm recognized me from my pictures online, shouting “Mr. Toost!” when I passed the London Bridge newsstand. We embraced and walked through Borough Market to Roast. Its cathedral-like dining room was populated with businesspeople and dealmakers and one other guy who looked out of place, like us.
“I’m glad someone else is wearing a t-shirt,” I whispered, and Malcolm grinned.
It was somewhat awkward to peruse the menu and try to keep a conversation going at the same time, but we managed, making small talk about the options. Ten-year-old tea what? That sounds Chinese and I thought this is a purely English establishment. It either makes no sense orrrr there’s 10-year-old tea on the menu and it’s not a purely English establishment... There was no point, really, as there was no question as to what we would be ordering.
“Full English, please.” £15.00. He wasn’t a cheap date.
“And one for myself as well, thanks.” Neither was I.
It’s a distinct feature of this generation that people can correspond for years without ever meeting face-to-face and, when it finally happens, real conversation can be awkward. There were at least two points at which I wished we’d had computers; emailing would have felt more normal. Proper conversation over proper coffee is a precious commodity, though, and soon everything started to feel more normal.
Besides, we didn’t have much time for awkwardness; the food came out before we’d had time to take three sips of coffee.
“Fantastic,” I said as I saw the waitress approaching.
“Shit,” Malcolm said after she’d left.
What he had immediately realized was that serving speed is not a virtue here as it is in the States, where we want things fast and damn the consequences. Speed means that the food was reheated rather than cooked to order. If you shell out £15 for a full English, you should be served just-picked tomatoes and mushrooms, homemade sausage, beans hand-selected and matched for aesthetic consistency, bacon cut from a live pig and eggs still smelling like a hen’s hooha.
Which is not what we got. The eggs were warm, bordering on hot. The bacon yielded flaccidly to my teeth. In a £15 breakfast, the mushroom should make you hallucinate; we got a non-descript portobello. The sausage had a crisp outer shell but the inside cloyed to our gums and cheeks. The blood sausage was admittedly delicious, but knowing that Roast is widely considered to serve the best breakfast in London, this was a consolation as lukewarm as the food.
We left; I think Malcolm felt a bit embarrassed at having taken me there. He had said that he needed a special occasion to go to Roast, and that my visit was it. I hope he doesn't invite me there next time, as that would be an elaborate insult of the kind that email can never convey.