Nice Croissant, Wanstead
119A High Street
Wanstead E11 2RL
020 8530 1129
by Egon Toast
The reveille is sounded for authentic British cuisine: that bespectacled chap Blumenthal is, as ever, at the forefront, his latest offering a meticulously researched trip across the UK’s historical palate. I can’t wait for the man to bring out a range of goodies aimed at the working man – ‘HB Sauce’, perhaps, a taste of the real, historic London, underscored with notes of tanners’ yards and stevedore sweat.
Out on the city’s periphery, blasted by economic imperatives, instances of venison scotch eggs or poached ling are thin on the ground – instead, the closest we get to heritage nosh is the dear old Full English, and the pie and mash shop. Wanstead High Street has one such example of the latter, an immaculate shrine to a food long past its sell-by date. But just down the road lies something even more delicious – a still-extant example of those first whispers of culinary exoticism from which we now flee.
‘Nice Croissant’ is big on wordplay, and le petit dej. Your favourite breakfast components – pork, cheese, egg – feature heavily, but instead of sitting on a pile of chips or a sea of beans, they’re shoved into a buttery crescent. They’ve picked up the boule and they’ve run with it.
So, I ordered a croque monsieur. Testing their range.
The bread was of the ilk that lives sweating in placcy bags on supermarket shelves, so had dessicated unpleasantly after its grilling. The bechamel carried few hints of excitement, but was sufficiently gooey, if unevenly spread. The ham: pellucid. Barely there. The cheese warmed proceedings up. It always does.
So – not a total dîner de chien, just slightly disappointing. But to improve matters, my latte arrived in one of those curvaceous mini-vases that seem to have fallen from favour, all moues and frothiness, giving the glad eye to my dining partner’s yeomanly mug of tea.
Beside us, some grandparents were treating the young ‘uns to a milkshake. Grandpère, middle finger eagerly following croissant detritus around his plate, listened patiently to tales from home and school. He looked askance at my latte, as every right-thinking elderly gentleman should: “Don’t take it too far, mate – this is Britain, not the bleedin' continent”.