Mouse & de Lotz Cafe, Dalston
103 Shacklewell Lane
0203 489 8082
by Jane Rasher
As a former resident of Shacklewell Lane, I'd been feeling a tad ambivalent about Mouse & de Lotz. You know, out of that jaded sensibility that takes hold once you've lived in an inner-city neighbourhood long enough to pre-date its most recent innovators: 'But I was here first!' your inner pioneer wails. 'In the mornings of old, I used to be greeted by yellow bulletin boards crying murder, not a quaintly chalked menu offering sun dried tomato sandwiches, Square Mile coffee and zucchini cake.' Well, yes, but you didn't set up a light and airy deli-caff in a disused shop, did you? Well, no.
And with that realisation, I walked the 15 minutes from my ever so slightly grittier new neighbourhood, back down memory lane to breakfast with a former flatmate. Feeling like locals, we compared recollections of the 'bad old days' of 2007 and pondered the march of the artisan eatery and the impact on the area's traditional Turkish stronghold. Variety, we decided, was the spice of Dalston and who were we to stand, po-faced, in the way of multicultural entrepreneurship such as that of Nadia Mousawi and Victoria de Lotz? Well we'd be fools not to appreciate the good taste and humour that can couple mismatched charity shop-salvage tea cups with vintage postcards bearing such punchy annotations as 'Jesus was a cross dresser.'
I made a similarly un-PC faux pas when mispronouncing my order of Bircher muesli as if it related to Islamic dress. Not so clever now are we? But the waiter took it with good grace and tactfully explained the soaking process that distinguished the uncooked oat concoction from your Alpens and your Jordans. I was presented with a snazzy almond, passion fruit & natural yoghurt variation on Dr. Bircher-Benner's 1890s recipe; part sharp bite from the gem-like pulp, seed & flake topping, part milky, gloopy goodness beneath. My muesli was served up in a recycled Bonne Maman jam jar, which I think would improve most things, from flowers to frogspawn (which, if we're going for the gross-out vote, my brekkie did slightly resemble). Together with its deservedly reputed restorative effects, however, it was the perfect comfort food accompaniment to a lengthy monologue on the twin peaks and troughs of career and romance. By the time Esther could bear to listen no longer, this marvellous mush can only have improved. Would that more of life's pleasures were as amenable to distraction, and for £3.50 at that.