The Shepherdess Cafe, Shoreditch
221 City Road
Shoreditch EC1V 1JN
020 7253 2463
by Brannie Hall
***London Review of Breakfasts News Flash***
The full English at the Shepherdess Cafe in City Road, London, won the title of “Best Builders’ Breakfast in Britain” on 26 November 2012, beating out the eggs, bacon, beans, and chips of eateries in Bolton, St Leonards-On-Sea, Durham, and SW1. MyBuilder.com surveyed thousands of breakfast-eaters in the building trades about their favorite morning cafés, restaurants or food vans. The Shepherdess is popular with culinary luminaries such as Jamie Oliver and staff from the Moorfields Eye Hospital as well as those working on nearby building sites (not, presumably, Eagle House, that monument to the financial crisis of 2008, a giant empty structure that was supposed to open in 2010 as one of the largest recent private residential developments in Shoreditch but which has sat nearby, half-finished, for years).
The proprietor of the Shepherdess, Nick Menagatos, was presented with a trophy at a breakfast celebration in late November. A regular said of the Shepherdess that “there is always a warm welcome, they use the best bacon for their fry-ups, and there is always a good mix of people.”
- Brannie Hall
Well, I'm from Oregon, USA, and I ran across your review looking up the lyrics for a song I used to sing at camp (in the 1950s!), called “Walk Shepherdess Walk” (one of my favorite camp songs - beautiful!). While reading, I came across the term "Fry-up" - does this mean just what it sounds like - fried food? Can you tell me more about the British specialities at the Shepherdess Café? I've never been "across the pond," but that IS on my "to-do" list - after the fjords, that is!
2:15 AM, December 16, 2012
Brannie Hall said:
Welcome. I am glad your search for nostalgic mid-century campfire songs led you to this site. The term “fry-up” does, in fact, refer to fried food; specifically, it denotes cold food heated up in a frying pan, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. The OED also places its origins in the 1960s, citing sources such as Elleston Trevor’s 1968 novel A Place for the Wicked, in which a character says, “Are you hungry?...We'll have a fry-up, shall we?” One kind of fry-up is the “full English breakfast,” often shortened to “full English,” which includes back bacon, eggs, fried tomatoes, fried mushrooms, fried bread or toast, sausages and baked beans, and a mug of tea.
This is what I ordered at the Shepherdess Cafe on a recent visit. (Technically, I ordered “eggs, bacon, tom’s & mushrooms” with a side of beans and a tea and stole some of a friend’s sausage. I got chips as a garnish. Nice.) The food at the Shepherdess, happily, is as straightforward as the term “fry-up.” It is not a place where the waitress would ask if you have any questions about the menu, such as, “Could you please tell me what cardoons are?” or “Where do you source your chicken?” It is fairly impossible to ask questions about the menu at the Shepherdess Cafe, which, next to each omelette listed, includes a parenthetical assurance about the plentiful number of eggs used in each (3 eggs) as well as a note at the bottom of the omelette category that reminds diners that each omelette contains 3 eggs. I did not order an omelette, 3-egg or not. I fully enjoyed my runny, bright-yellow-yolked eggs, which they happily and competently poached, my tasty bacon, my friend's hearty sausage, and my plentiful beans, all served at the correct temperature. The tomatoes & mushrooms could have been a bit more assertively grilled. The coffee was weak and the tea strong (“builders’ tea,” as it is known in the UK). The checked curtains are painted on.
Staff were friendly and efficient, yelling over orders from table to counter, and food appeared nearly instantaneously. My friend ordered green tea and was the subject of many solicitous questions about her health from fellow diners, one of whom told us about her childhood in Turkey. HappyCamper, when you visit London, I hope you find time for a breakfast at the Shepherdess Cafe. It’ll be just what you need after a trip to the fjords.
PS: The lyrics to “Walk Shepherdess Walk” are:
Walk, Shepherdess, walk, and I'll walk too
To find the ram with the ebony horn and the gold footed ewe
The lamb with the fleece of silver, like summer sea foam
And the wether with the crystal bell that leads them all home.
Walk, Shepherdess, Walk, and I'll walk too,
And if we never find them, I shan't mind, shall you?
Question for you: what is a wether? Oh, I see. A castrated male sheep.