Hackney Bureau, Hackney
3 Mare St
020 8533 6083
by Typhoo Mary
I mooched my way to brunch, the first time in Hackney for four years, beyond the beginning of the Saturday kerfuffle of Broadway Market, arriving at the Bureau in a slightly detached frame of mind.
There were chilled beats and big bay windows, allowing one to gaze out at the multitudes of white vans roaring past on a soggy Mare Street. There was a lot of light wood: cork floors, mixed and matched tables and chairs with an open plan kitchen. Above my head, it looked like someone had pulled the ceiling down and thought – bare boards, bare lightbulbs, concrete I-beams, protruding nails and visible trap doors – that looks GREAT, let’s just leave it like that. If Rachel Whiteread visited, she’d embalm it all in resin.
I thought that for my first LRB review, I should go traditional with a full English (£8.50). I decided on poached eggs, and there was not a flicker of disapproval when I asked for fried tomato rather than black pudding. The veggy option, £7.50 had also looked tempting, with mashed up avocado and sourdough bread. Another option, truffled mushrooms, had also appealed, although the mention of rocket should have been a warning for what was to come.
The French chef bore more than a passing resemblance to Matt the Horn from the Blues Brothers sans hair net and saxophone. The waitress made a comment about the distance to her art studio. A father and his sons came in silently, in football strips, presumably from a Vicky Park practice. The boys looked miserable. Perhaps their team had lost. Perhaps their dad was the coach. He looked stern as he barked at them as to whether they wanted bacon rolls. Which were not on the chalk board menu… Regulars then? A small child gleefully was sat in the window pulling a huge croissant into piles of decorative crumbs. His beatific American mother carefully sipped her soy latte.
The counter groaned under a huge pile of pastries. I am always suspicious when there are so many cakes – are they fresh is my question… But I suspect one of my usual companions to brunch, Edwardian Man, would have been pleased at the breadth of selection. But he was in Russia with his lady, so he’ll have to wait.
Artist/Waitress cheerfully delivered my breakfast. The poached eggs looked perfect, the tomatoes golden, the bacon crispy, and although the sausage was cut in two to be fried flat on a hotplate (not aesthetically pleasing please note chefs – it indicates a need-for-speed over traditional means) it looked home-made or at least well-sourced so I was pacified. The baked beans were home-made, carrots and beetroot ahoy, and were DELICIOUS. (I first came across baked beans with veg in my stalwart Little Georgia, and these beans could give them a run for their money). The bread was glorious. But hold on, wait a moment, what’s this… Oh dear god. SALAD? Salad with DRESSING?
Like vampire films, brunch will always have its variety on the core themes – different riffs on bread, bacon, black pudding, baked beans, but never in my life have I seen a full English with a handful of salad garnish. Dressed garnish no less. These were jolly leaves, and they looked like they were dressed well – but in my book the only thing green on a brunch platter should be wilted spinach with eggs Florentine. Et c’est TOUT! Edwardian Man would have sniffed. I, in turn, did not touch the jolly salad.
I had a second coffee, which was much better than the first, and a teeny blueberry friand from the mound of cakes. It was fresh. It was delicious. It gave me that brunch pudding hit I love.
A bevy of men came in. They all looked French. Some ordered coffee. Their arrival had pushed back the rain, and when I left, the sun had come out on Mare Street.