Green Room Cafe, Stoke Newington
113 Stoke Newington Church St
by S. Presso
The cappuccinos are virtually babyccinos. The food, although prompt to arrive, is accompanied by only forks. Don’t get me wrong, I am a fan of fork-only eating when appropriate. But these dishes need more: the stew needs a knife as it comes with rice and salad which needs to be gathered (if I’m honest, it could do with a spoon too) and the vegetarian breakfast is in every way a knife-and-fork meal. We put in our requests for knives and we wait. When you have hot food in front of you and you can’t dig in, impatience mushrooms, so, ninety seconds later, I request knives again from the owner who promptly delivers them with apologies, followed moments later by more knives and eye-rolling from the other waitress.
Home-made baked beans are rare: these are good. My vegetarian sausage is dense and tasty and you can tell it’s home-made as it is shaped like a penis. The eggs were listed as fried. I ordered scrambled. They arrive poached. But poached well. The fried tomato is exactly that. The fried mushrooms are the borrower variety: tiny but delicious. The bubble and squeak is the disappointment. As a main constituent it needs to hold the dish together and work with everything on the fork but it is bland, mushy and unseasoned.
The lentil stew is not my dish but the mouthfuls I had were good if also a little under-seasoned. Obviously this is not a breakfast but I brandish it as evidence of a limited menu.
The bland interior contributes much to the lifeless atmosphere. The main attractions are repurposed sewing-machine tables and wall-mounted crates that serve as storage. Constantly under-served tables drive diners to approach the counter for their own menus and again to order. Most tables have someone twisted in their chair vying for attention.
The breakfast is turbulent if enjoyable and we are happy to leave. And appropriately, the process is long-winded. You pay at the till. A lycra-clad cyclist is skating the floorboards as we try to put jackets on inches away from a couple trying to eat. The breakfast comes to 20 pounds for two meals, cappuccinos and cookies. Not so bad. Admittedly the food was pretty good: one of the better vegetarian breakfasts in the area. Trouble is, the café feels immature. The owners are eager but some of their staff are letting them down. Small changes here could make a big winner.