The London Review of Breakfasts

"Hope is a good breakfast, but it is a bad supper." (Francis Bacon)

Monday, August 06, 2007

The Grocery, Shoreditch

The Grocery
54-56 Kingsland Road
020 7729 6855

by Des Ayuno

I wanted to hate the Grocery, an earnest supplier of organic puy lentils and 18 varieties of tofu metres from the edge of the UK’s poorest borough. But I knew I had to give its café a fair chance. The kitchen was set up by the magnificent Elaine, ex of Smallfish. Elaine once told me of a customer who complained that his breakfast was “dry” and demanded beans to remedy this problem. She frog-marched him out. Such conviction demands admiration.

M, J and I racked up late one Sunday and settled at beautiful, solid oak, country-kitchen tables. For at least half an hour we waited, without even tea to wet parched throats, though the surprise appearance of a bedraggled-looking Kevin Rowland cheered us no end. (He didn’t eat; just browsed the papers quietly.) By the time he ambled out, our food arrived. The lone waitress, already sitting down with her own lunch, handed over the brown sauce with a growl; the requested red never appeared.

As is the fashion these days, a tower of full-English ingredients was buttressed by toast and topped with a poached egg. With the exception of a very dry sausage (come on, Elaine!) all was juicily, flavourfully moreish – in fact, I nearly demanded more tomato than the miserly half offered. But it was the toast about which I still dream. Savoury sourdough, easily an inch thick, it was drenched in olive oil and transported us all to some sun-kissed Tuscan hillside. On a scale from “For god’s sake burn it down” to “I’m in heaven”, the toast trumped the dreadful service to secure the café a rating of “More please and thank you”. But when the waitress sprayed eco-disinfectant on the table, and my arm, the team that meets in the caffs headed home.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You don't mention the price of this breakfastival, or what it must have felt like to sit 'under the arches' for what must have seemed like ages.

2:21 PM, August 06, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hate the Grocery, though I've bothered to try the cafe. The staff know nothing. They never have any useful stock, only Goji Berries. I once went in for eggs; they'd forgotten to order them. I tried to get water; all I could get was some ridiculous ionised water that cost three quid.


8:52 PM, September 09, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Went there for lunch the other day with three friends. Insultingly small portions all round – plenty of 'white space' on our £7.50 per-plate paellas.Very tasty and well-cooked, but really, £7.50 for a small amount of rice and three or four prawns? A rip-off.

1:21 PM, September 15, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would like to mention that the cafe and the shop are run almost independently and have little to do with each other

I work at the grocery (in the shop), it's a lovely place to work and I am learning more about the food each day - we do sell a lot of stuff and sometimes it's impossible to answer people's questions (some of which are quite bizarre might I add.)There are some of us that work there who don't speak English as a first Language, so sometimes communication can be difficult. If you take the time to speak to any of the managers however, they have a wealth of experience and will be happy to answer questions. We also sell quite a range of water starting from about 43p for a big bottle. I can show Moose Lee where they are if he happens to stop by again!

We are an expensive shop, selling expensive products, but we are always trying to find ways of making things cheaper. I can understand that some people don't want to buy goji berries and ionised water - but there are many that do. I always suggest that people support the smaller shops near to us if they find the prices abhorrent - I'm sure they would welcome the business and maybe if pressed they will try to stock ionised water, quinoa milk and 17 types of tofu at an extremely discounted rate.
People do not have to support our business, but personally I would rather have the choice to shop in an independent store that tries to create a nice ambience and makes an effort to communicate with it's customers than the rapid supermarket disease that would soon take over otherwise.
If you do shop in the grocery and have some criticism - we would like to hear it and will do our best to rectify the problem or explain why we can't. No need to be agro about it, we are a pretty friendly bunch.


11:10 AM, September 30, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like The Grocery for its vegetarian food selections like tempeh and Fry's Schnitzels. Apart from the fact that if you pay by card, it shows up as a company called Meiko, which caused me to cancel my card thinking it had been fraudulently used.

3:53 PM, February 12, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I shop at the Grocery regularly and find it useful for basics. Things like a range of organic nuts, grains and basic veg are useful if u like me don't shop in normal supermarkets.
staff are quite friendly id say and willing to help. prices are not cheap , but organic food costs more to produce. so i don't mind paying a bit extra to get things u can't just get everywhere and better quality than supermarket.
it also has quite a nice fun atmosphere , where people who care about what they eat and their lifestyles hang about. so i think its quite cool really.

6:07 PM, March 13, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm gonna come crawling back and apologise for my comment about the Grocery, above. I've been in there recently and, though it ain't cheap, the staff have been nice, informative and they've had everything I needed. And they've got good opening hours.

So yeah, sorry about that.


6:26 PM, April 08, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I went there for breakfast for the first time on Sunday. While expensive (£9) and a long time coming, it was a revelation. Pristine poached eggs, tomatoes cooked just to the point of perfection (a tricky feat) and the best toast I have ever had. Those who pour scorn on an upmarket shop being located in a relatively poor area are displaying a strange inverse snobbery that is no less distasteful than any other form of bigotry. Bye now.

11:00 AM, June 06, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

" I tried to get water; all I could get was some ridiculous ionised water that cost three quid."

Sorry if you go in an organic food store for water you deserve to be ripped off. Theres mini mart across the road, one a minute further up kingsland and one a minute further down kingsland.

Use common sense next time

9:13 AM, August 30, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been here a number of times and I love the place. The criticisms I've read so far seem to be over a year old, so there must have been a great change since then.

The breakfasts I've had (two in the last two weeks) have been nothing short of astounding; the coffee beautifully made and the overall value is exceptional. I'd recommend this place to anyone.

1:57 PM, January 07, 2009  
Blogger Sparrow said...

Thanks for clarifying that Jasmine, I had the same problem with my bank statement- I was like what did I buy from "Mieko Ltd."? I spend way too much money at the Grocery- but that's because they have so much quality stuff and I want it!

2:12 PM, May 23, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've just moved in above the Grocery and use it for the type of thing it's designed for; getting my basics at the corner shop across the street (as suggested by the staff member on this thread). Eg baking cupcakes this weekend- self raising flour with extra 33% free from the minimart and real vanilla essence from the Grocery.

One thing that did surprise me was that I happened to spot some Dr Karg crispbreads at the corner place and got them thinking they'd be a bargain compared to the Grocery... when I checked, they were 20p more in the corner shop.

Not tried the cafe yet but my flatmate can't say enough good things about it.

12:58 PM, February 09, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, forgot to mention, I found this thread because I was worried about the Meiko entries on my bank statement... seriously something to consider changing if possible

1:01 PM, February 09, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Coffee is really poor, even a double cappucino is weak and when I asked nicely if they could make it stronger the staff were very rude. Eventually they gave me a new one and asked sarcastically if it was any better (it wasn't but I said it was fine because I'd resolved never to return) the waitress then nastily said 'it's the same as the first one'. Never again and I'll make sure all my friends know too and I live locally.

10:07 AM, April 02, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love it when staff talk back to ignorant customers

8:52 PM, April 18, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have been googling for a while to try and find out what the 'mieko ltd london E2' was on my bank statement. Now I know. OMG I have spent a lot there!

10:14 PM, December 09, 2010  
Blogger Unknown said...

I always buy my lily's organic dog food form the grocery and having stopped by a few times when it has been out of stock, I now call in advance because I have to take the bus 20 minutes to get to the shop. Usually i get a very polite answer and when i get in, the shop assistants are very friendly. Today however, when i phoned the shop, I asked a man (who had a french accent, not sure of his name) and he answered me in a very unfriendly tone, that he cannot check for me, he is too busy. Now, I have worked in retail and service for years, and I accept that it may be too busy to check something, but this man was so irritable that I really regret having to go there today to purchase the food.

he could have said the exact same words in a friendly tone and that asked me politely if i could call back in a half hour, and there would have been no problem.

honestly, the tone of voice he used would have gotten me fired if i had used it at work.

6:30 PM, January 26, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm amazed no-one has mentioned the wine selection.Living just 2 mins away and being a bit of a wine snob (We all have our weaknesses), their choice of organic wines has been quite a revelation and I have yet to be disappointed. I have drank brilliant red and whites and all below the £10 mark- although their are many in the more expensive bracket. Just saying .....

6:37 PM, July 08, 2013  
Anonymous ovaut said...

The other day I was charged £8.60 here for a bag of spinach, two onions, three tomatoes and a can of orangina.

Today I paid £2.50 for 150g of red onions.

Something is wrong there.

9:21 PM, October 24, 2014  

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