The London Review of Breakfasts

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

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Leila's Shop, Shoreditch

Leila’s Shop
17 Calvert Avenue
E2 7JP
020 7729 9789

by Dieggo Rivera

I can point out Leila’s on a map and describe the things you’ll find there – baskets of vegetables and shelves stocking books, preserves, dried ceps – but it’s harder to explain exactly what it is. At first glance, it’s like a group of friends gathered in a kitchen, whose door was accidentally left ajar.

Similarly, the tins and jars lined along the wall appear to be food friends who share an affectionate connection, rather than getting bogged down in all the usual food prejudices and cliques which stipulate, for instance, that egg and bacon always appear together at breakfast time, that spaghetti belongs to the Italian food sector and that all organic food must be marked with a squiggly font.

Now, although there are tables and Leila’s serves food, to compare it to a regular café is to miss the point. Leila’s shop is a little alcove, carefully whittled out from the food massif, with a succinct menu offering simply eggs, a cheese sandwich or a polish platter of sausages, pickles, horseradish and rye. That’s it.

My companion, who confuses service with subservience, is to the waitress as the tax collector was to Jesus. But her requests for soya milk and mayonnaise on her comté sandwich are refused. You can find comfort in a place like this, where rebellion is futile: succumb to Leila for she knows best and be grateful for relief from the endlessness of choice.

I sit around a long table and watch as my eggs languish in a hot fist of butter then make their way over to the table, snug in their still-sizzling cast-iron pan. They taste like being in love with your husband or wife.

While my post-prandial companion busies herself with complex mathematical comparisons between our bill and what it would have cost to buy the individual ingredients at Tesco, I look up and glimpse, for an instant, something of the meaning of life in a waitress, a gently-tarnished silver spoon and a jug of milk, as she stops beside the espresso machine, bends down and scoops a thick and goopy layer of cream from its meniscus.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pure, untrammelled genius.

12:47 PM, April 09, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


2:37 PM, April 09, 2008  
Blogger Will Davies said...

Oh come off it. There's 'slow food' and 'authenticity', and then there's trawling the country looking for past-it frying pans and 1940s, non-electric kettles that take 10 minutes to boil. No wonder the food costs so much - think how much Leila (who I presume is a fictional character or, more likely, the name of the millionaire owner's 2-year-old daughter) had to spend on the 19th century sink and Soviet-looking gas hob. With so much attention to the entirely inauthentic interior, they probably end up having to buy their bacon from the Sommerfields in the garage across the road.

3:34 PM, April 09, 2008  
Blogger Hoey D said...

The owner's called Leila. That's her actual name.

Take a chill pill Will.

3:49 PM, April 09, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

meniscus. love it.

9:26 PM, April 09, 2008  
Blogger DarkoV said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5:06 PM, April 22, 2008  
Blogger DarkoV said...

I wonder how this most excellent of reviews would have turned out had you been there with a more, ahem, agreeable companion. Although, there was a certain charm to how you took in her negativity and spit out positives.

Never mind. Good to have a doubting soul along to stir up the meal.

5:07 PM, April 22, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice relaxing cheering up place for a wet Saturday when you dont want to do Christmas shopping.
The coffee was made with tender loving care and at last in London - a Latte that tasted of coffee not just yukky hot milk - now that's an art!

10:05 PM, December 16, 2008  
Blogger ro said...

wonderful, wonderful review and shop. Leila's (her real name and not a millionairess I think!) is one of the most delicious and relaxing places to have breakfast. Away from the commercialisation of every high street here is a special place with fresh, quality ingredients made by someone with a passion for great , simple food.
I agree with Hooey; chill Will!

8:09 PM, October 16, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems to be a requirement of painfully fashionable establishments that they have somewhat scatty service. We initially shared a table with four other diners but then had two more shoehorned in. We then had so little room for out food that eating it required some skill... Food (when it did arrive)was lovely and the overall ambiance is very East Village New York and all that but they need to sort the service.

12:00 PM, January 11, 2010  
Blogger jacksprats said...

I had a lovely morning here. Yep, I shared a table as the place is popular and small, but the people I shared with turned out to be lovely. The staff were happy for me to take a seat before they'd opened and didn't mind me taking an hour over a cup of coffee, a pastry and the newspaper.

1:07 PM, November 23, 2010  

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