By Jack Peat, Editor of The London Economic
Sunday morning, blue skies and a crisp autumn breeze wafts aromas of exotic street food across London’s East End. It was an idyllic start to the day, but I’d got a cob on.
I’ve just been seated at a trendy Peruvian cafe by a cheerful and polite hostess. Chefs were busy preparing an array of breakfast options in the open plan kitchen and my Americano had arrived promptly in a nice tactile porcelain mug with the milk on the side, just how I like it. The menu demonstrated the indigenous Inca cuisines that have been sculpted by veritable world influences, and yet I couldn’t wave the feeling that all I was seeing was icing sugar on an otherwise bland cake.
From the outset it’s easy to be lulled into a false perception of originality. Street food meets chic Shoreditch, bringing the outside in, cooking up classic breakfast dishes with a Peruvian twist. But don’t be fooled. It’s like an X-Factor contestant that sings a classic but ‘with their own twist’. It’s infuriating. As Chuck Palahniuk once wrote, sticking feathers up your arse does not make you a chicken; a truism that rang from the walls in Andina.
But I thought I’d buy into the idea before being completely dismissive of it. I selected their ‘take’ on Eggs Benedict from the menu, a combination of smoked trout, poached egg with quinoa pancake, asparagus and amarillo chilli sauce named Benadicto. It was a close choice between that and the Chicharron sandwich, but the menu description of the latter was off putting. “Like the best bacon sandwich” the menu read. Does that mean they’ve found the best bacon sandwich and replicated it, or is it a play on the Americanism? The first is theoretically flawed and the other is grammatically flawed, either way it wasn’t cool.
The food was bland but had a nice touch of heat. If there was trout in there it was difficult to taste it. Despite the restaurant showcasing all the street food characteristics from the outset (a contradiction in terms, by the way) the dish was presented with all the traits of a restaurant chain. When you put something like that in the East End where there’s actually inventive culinary ventures in abundance then you’ll get found out.
You see, there’s not a lot wrong with this joint. The food is original and fresh, no complaints about the staff or service, but there’s something about the constant churn of super food smoothies, the chalk board that’s more concerned about values than specialities, the wicker basket light shades and the jars of pickled everything and anything that makes you think, ah piss off.