Sunday, 23 September 2012

A review of the Market House

30 Broadway Market, London, E2 4QJ

It's not often that a place completely misses the point of breakfast, but it does happen. And unfortunately, the Market House seems to have done just that.

Branded as a pub/restaurant, I was prepared to be quite forgiving if their morning offering wasn't quite up to scratch. But, as my other half pointed out, given the standard of the competition near by, if you're not going to do it right, why do it at all?

First, the good points: the ambience is relaxed and there are quaint little touches like buckets of flowers and jars of cutlery on the tables. The staff are attentive and the coffee was tasty and well poured.
However: I ordered scrambled eggs and salmon with toast which arrived extremely overcooked within about 3 minutes of ordering. How can you overcook scrambled eggs in 3 minutes? You can't. But you can ladle it out from a pre-cooked batch and then attempt to pass it off as edible.

It was a similar story for the full English my fella ordered. The component parts were fine, it was just painfully obvious that it had been sat drying out in a Bain-Marie or oven for an hour or so. Like a fair but honest parent, I wasn't angry, but disappointed.
To give a balanced account, the poached eggs, which appeared to be the only element cooked fresh, were done to perfection and the table next to us that had variations on eggs benedict, florentine etc. seemed happy enough. But if you only do poached eggs well then, surely, only serve poached eggs?

The other disappointment was the apparent misunderstanding of what it is to have a leisurely weekend brunch, spread over several hours, coffees and magazine supplements. I don't want my breakfast thrust in front of me within 10 minutes of walking through the door.

When a new eatery opens on one of your favourite streets, you can't help but imagine all the good times you will spend together. Instead, I was left with the empty feeling of not really wanting to return. No matter how 'eclectic' the decor, I won't be back for brunch in a hurry.

The Market House have a website, they're also on Facebook and Twitter.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

A review of Amandine

Image from
176 Victoria Park Road, Victoria Park Village, Hackney, E9 7HD

If you're looking for somewhere to slow down the pace and escape the crowds on a sunny day in Victoria Park, then Amandine could just be the perfect spot. Slightly away from the main strip, it's a short walk around the corner from Lauriston Road and well worth the few extra yards.

As well as being dog friendly, they have a lovely outside seating area to the back of the cafe so we made the most of the sunshine by taking a table in the garden.
Image fromĂ©
The menu only appeared to be up on the chalk board inside, and was written in such small writing that I struggled to read the detail of what I was ordering. However, I am coming to realise that foregoing my contact lenses is probably not the most sensible of lifestyle choices so can't really complain.

With sandwiches, salads, soups and daily specials there's plenty of choice, and lots of sweet treats to tempt your taste buds too. The fridge was stacked with cold drinks which hit the spot on a hot day, so I'll have to return for coffee and cake later in the year in order to give a balanced review of all that's on offer (I'm sure I can handle that...).

We had toasted ciabattas and a salad:

The food was really tasty and generously proportioned, the staff friendly and attentive (although we ordered separately they clocked we were sitting together so brought the food out at the same time). I'm sure a little gem like this gets busy at times, but for us it was a haven of calm in the chaos of an East London summer and I'll definitely be back for more. 

Amandine is on Facebook, Twitter and Tumbler

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Bashing out bagels

Having finally mastered bread, I got a bit lazy and sat on my laurels enjoying loafs and rolls and not bothering to branch out for a bit. Until, that is, the Great British Bake Off graced our screens for the third series and I was abruptly snapped out of my reverie and reminded that there's a whole world of bread-related goods out there. One of the contestants is actually trying to make this whole world of breads it seems - Brendan to win!

Suitably chastised, I took some inspiration from episode 2 and had a bash at bagels. I didn't use their recipe, as I wanted to start off with some plainer varieties than the ones shared on the Bake Off website. Instead, I found this BBC Good Food recipe which is really straight forward and gave me splendid results (if I do say so myself).

You'll need to be vaguely familiar with bread making, and confident in your kneading technique as you need a rise from the dough to get the right texture. But if you are a relative novice  it's still worth giving them a go. What's the worst that can happen (seriously - if you mess these up I want to see pictures).

I prepared the dough, whacked it in the airing cupboard while I went to the gym for an hour then came back, shaped, steamed and baked them in about 40 minutes.

Plugging for plain bagels with fennel seeds sprinkled on the top, as well as some cinnamon and raisin ones I was pleasantly surprised by the taste and texture. The shape was definitely a bit 'rustic' but I reckon that's the best way (or you might as well get them from the shop...).

Having mastered bagels I now feel I can rightfully claim myself as a 'proper' east ender. If you don't know why, watch the 'short history of bagels' bit 45 minutes into episode 2.