Sunday, 28 August 2011

albion, shoreditch

With a blink and you've missed it summertime, we've somehow slipped into those drizzly autumnal inbetween-ish months when you wake up and don't quite know what to wear in the morning. Sudden sun breaks through brooding clouds, only to be swallowed up again (usually when it's time for your lunch break...) and suddenly those nice cropped jeans and pumps just aren't cutting it anymore. It's time to pull out the furs and boots - or is it? Same applies to eating out - al fresco dining around this time of year is a hit and miss affair. A balmy early evening, supping cocktails and nibbling tapas on a fortuitously spied prime outside table, can suddenly be spoilt rotten with incoming freezing gusts of wind or a flash downpour. Oh Albion! At times like this it's good to cover all your bases and pick somewhere where indoor and outdoor, and even inbetweeny, options are available for savvy diners. One such spot is the warm and laid back Albion Cafe, in 'trendy' Shoreditch. Ok you may have to put up with the odd skinny jeaned, brogued up and tousle haired hipster but they'll be more of the yummy daddy, solo book reading type - you won't tend to get the more irritating shoulder padded, Deirdre bespectacled oddballs of deepest Hoxton hanging out here. Albion is reassuringly tucked away on Boundary St, with outside tables and a completely open frontage (at this time of month) on a quiet residential street away from the hustle and bustle of surrounding Brick Lane, Sditch High St and Spitalfields. Here you can kick back and relax with a hearty brunch, lazy lunch or chilled out supper with good quality food in calm surroundings... and still be close to the bars and buzz should you wish to move on there afterwards.

albion by day
Albion is sold as a 'cafe' however it's more of a luxe caff/homely restaurant, definitely suitable for a couples treat or a low key date night. Tables inside are cosy and warm, with those outside or in the open frontage available for warmer/braver customers.  Food is top notch, a little on the pricey side but truly filling, and you certainly won't leave feeling like you need a kebab chaser. With typically British grub, harking back to that retro era of kippers and devilled kidneys, Albion is a meat lovers dream with pies, chops, sausage and mash, fish and chips and stodgy puddings for the greedy punter. We plumped for the kedgeree and the fish pie - gorgeously spiced rice with lightly smoked haddock and delicately hard boiled eggs, while the pie was satisfyingly creamy with decent chunks of prawn and fish, topped with a very buttery smooth mash. Complimentary fresh baked bread is also served before the courses, with salted butter. We visited on a Sunday evening, and tucking in at one of the outdoor tables, enjoying the quiet night, fresh air and warming food, this rare spot felt rather well hidden and unknown. However it must be said that daytimes are particularly busy, and if you fancy a spot for weekend brunch be prepared to queue. The bakery is stocked with fresh produce and gorgeous crusty bread, cakes and muffins on a daily basis, so you can always start nibbling while u wait if hunger is striking...

It may feel like it's not part of the east end massive, but unfortunately - it is. And Shoreditch prices do creep in on the drinks menu with teeny tumblers of, admittedly good, red wine at a horrendous £7 a pop, with a large glass going hard at £9! I do recommend the bloody marys and elderflower refresher, if you fancy a cheeky aperitif or a boozy brunch fuel - but be prepared to fork out. Next door there is also the French Boundary bar and restaurant. A more luxurious and lofty affair, it's a great place to start; take the lift up to the rooftop for a pre-dinner cocktail watching the sunset or if the rain starts pouring down, head to the sleek and chic bar for an expertly mixed Martini - then head next door to Albion, kick off your brogues, push back those gawjuss locks, shrug off that corduroy blazer and slouch back as you enjoy one of those rare blissful London moments where for just a minute you can switch off and forget where you are without a Pete Doherty alike stumbling into your path and effing it all up. Oh Shoreditch!

(Don't worry they'll all move over to Hackney Wick(ed) soon...)