Fordiebianco and the serious quest for breakfast in Glasgow.

If it’s autumn it must be Glasgow, so this morning I rose from my bed, showered, put on my tartan underwear and donned my best brown corduroy jacket. I grabbed The Guardian and the Ipad and started on my odyssey to find a nice full Scottish breakfast. In my mind I saw a plate of toast, Lorne sausage, black pudding, beans, hash browns, bacon, maybe even some chips. When I last lived in Glasgow, the place was heaving with what the East Londoners like to call a ‘caff’. You know the place: neon lights, men with high visibility jackets, tea urn behind the counter and a menu made mainly up of fried pig’s bits. But after one hour, I still hadn’t found one. I walked up and down, East and West through Glasgow’s city centre, down the full length of Sauchiehall street, past Queen Street and Central Station, but: nothing. Loads of Prets, Costas, Burgerkings, Greggs, but no caff.

None.

I already resigned myself to sit with the middle classes in the John Lewis cafe in Buchanan Street, when something green caught my eye. There, in a souterrain on West George street, somebody served breakfast. Ok, it was far too tasteful and clean for a proper caff, but the waitresses’ Glaswegian twang was so broad that I struggled to understand anything and the word ‘Lorne Sausage’ was clearly visible on the breakfast board. And they even insisted to take your order at your table. How posh is that?

Anyway, after 1 hour and 20 minutes of looking for a caff (during which I almost bought a Samsung Note 2) I was presented with this:

Ok, so there are were neither chips nor beans, but you can’t have everything in life. The coffee was great, service cheerful and the place spotless. I would have stayed for hours, but they were playing Shania Twain on a tinny stereo, so I had to flee pretty quickly before I could have caused a Shania Twain triggered incident.

So 3 out of four stars for breakfast, location and service, but nil points in the background music category.

Cafe Wander

110 West George St,

Glasgow G2 1Q

Tel: 0141 353 3968

Nico’s Cafe-Diner

So my meandering lunch visits took me recently to Cambridge Heath Road, the border that divides lovely Stepney and Whitechapel. On the western side of this important traffic artery sits Nico’s Cafe-Diner, a little treasure trove of all things food. Not limited to the usual greasy spoon fare, they offer greek specialties, grilled bits and all sorts of other goodies.

The condiments are placed strategically at the heart of the table, like a group of Russian Energia rockets.

The eggbaconchipsandbeans is truly magnificent and clearly is so far the best I’ve had in the whole of London and now nudges Mr G off his long held number one spot as the best EBCB in the capital. Just look at this:

These are not chips, but lovingly sauteed potatoes hiding under this magnificent bacon and egg arrangement. The beans are almost hiding in shame, confronted with all this magnificence. The bacon and eggs are placed in a bit of an oppressive fashion, with the plebeic potatoes almost asking for more air. All in all an amazing display, and well worth every penny.

All hail our new favourite ebcb.

Astro Star Cafe

Today my travels took my into the western East End and I was in need of breakfast. When I saw the sign, I knew this had to be tried. Who knows, the owner might be a famous science – fiction writer or an astrophysicist (or a Zoroastrianist).  The amazingly and appropriately named Astro Star Cafe is situated in the middle of hip and happening Bethnal Green in the almost East End of London (also colloquially known as the centre of the known universe). As you can see, the Cafe is rather blurry and has a distinctive right shift. A physical phenomenon directly attributable to its name.

The food is as great as the name of the place. After being greeted with a friendly smile at the counter (and they are so outworldly trustworthy that you don’t even have to pay in advance) you order and sit down and read your ipad Guardian. The food soon arrives, and my god, it’s gorgeous:

Look at the extact geometrical placement of the hashbrowns (it was a bit too early for chips) and the geometrically correct semicircle of this sea of beans. The egg looked like a fiery sun with a golden corona, just about to be attacked by the threatening crispy bacon. And delicious it was as well. The cafe was clean, the swearing factor of the punters moderate (about 3 f-words per minute on average) and service efficient and courteous.

I think I might use this as a permanent deep space docking station.

Workers Cafe, Bethnal Green

This cheerful cafe was bursting full when I entered on a rainy Wednesday. Eggbaconchipsandbeans were ordered within seconds by a very efficient waitress and the cooking crew behind the corner gave their darndest to keep the dozens of punters in this busy cafe happy. The condiments looked smashing and complete, the design on the large coffee mugs was simple and effective, and the table was nice and clean. While waiting for my feast, there were some mutterings behind me by some lads that “muttermutterthis is a workers cafe and that people wearing shirts should stay in their own places muttermutterand have their fancy lattes and ciabattas”. Next time I’ll visit I’ll don a Lenin style hat, a Kim Yung Il jacket and read The Daily Star to counter those accusations. It wasn’t even a particularly nice shirt.

no condiments for shirt wearers ?
no condiments for shirt wearers ?

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Anyway, the ebcb was lovely: crunchy, golden chips that were covering a flock of beans and firm and tasty bacon. The cuppa of coffee was strong and milky and the mutterings of the chaps behind soon stopped after their own food came. Lovely place and obviously very popular, but be sure to wear the right garb before entering on a work day.

Workers Cafe

254 Globe RoadLondon

E2 0JD

Smithfield Cafe

After freezing my bottom solid during a conference near Smithfields I needed some proper grub to warm my icy buns. And between all the posh pubs and fancy lunch places I found what I was looking for:

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Smithfield Cafe is a tiny, comfy, obviously long established cafe that seems to be open 24 hours and seems to be doing very well. While I was having my dinner, a never ending stream of motorcycle couriers picked up coffee, buns, rolls, chips and what not, all knowingly welcomed by the friendly owner and his capable assistant. A friendly lot, those couriers.

How was the food? Have a look for yourself:

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Now that’s a great Eggbaconchipsandbeans: the chips are wonderfully crunchy (something that only very few cafes seem to manage), have a lovely golden brown colour and are fighting a losing territorial battle against the encroaching (and slightly spicy) beans, barely separated by the valiant and crunchy bacon and the immensely circular egg.

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The condiments were all present and accounted for. The whole place radiated tradition and a serious attitude to food. My coffee was exemplary and after leaving the place I was warm, full and happy. Again.

Top Marks.

Smithfield Cafe

23 West Smithfield,

London, EC1A 9HY