I am a hard working chap; I read a lot of blawgs, news websites and I am a healthy frequenter of Twitter. I also read case law, text books and journal articles. True, I am not paid to do this but I make a fair bit of money for my company and feel they should indulge me. It appears, however, that they don’t see things like this. Very far fucking from it. Huge profit margins aside, they have decided that I am the ideal man to manage a project in an area I am led to believe is called East London. For those of you who aren’t in the know, I will save you a trip to Google maps and point out that this is just east of The City. I’d previously considered anything the other side of Bishopsgate as some sort of post-apocolyptic hinterland – I actually wasn’t too far off the mark.
It appears the natives of the area are made up entirely of builders, perhaps it is some sort of post-soviet commune? It also appears that they don’t have kitchens and use places called ‘the caff’ as their only source of food. Being stuck in the place for several days I was forced to visit ‘the caff’. Luckily for me I had my boss with me, someone who shall henceforth be known as CWB (cockney wide boy). CWB decided on entering the ‘caff’ that he should do the talking, it was probably a fair assessment as the place had ground to a halt upon our entry. CWB was wearing a chalk stripe suit and doing his best impression of one of those nasty Essex boy futures traders. I’m glad that even the very poor could see this was sartorial bad form, he was wearing a belt FFS! I, on the other hand was resplendent in brown Chelsea boots, moleskins, a pink sweater and battered Barbour.
While I waited to be seated, CWB bowled straight to the counter and ordered ‘breakfast 1.’ I felt like going off-piste and ordering a la carte but thought it best to follow suit and go for the prix fixe. I actually wanted poached and not fried eggs but lost my nerve.
On sitting down I thought I would strike up a topical conversation with CWB so told him: ‘I’ll smell like Ian fucking Beale by the time I leave here’. It appears this wasn’t a good move. There was, once more, the sound of cutlery scraping to a halt on especially toughened plates. CWB gave me a look which said: ‘look at your Blackberry and don’t open your mouth again until we leave’. Our food arrived in record time and yes, everything was actually swimming in grease. CWB proceeded to cover everything in a red tomato sauce that looked neither sun dried nor organic. The meal itself was actually very good, it was very fatty but I imagine the locals need all the stodge they can get in order to insulate against the cruel estuary wind when roofing or sleeping rough, I tried to imagine I was soon heading for a day of carrying a hod up a ladder.
I wasn’t quite sure what to do with the thick tar like substance that resided in the mug placed in front of me. However, on glancing at the other table I quickly understood that you have to pour as much sugar as it takes to stand your spoon up straight. I thought this very cosmopolitan, a bit like Lebanese coffee.
My final faux pas of the meal was at the end; on attracting the attention of one of the waiting staff I asked for the bill, I thought it would do my career no harm if I bought the boss brekkie. It was during the resulting hilarity that CWB hussled me out and on to the mean, mean streets.
Overall I enjoyed my trip to the ‘caff’. Although I dropped the occasional cultural clanger I thought this to be expected when going ethnic, I had the same issue when trying to eat with my left hand in the middle east. Aesthetically the place was run down but I suspect this was on purpose, it must have cost them a fortune to get a designer to hit that soviet-sheet-steal-workers-canteen look. I wonder how long before we see these places popping up all over London?
Overall: 3/4. Meal £10 without wine or service.