As London’s Hipster-Empire consolidates power and control in its strongholds of Camden and Shoreditch, its legions of conquest turn their eyes eastward. Brick Lane and Aldgate East have become strong outposts on the frontier of Hipster-London, and slowly but surely, its jovial warriors of eccentricity are making their way further into the East End. Foxcroft and Ginger’s Stepney Green branch – along with a number of other cool and quirky eateries that have appeared in Aldgate East, Whitechapel, and Mile End in recent years, are a clear sign of the East End’s changing scenery.
As a traditional man with the mind of a pensioner, I am very much at odds with indy-ideals. Much like veganism, reality-TV and “onesies”, staples of hipster culture – such as skinny jeans – both confuse and anger me. And, dare I say it – I hold the outrageous belief that flowers belong in parks and gardens – not in beards. However, despite my bewilderment with certain aspects of hipster-culture, I somewhat welcome this indy-surge in the East-End’s food and coffee scene. Mainly because such establishments tend to know what they’re doing when it comes to wholesome food, and also because they add a little bit of variety amongst the multitude of grill-houses, kebab-shops and perfect-fried-pigeon vendors that otherwise dominate East London. President Clinton and I had walked past Foxcroft and Ginger’s glass-covered cafe-front on numerous occasions, and having grown tired of our usual local breakfast-spots, we decided to give in to our intrigue and see what they could bring to the table. None of the meat here is halal, but vegetarian / non-meat options are available. Alcohol is served.
I’ve now visited Foxcroft and Ginger on two occasions, for two very hearty post-gym breakfasts. On the first occasion, I was seduced by the false sense of security that comes with bulking season, and opted for what is quite possibly, the most fattening item on the brunch menu – french toast with poached plums, mascarpone, and honeycomb. The french toast was composed of three pieces of high quality bread, which were very thick and extremely, soft, smooth and moist within. Each piece was cooked very well, and whilst they were fairly plain in terms of flavour and sweetness, this was welcomed, given the richness of the accompanying components. The poached plums, naturally, were extremely moist, and possessed a rich sweetness that combined well with the other elements. The mascarpone meanwhile, was of a good quality, and carried a thick, smooth and light consistency, which complemented the texture of the french toast, whilst the crunchy texture of the honeycomb pieces contrasted well with the softer textures of all the other components. The honeycomb pieces were very small and sparsely scattered around the plate however, and a couple of bigger fragments would have perfected the dish completely. All in all, this guilt-inducing breakfast item contained a perfect blend of textures and flavours, and delivered pure satisfaction with every bite.
On my second visit earlier this week, I was determined to behave well and have a clean, guilt-free breakfast. Whilst my eyes hovered over a simple choice of “poached eggs over sourdough toast”, they caught a glimpse of another option – poached eggs with smoked haddock, caramelised cheese sauce, parmesan, and sourdough toast. Sadly, as is usually the case when the winter holidays begin, my determination to eat clean surrendered faster than a French soldier fighting his own shadow. I opted for the latter, and found the poached eggs to be very well cooked, with a soft and runny yolk-centre. The sourdough toast possessed a very firm texture – which required a spot of wrestling to pull apart, and a rustic, crunchy crust, which contrasted well with the softer textures of the other components. The smoked haddock however, was fairly scare and near indistinguishable from the caramelised cheese sauce and parmesan, all of which meshed together. The cheese sauce and parmesan were both fairly rich, with a moderate flavour that complemented both the poached eggs, and the sourdough toast very well, but ultimately, this concoction of cheese became a little overbearing for my liking. Part of me realised that I should probably have stuck with my original decision, but, like any man who makes a mistake, I pretended it was the correct decision anyway.
On my first visit, I also decided to test Foxcroft and Ginger’s coffee, and ordered a flat white to kick-start my day. The brew itself was fairly strong, and the thin, light layer of microfoam possessed a strong, robust bitterness, which carried on into the top layer of the coffee. This tapered out in subsequent layers, and whilst the flat white was fairly well-balanced, the body of the drink was slightly diluted by an ever-so-slight excess of milk. Far from flawless, but a half-decent cup of coffee nonetheless.
Value For Money: 3.5/5
The french toast and flat white from my first visit cost £6.40 and £2.70 respectively, whilst the poached eggs, haddock, cheese and toast from my second visit, cost approximately £9.70. Generally, breakfast items range from £5-£10, and coffees and teas range from £2-£4, all of which are reasonable prices. However, whilst I felt that the french toast was an absolute bargain, (given how satisfying and filling the dish was), I felt that the poached eggs, haddock and cheese were a little costly, given the near-absence of haddock and the relatively small pieces of toast. Value for money can thus be rather variable depending on what you order. Whilst prices are generally steeper than those you’d find at local cafes nearby, they are more or less in line with what you’d expect to pay for a mid-to-high-quality breakfast. There are also a number of lunch items, all of which seem to cost below £10, but Foxcroft and Ginger is only really viable as a breakfast-spot for Muslims, since there are only a few non-meat / vegetarian lunch items.
Staff-members at Foxcroft and Ginger are fairly welcoming, but seem to be a little “slow on the ball” at times – depending on how busy the restaurant is. Service is friendly and helpful, but a little more efficiency and co-ordination could certainly go a long way.
The Stepney Green branch is relatively large, with open-spaces and an assortment of mix-and-match furniture – from wooden bench-tops and stools to comfortable booths and wooden chairs and tables. The front of the restaurant is covered entirely in glass, which, on a sunny day, allows for a lovely amount of solar flare to enter the restaurant and scald your skin and blind your eyes, all whilst you sit there and convince yourself that it’s a lovely morning. The decor, generally, is quite rustic and minimal, with a number of random objects distributed throughout – including, (rather bizarrely), a gymnastic pommel-horse. I can offer no explanation for putting a gymnastic horse in a restaurant – other than to annoy the neighbours or to encourage the staff to start horsing around instead of doing their job, but I’m willing to be flexible, and am sure that whoever designed the decor can offer a very clever spin on it. If you managed to spot the four puns in that sentence, I apologise profusely for putting you through such an ordeal.
The open-space and indy-vibe help to create a very comfortable and relaxing atmosphere within Foxcroft and Ginger. It’s easy to sit back, relax, and enjoy a lazy-morning of breakfast and procrastination, and, as Foxcroft and Ginger promise on their website, there’s no sense of urgency for you to leave.
If there were one reason to visit Foxcroft and Ginger, and one reason alone, it would be to try their french toast with poached plums, mascarpone, and honeycomb. Other reasons however, include a variety of other breakfast options, pastries, coffees, and teas, all within an extremely laid-back environment. Whilst Whitechapel and Mile End are home to numerous cafes, Stepney Green hosts very few, and it’s a gap that Foxcroft and Ginger have managed to fill very well. Should you find yourself in Stepney Green one morning – be it for work, play, by chance, or because you were mugged there the night before and woke up on a pavement nearby, it’s worth heading over to F&G to start a fresh new day with a hearty breakfast.
Foxcroft and Ginger
Address: 69-89 Mile End Rd, London E1 4TT