Navigating to any restaurant or cafe is often a straightforward affair, thanks to the saving grace of modern life that is Google Maps. If you’re not careful however, you can risk ending up somewhere you definitely don’t want to be – particularly if you’re not paying attention to the autocomplete suggestions that Google often provides. This due diligence is definitely required when navigating to Nude Espresso, since the next option in Google’s suggestive list is “Nude beach, Montenegro”. *Screams like Homer* No thanks.
It’s also important to ensure that your dining companions have a perfectly clear understanding of where it is you are going. Take Steak for example, who, earlier that morning, enquired as to whether we were going to “Nude Express” for brunch – something that sounds less like an innocent coffeeshop, and more like a sordid newspaper. The awkwardly-named “Nude Espresso” serves primarily as a coffee roastery and wholesaler, but also hosts a barista school on Bell Lane, and a little red cafe on Hanbury street – and it was this little cafe that would be the subject of our scrutiny. None of the meat here is halal, but non-halal / vegetarian options are available.
As usual, I began my coffee intoxication with a flat white, and surprisingly, Steak – an avid tea-drinker, opted for the same. As well as a number of single-origin and seasonal blends, Nude Espresso utilise a 60% Brazilian, 40% El-Salvadorian blend as a default base for their coffees, and we stuck with the latter. Both our flat whites arrived with a light and airy layer of delicate microfoam, which carried a subtle, bitter tone. The underlying coffee however, was fairly weak in strength and thin in body, and overall, the flat white was rather poorly balanced. Even Steak – who is generally easily-appeased when it comes to coffee – found her flat white to be markedly underwhelming. Needless to say, it was a moment of disappointment that took me completely by surprise.
After a couple of hours of brunching, I decided to give the barista another chance, and ordered an espresso with the same blend. I also let Steak sample a sip, hoping that its pure, unsweetened form would induce a seizure and end her relentless desire for conversation. As I tucked into the thin layer of soft, smooth crema, I was greeted by a concentrated, acidic punch to the tongue, and a pleasantly sharp, fruity tang.
The redeemer (espresso)
Whilst their coffee leaves little to be desired, Nude Espresso’s food sings a more blissful tune. For months, I had set my sights on Nude Espresso’s brunch menu, eagerly awaiting the opportunity to devour their brioche french toast. As I settled in and glanced over their menu, my heart sank. No french toast. “Oh. I don’t think we make french toast anymore”, stated the waiter, as equally puzzled as I was. My shoulders sulked with disappointment. Weeks and months of anticipation, pilfered in but a second. Luckily, Steak was at hand to utilise her therapeutic skills, and promptly slapped me across the face and told me to get over it. (Mental health nurses aren’t as compassionate as they used to be). Whilst Steak ordered a poached egg with a helping of smashed avocado, lime, and chilli on sourdough toast, I opted for the only other option that would satisfy my sweet tooth – banana bread with honeycomb butter.
The poached egg was seasoned with parsley and well-cooked, possessing a runny yolk centre which oozed over the generous helping of avocado in delightful fashion. The sourdough toast which lay buried beneath this green rubble was of a good quality, with a crispy crust and a fairly soft centre, but arrived slightly burnt, whilst the combination of avocado and lime itself was a little strong in flavour for my liking. Steak however, enjoyed it, and overall, it was a well-constructed breakfast dish.
Poached eggs with avocado and lime on sourdough toast
The highlight of the meal however, was the syrup-drizzled banana bread. It was wonderfully thick and dense, with a soft, crumbly centre and a crispy outer crust. It possessed a rich, deep, caramelised sweetness, delivered in harmony with a strong essence of banana. The accompanying honeycomb butter only served to enhance this sweet ecstasy. It possessed a light consistency and was infused with crunchy honeycomb pieces, which provided a fantastic contrast to the soft butter and bread. As a whole, these elements came together exceedingly well, and I was actually glad that the french toast had not been on the menu. However, if you do not possess as big a sweet tooth as I do – (an ironic statement for a dentist, I know) – it may be worth ordering it to share, as it can become a little much to bear towards the end.
Banana bread with honeycomb butter
Value For Money: 3.5/5
Our flat whites amounted to £2.80 each and my espresso cost £2.20, whilst Steak’s avocado and poached egg came in at £7, and my banana bread cost £6. This amounted to a total bill of £20.80 for two. Generally, prices are in line with expectations, with items on the brunch menu ranging from £3-£11.80, and drinks from £2.20-£3.50. Overall, Nude Espresso provides a reasonably-priced breakfast experience, and if you’re looking for a small, but filling breakfast or brunch, they’re certainly well worth a visit.
There is very little to say about the staff members at Nude Espresso, other than the fact that they are friendly, welcoming, and attentive.
Nude Espresso’s red-fronted cafe sits on Hanbury Street – a narrow offshoot of Brick Lane. Much like the street it sits on, the cafe is long and narrow, and relatively simple in its decor. Wooden tables, benches, and leather, booth-style seats make up most of the furniture, in a space that is neither overly cramped, nor overly spacious. As a whole, the set-up seems fairly reserved – built more for purpose than for comfort, and results in a setting that seems somewhat stiff. (Or perhaps that was just the wooden bench I sat on for two hours).
Whilst the cafe itself is a little “wooden”, the atmosphere within it is a little more lively. Despite visiting at midday on a weekday, Nude Espresso presented us with an upbeat environment in which to kick-back, relax, and enjoy a lazy midweek brunch. No doubt, it’s probably even more dynamic during the busy weekend bustle.
Even after a slightly disappointing set of coffees, it’s extremely difficult to say that Nude Espresso are not capable of producing excellent coffee – (considering the fact that they literally do, “produce” coffee). But, whilst they may be experts in the science of coffee roasting, it’s clear that they may have a little more work to do when it comes to the art of coffeeshop-crafting. There is nothing peculiar about the fact that most scientists are often a little rough around the edges when it comes to the creative arts, and there is no shame in the fact that even the best of scientists experience the occasional hiccup in their field of work. And so, whilst their coffee hasn’t completely won over my snobbery just yet, it must be said that their food has won over my stomach, and if you’re after a cheap and cheerful brunch, Nude Espresso may just be the destination for you.
Address: 26 Hanbury St, London E1 6QR
Telephone: 07712 899335