Mention the words “book” and “club” in quick succession, and more likely than not, the person you’re speaking to will doze off into a life-threatening coma. The sad reality is that in our digital age, you’re more likely to find a hardcover book on a historical BBC documentary than on a book shelf, (what on Earth is a book shelf?), and the thought of reading one would probably give most people a stroke.
Luckily for you, the book club I’m talking about isn’t a book club at all, but rather, a worthy breakfast destination in the heart of Shoreditch. Housed in a former Victorian warehouse, The Book Club (TBC) serves as a “home from home” for “eating, drinking, and thinking”, with food and coffee on hand to help fuel the minds of both productive professionals and leisure-loving layabouts. Fitting into the latter category, Steak and I headed on over to see what challenges their menu could “prose”.
Note: None of the meat served here is halal, but non-meat / vegetarian options are available. Alcohol and pork are served on the premises.
Although TBC’s menu is somewhat limited for Muslims, there is one item that would single-handedly warrant a visit – the pancakes. Served with caramel sauce, blossom honey, berry compote, and a helping of bananas and pecan praline, it didn’t take much convincing for me to eagerly sink my fork into them. The soft and fluffy pancakes instantly broke away, whilst the caramel sauce and blossom honey meshed together to create a smooth and rich syrup. Together with the ripe bananas, (which were practically caramelised), all three components enhanced the pancakes with a powerful sweetness. This contrasted fantastically with the tartness of the berry compote, and the pieces of pecan praline delivered a phenomenal crunch that completed the symphony of textures on the plate. As far as heavenly pancake-stacks go, this is one that is not to be missed.
Pancakes with caramel sauce, bananas, berry compote, pecan praline and blossom honey (£6) (*Must-Eat*)
Stack em’ and stab em’ (*Must-Eat*)
As per usual, Steak had veered towards the morally-superior brunch option, which on this occasion, was a plate of “avocado toast”, consisting of two pieces of sourdough toast, two poached eggs, and two generous piles of mushy avocado and smoked salmon. The eggs – (which had been poached rather well), released a soft, oozing yolk that was instantly soaked up by the firm sourdough, whilst the lightly-seasoned salmon delivered a pleasantly balanced flavour. Clean, nutritious, and well-rounded – everything that my breakfast was not.
Avocado Toast (£8.50)
Whilst TBC is certainly not a specialty coffee shop in any way, shape or form, their seemingly well-versed Baristas serve up an espresso blend from Volcano Coffee Works – a specialty roaster based in South London. As I tucked into my flat white, I was greeted by a thick layer of velvety microfoam, which gave way to reveal a perfectly balanced cup. With its heavy body and mouthfeel, and its smooth and rich flavour, I was surprised to find that it satisfied my senses until the (literally) bitter end.
Flat white (£2.50)
Value For Money: 4.5/5
Whilst most establishments in Shoreditch seem to inflate their prices simply for being in the presence of hipsters, TBC seems to be unfazed by the daunting overheads of skinny-jean-friendly-sofas and gluten-free air. The pecan praline pancakes for example, cost just £6, whilst the avocado toast and flat white came in at £8.50 and £2.50 respectively. Other breakfast items also range from £6-£9, and relative to the quality of the food and the portion sizes, it’s fair to say that the prices are really rather reasonable.
However, due to the “pay-at-the-till” style service, staff members can seem to be quite aloof to the presence of their customers. They are by all means, perfectly polite, and service is otherwise speedy and efficient, but on the whole, the interaction doesn’t feel quite as warm or as personal as one would expect. That said, this may be well-suited for the purpose of a “creative space”, as working folk can tap away at their laptops with little to no disturbance, whilst casual diners can enjoy a bit of privacy, and move freely from one seating area to another. (Provided the other one isn’t occupied of course. That would be rude. And probably a bit weird).
The venue itself spans two floors, and the main dining / thinking / working area is vast, spacious, and quite literally, “open”, thanks to the huge holes in the middle of the partitioning brick walls. (One can only wonder whether they’re the result of a builder’s creative flair or the insatiable appetite of a former customer). Across the rest of the room, you can expect to find an assortment of seating options, ranging from serious wooden chairs and tables, to cosy sofas and armchairs, all surrounded by a range of artwork and homely touches. It is, quite literally, a fusion between a rustic cafe and a well-kept university common room, and one can certainly appreciate the versatility of the space. TBC can be found a quick five minute walk away from either Old Street or Shoreditch High Street station, and due to the shortage of parking spaces in the area, public transport is advised.
(Image taken from: http://www.wearetbc.com)
Thanks to the warm and sizeable nature of its interior, the ambience within TBC is perfectly serene, allowing for multiple pockets of privacy to co-exist in peace. It almost feels like a very liberal library, where calm and tranquility is softly encouraged, but complete silence is strictly forbidden. (If only all “libraries” served pancakes and specialty coffee – perhaps we would visit them more often).
Take the usual profile for a cafe or a breakfast bar in London, and you’ll find the embodiment of a cool, indie youngster who enjoys loud music and fitted denim shirts. This youthful spirit has become the very foundation of London’s coffee and breakfast culture, and whilst it’s still very much a part of The Book Club, the spirit here seems to be just a little more grown-up. With its vast, open space and its semi-academic feel, The Book Club is the embodiment of that same, cool, indie youngster, who now has a couple of grey hairs and a real job. The menu is certainly limited for Muslims, and even more so for vegetarians and vegans, but if you’re hoping to gear up and power through your deadlines, or wind down and completely forget about them, you can expect to do it with ease and comfort in the sociable solitude of The Book Club.
The Book Club
Address: 100-106 Leonard Street, London EC2A 4RH
Telephone: 0207 684 8618