Ask two Muslim meat-eaters and a vegan to choose a mutually suitable restaurant, and they’ll probably pass away from the stress of the search. As I’m sure you can imagine, restaurants that cater to both halal and vegan dietary requirements are few and far between, and for Groot, Neo, and myself, meeting up for a meal can often prove to be a bit of a challenge. Over the years, we’ve come to grow tired of our usual armoury of dim sum, sushi, and Indian eateries, and it probably won’t be long before I have to compromise and visit a strictly-vegan restaurant for the sake of my dear friend.
Unable and unwilling to comprehend such a horrifying prospect, I took evasive action in the planning phase of our last get-together, and diverted Groot’s attention to the universal meal of brunch. After offering up a number of vegan-friendly coffeeshops and cafes, Neo and I received the “green-light” for The Attendant cafe in Shoreditch, and we all headed on down to dine on neutral ground.
Note: None of the meat is halal, but non-meat / vegetarian and vegan options are available.
As per usual, Groot was the first to arrive, and I walked in to find that she had already moved on to her second soya-based flat white. Pleased to see that our dietary differences were still counterbalanced by our mutual enslavement to coffee, I ordered a regular flat white to accompany my breakfast – crafted with Attendant’s own house blend. Alongside its smooth and delicate microfoam texture, it delivered a subtle, nutty bitterness to the palate, but I really wanted a stronger punch of espresso to break through the milk.
Flat White (£2.80)
Soon afterwards, Neo ordered a single espresso, and not wanting to be rude, I ordered one too to keep him company. Unfortunately, Groot didn’t want to be rude either, and after a third soya milk flat white, she subsequently passed out from an anxiety attack. After briefly making sure that she was still breathing, I dived into my espresso and discovered a pleasantly light body and mouthfeel, and a very sharp and clean acidity. This was underpinned by delightful notes of chocolate and nut, and it was certainly a more captivating cup than the flat white that preceded it.
For breakfast, I adhered to my usual dental hypocrisy, and ordered a plate of dulche de leche french toast. Unfortunately, the toast itself was neither fluffy nor firm, but rather, sat in limbo between the two, with a disappointingly stodgy texture. Though this undermined the dish texturally, the dulche de leche sauce did well to add a rich sweetness, and the assortment of crunchy nuts, sticky honeycomb and soft caramelised pears elevated the sensory experience. Overall however, it was a fairly unmemorable dish, and I would recommend that you either opt for another breakfast item, or satisfy your french toast craving elsewhere.
Dulche De Leche French Toast (£7.50)
Thankfully, our next sweet treat – the lemon and rose palenta cake, fared far better. The soft and moist cake crumbled away with ease and delivered an exceedingly sharp, needle-like zest, which paired well with its mellow sweetness.
Lemon and Rose Polenta Cake (£3)
Value For Money: 3.5/5
Across the menu, you’ll find that breakfast and lunch items range from £3 to £12, whilst cakes, sweet treats and coffees cost between £2 to £3. As such, a trip to The Attendant would certainly be an inexpensive one, but if you’re seeking a coffee shop for the breakfast / brunch experience alone, your wallet would probably be happier with a more exciting range of options elsewhere.
Service on the other hand, could not be faulted. From the sensibly-dressed barista to the waiter wearing an elf costume – (why?), all the staff members we encountered were remarkably friendly and welcoming, and worked with a reasonable amount of efficiency.
The cafe itself is bright, spacious, and modern, and it’s certainly a far cry from the renovated public toilet setting of Attendant’s Fitzrovia branch. (I know coffee stimulates bowel movements, but I don’t think there’s any need to drink it on the toilet). Plant pots hang from the ceilings and narrow vines drape the near wall, (thereby creating a sense of safety for vegetarians), whilst a set of comfortable wooden furniture resides below. A wooden worktop also sits by the window, providing isolated work space for any coffice-nomads who may stop by. The cafe can be found a brisk ten to fifteen minute walk away from Liverpool Street, Old Street, or Shoreditch High Street station, whilst parking spaces may be difficult to come by.
Of the numerous cafes and coffeeshops to be found across London, “The Attendant” is one whose very name creates a sense of allure and intrigue. Cherished by numerous London bloggers, its stellar reputation makes it all the more disappointing when this sense of excitement fails to materialise. By all means, The Attendant’s food and coffee is of a reasonably satisfying calibre, but for a cafe of its standing, I can’t help but feel that a more enthralling experience was in order.
The question remains then, as to whether The Attendant is a cafe worth visiting. For those seeking a casual coffee-catch-up with friends or a quiet place to work for a few hours – the answer is a definitive yes. But, for those who seek a belly-busting brunch that will lay ruin to their teeth, their insulin resistance, and to the national budget of the NHS, it must be said that there are far better purveyors of poison than this particular breakfast destination.
Address: 74 Great Eastern Street, London EC2A
Telephone: 0207 729 0052