Eat Here: Workshop Coffee Co. ClerkenwellBy Angelica Malin
There’s something wonderful taking place in our fair city, and it involves eggs. You might have noticed; day by day, espresso by espresso, American-inspired brunch spots are popping up all over the city, as London finally takes the hint from its trendy American cousins. Looking for a new brunch spot? Read our Workshop Coffee Clerkenwell review.
This trend isn’t for everyone; some want to hold onto our Englishness as much as possible, whilst others are happy to let it sail away in a sea of yankee-inspired brunch, flat whites and chalkboard menus. Perhaps amidst all the exposed brick and Instagrammable pancakes of American-inspired eateries, the fear is we’ll somehow lose our English sense of things, our Builder’s Tea and grim acceptable of waiting hours to be served, but I think it’s bloody fantastic.
We don’t have to turn American. We can just eat like them. Because let’s be honest: our conversations are unlikely to revolve around what our therapist think of our recent break-up, or what new cupcake place has popped up on 5th. It’s going to be more like the weather and the outrageously bad service of Royal Mail, but in a much cooler setting – and with better coffee, too.
Nowhere is this more true than in Workshop Coffee Co in Clerkenwell. With its centralized island bar, exposed brick walls and giant coffee roaster, it screams out Manhattan chic. It’s the sense of the communal that makes it feel American: shared space with strangers around the island, tightly packed tables, intimate lighting – well, it’s not very British is it.
But I love this closeness; you can check out other people’s food without really remotely ashamed. It being a Sunday, my brunch date and I indulge in a spot of people and egg watching at the bar. Forever sold on things in tiny jars, I opt for a flat white just so I can spoon out brown sugar from the tiniest jam jar known to man. Both the novelty and the coffee is delicious.
Tom goes for the Shashuka (£9.50); a Mediterranean-inspired brunch dish that seems to be spreading onto London’s menus like some kind of breakfast rash. Having eaten it on Tel Aviv beach (served with a side of sea air and perfect sand rather than dry rye bread) I’m often disappointed by its London equivalent – he assures me it’s rich, flavoursome and satisfying. I’ll give it to him, it’s pretty.
I opt for the poached eggs, asparagus and smoked salmon (£10.50), served on corn bread with truffled mascarpone. It’s almost there; the egg is perfectly runny, the salmon not too salty. But there’s something inbalanced in the dish; the mascarpone, I suspect, has just been pulled out of the fridge as it’s icy cold, numbing its alleged truffled flavours, and adding a strange mass on the center of the plate. I’m still not convinced creamy cheese belongs in brunch. The corn bread, similiarly, has something off with its texture; it’s like slightly dry Victoria Sponge, and slightly too large for the plate. But hey ho, I gobble it up with glee and am quite happy photographing it from every angle, too.
Workshop Coffee Co might have some technical inconsistency with food (I suspect this is because it’s rammed), and the staff haven’t quite nailed the American sense of a great service yet, but what it lacks in finesse, it makes up with just a really, really cool vibe. Come on a Sunday around 11, grab a spot at the bar and drink a Bloody Mary and you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re in Manhattan after all.