Spitalfieds – Food Desert?

We were in Spitalfields looking for lunch and decided to go to The Market Coffee House, which until now has been one of my favourite lunch spots. They do a very refined egg and cress in a poppy seed roll and hefty slices of cake, and excellent coffee. However, this time it was a Sunday and as we walked in I noticed several new developments; there was a Wait Here to be Seated sign and a Maitre D’ type person hovering about. Apparently, and without any consultation with one of their most ardent fans, they don’t do sandwiches on Sundays, only cake if you sit on the left hand side and a full Sunday lunch if you sit on the right. I hate Sunday lunches, and not just because I am a vegetarian but most probably because I associate them with terminal boredon, too much gravy and rapidly cooling slices of meat. Anyway I was outraged, which may have been an overreaction but didn’t feel like one. It seems that they have turned themselves into an English Restaurant, well it is a restaurant and they are in England so I suppose it makes sense, but it made me furious nonetheless.

We stomped off to find someone who actually wanted our money, and it wasn’t easy. Leon, which serves average, middle class, fast food, seems to have restircted it’s already fairly restricted menu and now put pictures up on the wall of things you can eat and the combinations they will allow you to eat them in (a salad combo, a meal deal etc). It was unbearably depressing, not least because the Wraps section, usually a vegetarian haven, had five wraps and three of them were chicken. Three!! Even a meat eater must be bored by that amount of poultry. We then dragged ourselves around the market to find absolutely nothing to eat. There are all the usual chains there, Giraffe (which is ok when you have been somewhere else or are on the way somewhere else), Canteen (good, but too familiar and all I really wanted was sandwich and cake).

We finally settled on Pilpel because Falafel are nice enough and it didn’t insist on you having either a full sunday roast or a particular combination of foods, or so we thought. Again a menu board with proscribed combinations, I wanted a falafel wrap and asked if I could have a small one, to be told they only do one size and it has five falafel balls in it. All I asked for is a lovely egg roll and a slice of cake and here I am ordering a gigantic falafel wrap that I don’t even want. Eventually the man behind the counter said I could have three but the price would stay the same. Fine, I was in such a bad mood by then I didn’t really care. Joff had a huge falafel and salad bowl which was ok but mainly because he was so hungry. And it was served in a plastic bowl which is just plain nasty.

Spitalfields seems as though it should be a good place to go and get food. It appears to have promise when in actual fact it is just another concrete square full of dull restaurants serving average food. Which is a shame. I will go to the Market coffee House again and I shouldn’t blame them for trying to expand I suppose, maybe I just don’t like change. All these places were full so they must be doing something right but it seems to me that they are expanding their capcacity whilst limiting the options you have as a customer.

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The Market Coffee House


The Market Coffee House in Spitalfields is an old style cafe opposite Spitalfields Market. It is family owned and so has a little more character than many of the other chain establishments around this area. This character shows itself through the look of the place, all wooden furnture and nooks and crannies, including a lovel old tiled floor down in the basement where the loos are. The food itself sells itself as ‘home made’, freshly baked rolls with egg, sheese, ham etc, and an excellent bowl of hummus with a huge slice of bread. It is all fresh tasting and not too expensive (egg and cress roll £2.50). The cake counter is pretty irresistible, so far I recommend the banana cake, although it does have chocolate chips hidden in it which I count as a bonus but Joff sees as an ambush, and the individual bakewell tarts. the coffee is good and strong (I think they use Monmouth) and there is always somewhere to sit. I have only one quibble and that is the service; the servers themselves are all very decorative adn look as though they have been bought in bulk form an art School but there are a lot of them and it seems to take them a long time to do anything, which isn’t helped by the fact that they all seem to do the same thing at once. No system! This doesn’t ruin the place by any means and it is fast turning into my favourite lunch spot in the area. I read on their blog that they are opening a restaurant this year, which is good news.
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