The Breakfast Club, 12-16 Artillery Lane, London E1 7LS
We have strolled past The Breakfast Club a couple of times recently, the last being on route to the Hawksmoor Spitalfields Bar, and it seemed to have a real buzz about it. We’d heard some good things about the food but more interestingly about a ‘secret’ bar with a ‘secret’ entrance which you can only gain entrance by saying the ‘secret’ words… More on all that later!
Walking into the venue the first thing that strikes you is the quirkiness of the place, a Kid Creole Album here, a copy of Smash Hits there… You enter via a fairy light lit arch way that transports you back to the 80s, the whole place is themed around the classic 1985 movie of the same name or rather memories of that era… I hazard a guess that the owner(s) is a similar age to me, as the nik naks scattered about reminded me so much of my world when I was an early teen. Even the first song we heard, Pink Floyd’s Another brick in the wall, time-warped me to the playground where I’m shouting “Hey teacher leave those kids alone” to Mr Graves as he clips a scruffy looking lads around the head (a lot has changed in the education system!). The play list didn’t stick to the mid 80s, it included some Blur, Beck, Prefab Sprout and even Paul Simon but never wandered much further than the early 90s.
My trip down memory lane was completed when, after being shown to our table, I spotted a Commodore 64 (complete with a cassette player for loading the games and the oh so familiar ‘syntax error’ message on the TV screen). Even the furniture reminded me of my school days, mix and match chairs and canteen and science lab tables where to one side of the restaurant while those wire-backed locker room benches formed a row of booths down the other.
Let’s get on to the food and the service, that’s what you’re really interested in not my nostalgic ramblings. As soon as we were seated the friendly waitress brought over a couple of glasses, some water served in a Grolsch bottle (another clever little nod to the 80s – remember Bros!) and our menus. The starters and bar snacks section had too many things that we wanted to try. The deep-fried feta with cranberry grabbed my attention as did the Chorizo with lemon and the grilled halloumi with sun-dried tomatoes. But we agreed to share the Buffalo wings served with celery and blue cheese dip £7.
When Buffalo wings are made properly, they’re the kind of finger food that you just have to eat and eat and eat… The hot and sticky Cayenne pepper coating is addictive, you have to keep going to keep that spice burn at bay and when it does eventually catch you up, there’s the cooling, creamy blue cheese dip to come to your mouth’s rescue. These wings were incredible, we very, very nearly ordered another portion, but our cocktails turned up… We’re easily distracted!
Saff went for a classic Mojito £7, my cocktail specialty – even if I say so myself! You can’t beat a well mixed Mojito, it’s not very often you find an alcoholic drink as refreshing. I knew that I had to have the BC Espresso Martini £7, I’d had a busy day at work (and knew the next day was going to be worse) and this caffeine, vodka and Kahlua injection was just what Dr Everythingwillbealright ordered!
Again we were torn between several dishes for the main course (served from 12.01pm)… There’s nothing fancy or clever on this menu, just great value, delicious sounding dishes. I was temped by the Late late breakfast £6.50, the Big bad steak burrito £9.90 and the Chilli bowl £8.50. But in the end I went for the BBQ Chicken & Bacon toasted (or rather grilled) sandwich £8.00. The slices of chicken breast were thick, really thick, at least 15mm thick and the bacon salty and crispy… Could have done with a touch more BBQ sauce though. This came with a small salad with a sweet mustard dressing and some proper creamy coleslaw, not all dry and ‘healthy’ like at Leon! 2 rounds were more than enough, even for a growing lad like me, I needn’t have had the Skin on fries (£2 when ordered with a sandwich) as good as they were, I was full
Saff struggled to choose too… And when the waitress came to take our order she made a snap decision and asked for the Chicken pie with mash, green beans and gravy £9.80. She was glad she did although the gravy poured over the pie made the pastry a bit soggy and the tarragon didn’t really standout. She likes to have the option of choosing where about her gravy goes…
We have not even mentioned the Full metal jackets (spuds), the salads or the burgers. Believe it or not there even more choice on the breakfast/brunch section which is served till 5pm – defo coming back for Huevos Rancheros, Fried eggs, tortilla, refried beans, chorizo, salsa, sour cream and guacamole or some Ham so eggsited, pancakes with ham, egg, cheddar and maple syrup.
While we waited for pudding, I nipped off to the loo. Even these have been 80s themed, My Little Pony wallpaper for the girls and Red Devils for the boys. This kick-started another conversation on retro toys, anyone remember Poochie and Cheekaboo?
For the second time in two weeks I was too full for a dessert so opted for another cocktail, a little too sour Apple Mojito £7. The whole juiced apple took away the sugary edge that I enjoy with a Mojito. And for an extra hit of caffeine I also ordered an Affagato, two scoops of premium vanilla ice-cream topped with a shot of piping hot espresso. The strong bitter coffee slowly melting the ice-cream… Genius and not too filling. Somehow Saff still had room for a Banoffee Pie £4.60, this was big, easy enough for 2 to share. It came in four distinct layers… 1 Cream, 2 A weird textured banana ‘purée’, 3 A sweet toffee paste and 4 The biscuit base. Saff wasn’t too impressed by this, it had a processed, synthetic taste.
But the best was yet to come – The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town, a secret bar only accessible via a Smeg fridge. We kept catching teasing glimpses of a neon sign when this fridge door was opened and as we settled our food bill we asked our waitress if we could ‘See the Mayor’.
We we soon ushered through the Smeg door, past the ‘Thrills’ sign into a parallel world which is more St Elmo’s Fire than The Breakfast Club. The bar’s like a dark ‘n’ dirty boiler room, where all the cool kids hangout, decor is raw but still very quirky. The playlist is raw too, old soul, Motown, funk, R&B and even some Reggae – the complete flip side from upstairs’ pop and commercial rock.
There’s a great cocktails (and dreams) list, 20 or so wines (& bubbles) and a choice of 8 beers and ciders. Bar food, or rather ‘Cat food’ is also available and the chatty bar staff take your order from the table – what’s not to love! The down stairs toilets (unisex) are covered in pasted up pages of old Smash Hits and Look In, I could have read the walls for ages but my Mexican Mule cocktail £8, was calling… The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town is worth a visit just to read the tin of cat food on the table and the house rules written on the drinks menu – very clever! Just another little detail that makes this bar rather special… But, shh, remember it’s a secret!
7:30am – 11pm Monday to Wednesday
7:30am – 12am Thursday – Friday
9am – 12am Saturday
9am – 10:30pm Sunday
Nearest tube: Liverpool Street