J & A Cafe
This place is a hidden gem, off of Clerkenwell Road down a small alleyway but always busy and serving a solid menu of homemade goodies to eat in or takeaway. I usually have the soup of the day, 2 or 3 varieties are chalked on the board, the soda bread served with it is brilliant, the best I've had.
Chicken and bacon chowder with soda bread (£6.50)
The blackboards advertise the daily menu, selections of salads, pies, tarts, stews and sandwiches. Another favourite is the savoury tart, more of a quiche really served alongside a choice of salad. There's such a variety available each day, a potato, rice, pearl barley and a leafy option always with interesting sounding ingredients. I've never had a duff order here. Wholeheartedly recommend it, if you're in the area and I'll miss it when I'm not.
Pie of the day (£10.50) served hot with a choice of potato, salad or champ.
Tart of the day (pea and feta pictured, £9.50) served with leaves and a salad of choice
Service is efficient, the food served very quickly and I'm usually in an out within half an hour. There's a bar in the evenings and weekend brunch looks appealing. I'll definitely be back to check that out.
Formerly St Ali, of Melbourne fame, I'd been meaning to visit Workshop cafe for some time. After an acrimonious split, they re-branded as Workshop and seem to be flourishing. There's a second branch in Marylebone but I've only eaten at the original and biggest Clerkenwell Road venue. There's a focus on coffee and brunch, in true Antipodean style but they take the rest seriously too, a recent pop up collaboration with The Hart and Fuggle looked very interesting.
Tarragon chicken caesar salad (£11.50)
Hamburger, comté, chipotle mayo, ratte potatoes (£13.50)
Sweetcorn fritters, halloumi, spinach, poached eggs and kasundi (£11.50)
The kasundi in the photo above is a mustard relish. I wasn't too keen on it actually, it had a rather acrid aniseed flavour. This is a bit pricy for an everyday lunch, but nice once in a while. I find the service can be a bit slack, they are always very busy though, so they're doing something right. Best for breakfast or weekend brunch. They used to offer a selection of sandwiches on the coffee counter, which were always good and better value, but these were gone when I visited last week.
I don't have a bad word to say about the food at Lantana, so was keen to try sister restaurant Salvation Jane when I heard Shelagh was expanding. I've been for weekend brunch and weekday lunch, and much preferred the former.
Corn fritters (£10.50) were under seasoned and thai fish cakes with noodle salad (£9.50) were uninspiring. Much better was the grilled halloumi with toasted turkish bread, hummus and dukkah topped with poached eggs (£9). That's a dish I'd definitely return for.
As at Lantana, the coffee on offer is lovely as are the selection of sweet dishes on the counter. It's a much larger venue than the original site so easier to nab a table, no sign of a queue on either of my visits. I do so love Lantana though, the first of it's kind in London, and still one of my top choices for brunch. The menus seem to be remarkably similar if true to what's advertised on the website.
Service is friendly and the place has a charming relaxed vibe. It's good value too and being only a few steps away from the Old St roundabout, it's a shining beacon in a grimy little strip on City Road. Shame on anyone walking by and going to the Pret next door.
J & A Cafe
1-4 Sutton Lane
27 Clerkenwell Road
55 City Road