Photograph by Claire Watts

Cafe East review – a quaint, authentic, affordable taste of East London

Being a student, I’ve eaten out of a saucepan before, but not like this.

Having heard only good things about Cafe East’s breakfast foods, I decided to wake up before twelve (for once) and give it a go. There, I encountered a familiar, cosy atmosphere in the heart of Bow, owned by brothers Mustafa and Ali. Greeted with friendly artisan decor – wood tables and walls, romantic hanging lamps and a multitude of plants, the rosy Cafe East was extremely busy. After tasting the food, I can see why.

We snagged the last available table next to the open-walled kitchen, feeling at home next to the hanging pots, pans and plants. I was initially confused about the ordering system but quickly received warm service. Our server delighted in recommending their popular fresh juices, and the pear juice was a tart, refreshing start to the delicious experience.

There weren’t many vegan options on the menu, having only one breakfast option and a few mains, but the kitchen was willing to adapt to allergies and the few options I could have all seemed incredible. Meat eaters wouldn’t be missing much with the mighty Vegan Brunch, which included: hash browns, falafel, vegan sausage, portobello mushroom, spinach, grilled cherry tomatoes, avocado and toast (I substituted baked beans for an extra hash brown).

The ensemble balanced all elements of flavour and texture perfectly, from crispy hash browns to soft, sage-y aromatic tomatoes. I indulged in the highly-contested ‘millennial’ trend of avocado-on-toast, perfected with a squeeze of the slice of fresh lemon and a sprinkle of salt. I’ve had many a bruised avocado in vegan brunches, but this one proved to be beautifully ripe. The avocado also complemented the moist spinach, bursting with flavour and a bit on the salty side (as a student I’m no stranger to MSG, I wish I’d asked for the recipe). The portobello mushroom and veggie sausage were pleasantly familiar (I could spot a Linda McCartney sausage miles away), a staple of any brunch, vegan or otherwise.

I felt the most unique element of the dish to be the ‘falafel’ – a flavoursome ball of chorizo- type spiced vegetables. I’d never had falafel in a brunch before but never again will I neglect it. The presentation was equally ingenious and aesthetic: being in a saucepan meaning it stayed warmer for longer whilst providing an artsy arrangement I could ‘smack straight on the ‘gram’. The meal was surprisingly cheap for £7.90, and great value for money considering I was full to bursting for the entire day afterwards.

It wasn’t trying to be pretentious, but wasn’t relying just on toast, mushrooms and tomatoes either like non-vegan establishments usually tend to. The creativity of the menu was reflected in its other dishes too. One friend ordered the unbelievably cheap Eggs Royale for £6: gloriously poached eggs on a bed of toast and quality smoked salmon, accompanied by a fruity salad. The other ordered the fruity pancakes (£7.50), two stacks of fluffy pancakes punctuated by strawberries and garnished with moreish fruit and syrup. Both dishes weren’t vegan so I didn’t get a taste, but the ‘mmm’ seal of approval upon first bite told me all I needed to know: Cafe East is a quaint and indispensable addition to East London.

If you enjoyed this review you may like our article about Muxima cafe.

 


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