Sunday, April 12, 2009

Nico's Cafe-Diner
299 Cambridge Heath Rd
London E2 0EL

On my way to the Affordable Vintage Fashion Fair in Bethnal Green, I passed by a cafe called Nico's, wondering why on earth it sounded so similar. After 10 minutes or so, it hit me; this greasy spoon was Blake Pudding's (of the London Review of Breakfasts) pick for The Guardian's feature on London's alternative tourist spots as selected by London bloggers.

I'd be wondering where I was going to have lunch after the fair, so I figured I might as well given this a shot.

The cafe was pretty much empty when I went in, but, at 3 pm on a sunny Saturday, that was to be expected. I was later proven wrong when a number of customers came in to get takeaway sandwiches, although I did recognise one or two as coming from the fair as well.

I quite liked the layout of Nico's. It seemed just like a proper English caff, but more brightly lit. There were quirky little ornaments and assorted newspaper articles decorating the walls. The clock adorning the wall where I sat was clearly a nautical clock of some kind, though shaped like a violin.

I opted for an English classic: a salt beef sandwich (£2.50). One reason why Nico's was chosen by Blake was because of the sheer size of the servings, but I certainly wasn't expected to be served proper English chips with my sandwich.

Just look at how thick they are!

The salt beef was nice and tender. It wasn't too salty and I enjoyed slathering each individual piece of beef with a different condiment, ranging from tomato ketchup to mustard to brown sauce. What can I say? I'm a saucy girl.

The only thing wrong with the sandwich was that the bread wasn't toasted. In retrospect, I should have asked for it to be toasted, rather than assuming that it would be. Net result was soggy bread, as the juices from the beef soaked into the white bread.

There was also the nice friendly vibe about the place. Midway through my meal, two white-haired customers, clearly regulars, caught up on each other's lives, with one telling the other that he'd finished writing his book which was due to be published in the summer. The owner also chatted amiably with them about the results of the Grand National. It just felt very neighbourly and homely.

As I got up to leave, the owner called out a friendly thanks and farewell; I turned around and thanked him for the chips. I mean, that's got to be one of the best value meals I've had in London, even if it's not particularly balanced, nutritionally-speaking!

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