All this new year detox stuff is thoroughly unscientific you know. You're much better pushing on through much as before. In fact, what could be better to brighten up the dark January days than an occasional pint or two and then a nice bite of supper? I met Ben for my first post-holiday beer with some of his colleagues (Ben is lucky enough to have the best bunch of workmates of pretty much anyone I know) and after a couple of Paulaners in Bluu we mooted the question of nourishment.
There were at least four candidates for supper: Bacchus was quickly ruled out as not comforting enough, Haché surfaced in everyone's minds, but was a tube too far. Little Hanoi on Curtain Road is a Vietnamese restaurant I haven't been to yet, but I was keen to visit, Eliott's, a new cafe with a promising looking menu on Bethnal Green Road. I put my persuasive powers into action and soon we were on our way. I knew Eliott's was BYO so we stopped at the City Beverage Company on Old Street and bought a bottle of Chateau Musar 1994, a well-regarded Bordeaux-like wine from the Bekaa Valley. We caught a navigationally-impaired black cab and bundled ourselves into the cafe.
It's a funny place. Two previous businesses were here before this one and their presence lingers: An Acid Jazz logo from the, er, Acid Jazz shop ("I'll have a bag of Galliano please and a . . . . ooh, hello Gilles!") and an oriental print or two recalling the brief reign of a Korean deli/cafe (tea and kimchi were much in evidence). Regime change has mainly resulted in a stripping down of the interior - it's chunkily spartan, not much left in there . . . approaching charming. I think there are about twenty covers and on this Friday night it was 3/4 full, mostly with a large party of Australians.
Things took a comedic turn when we tried to open our bottle of wine. The cork started to crumble as we pulled it out - partly due to the twelve year old Lebanese cork and maybe partly down to a poor corkscrew. I eventually got the cork out but was rewarded with a fairly bitty first glass. The waitress showed star quality and turned up with another glass and a tea strainer. The label on the bottle laconically instructed us to decant it. No chance. We had some mineral water too and this was delivered to the table in individual plastic bottles, without glasses . . . there seemed to be a slight shortage of those. But hey, it's a cafe, right and restaurant standards shouldn't apply.
Foodwise the menu is short and sort of bistro style. There aren't any starters to speak of, apart from bread and olives, but there were about five appetising main courses. The style is Anglo-French, ergo Ben had a pie and I had some sausages with lentils. Ben's chicken pie was a large shallow bowl covered in puff pastry, as well as chicken there was celeriac and bacon. The chicken was good quality and well cooked in its own well-made stock, the pastry had a sense of the home made. In fact, the last time I tasted a pie like that was one I made from a Ramsay recipe. Ben was very pleased indeed. I had about five pork chipolatas on my plate together with some small parsnips halved lengthways. These were surrounded by a sea of delicious lentils. The lentils had absorbed some of the sausage flavours but mainly owed their tastiness to some chicken stock and dijon mustard I suspect. I would've preferred the sausages to have a higher meat content, maybe use Toulouse? They were quite acceptable though. By this time the wine had opened up and turned into something really rather good. Supper had come together nicely. And at almost amateur prices! Both the mains were under £8, corkage was £2. They don't take cards so Ben went off to get some good old-fashioned folding stuff while I ordered a dessert of bitter chocolate torte and butterscotch ice cream. When this eventually arrived it had a good consistency - part crumbly, part gooey with the ice-cream having a properly big butterscotch taste.
Opening hours appear to be somewhat limited too . . . I tried to go back this evening to get some photos but they weren't open.
So, a funny beast this. As informal as you could get. I'm sure some of you will find it too generally loose to cope with, but I'll be back - it's good value, it's good cooking and you can take your own wine. And it's quite a laugh too. Please laugh with it, not at it.
Oh, and if you're wondering about the title . . . see?
Eliott's, 146(tbc!) Bethnal Green Road, E2