Shoreditch: the place that regular, uncool people like myself lament for being full of beardy hipsters and pop-up everythings, while deep down we’re secretly longing to fit in to such a trendy (is that even a word anymore?) town.
It’s also the place that I work. But no, unfortunately I’m not hip enough to work in a neat little boutique or perhaps as an exotic food vendor. I work at a company that many would perceive as the antithesis of Shoreditch: Network Rail.
Roll on lunchtime; I’m starved of food and coolness, and I’m meeting a friend for lunch in a surprisingly reasonably priced cafe we’ve visited before. Alas, despite the fact we were only there a few weeks ago, as is so often in the case in Shoreditch, we arrive and it’s no longer a cafe, but a seemingly efficiently established vintage clothes store having a closing-down sale.
No bother, there’s a plethora of stylish joints we can try. Accepting the fact we’re about to be robbed in broad daylight, we wander into a predictably modern yet traditional kind of place, perhaps drawn in by there being an apparent former Made in Chelsea cast member dining outside, or so my friend informs me.
Passing a delightful selection of fresh fruit & veg and pastries, we are shown to our table at the unnaturally light end of the bistro, noting the adverse table and chair-to-floor space ratio. Having pulled the table out for my friend, the waiter now traps her against the back bench and, though very kind in doing so, attempts to push in mine for me, except I take control of my seat because I’m out for lunch in Shoreditch, not having dinner at the Ritz.
Despite the bizarre decor and the confusing, expensive menu, we opt against bolting out of there as soon as we sit down, predominantly because we’re British and too scared to do things like that for fear of causing offence.
Our captors take our order: a jug, or, as I noted later, more like a rusty chamber pot, of water, a roast chicken sandwich for my friend, and, because I’m edgy and we’re in Shoreditch, a crab omelette for me.
Between whispered conversations discussing the disturbing vibe (yeah; ‘vibe’. Shoreditch, baby) we felt upon being seated, and worries that the other diners will soon recognise that we are impostors, our nervous waitress, who for some reason has replaced our waiter (perhaps he was irked by me controlling the seating arrangements), brings over our, for want of a better word, ‘food’.
On initial viewing, my omelette isn’t an omelette, but, perhaps, the futuristic version of an omelette thousands of years into our species’ future, after we have forgotten the original recipe.
However, the chicken sandwich has been successfully crafted in the restaurant’s kitchen, using, I’m sure, whatever up-to-the-minute equipment Shoreditch establishments use to prepare their food. Oh, no, wait! There’s gristle in it!
We’re unsure whether to complain or not, given that we’re not cool enough to be here and this could be common practice. But, we do. We’re not paying for gristle. I feel a little rush of pride as I unblinkingly put my foot down. God, I’m on a roll here, what with the chair situation from earlier too.
I begrudgingly finish most of my omelette; I don’t wanna be that guy, despite knowing I’m about to pay nigh on a tenner for a half-assed lunch due to extortionate prices and a “discretionary service charge”. Why is it discretionary? Everyone in the restaurant knows about it because it’s on the menu.
Of course, the bill we’re presented with has the sandwich on it, presumably due to a lack of communication between senior members of staff and our waitress, who we guess is enjoying her first day at work, hence why she is being followed, a little overbearingly, by another lady.
They correct our bill and I pay. On our way out we notice the pastries again, including some delightful looking and uncharacteristically inexpensive sausage rolls. Sighing, knowing full well we could have had those for lunch instead of gristle and space-omelette, we depart and vow never to return.
Unwittingly transformed into a restaurant critic, I proceed to warn my colleagues against the place and go about the rest of my working day a little light-headed and under-nourished, yearning for the salvation of dinner time. Thankfully, I live far away from the accepted whackiness of Shoreditch and my evening meal comes in the shape of a jacket potato, which, hopefully, won’t be futuristic or gristly.