5. Albion Caff
With utensils in recycled Lyle’s Golden Syrup tins, daily newspapers, Brown Betty tea pots, formica-topped tables, red leather banquettes, and simple wood panelling, Albion is an upmarket and stylish reincarnation of the endangered, much-loved, humble British caff. The only things missing are grease, smoke, and steam.
Albion is in the historically fascinating Boundary Estate in the heart of Shoreditch, an area which is now attracting all sorts of creative types and businesses, many of which, like Albion, are housed in converted buildings. It’s ideally placed for Sunday morning visits to nearby Columbia Road flower market, but also a haven of civilised café life all day, every day.
The kitchens are open to view, and the baked goods come out thick and fast, with large numbers of cakes, pastries, biscuits and breads cooling on racks before being despatched to seated customers, and to the large table laden with good things in the small shop area.
Although there is a French flavour to the breakfast baking, including the biggest, most richly filled almond croissant ever tasted (£2.90, could feed two), the rest of the line-up features impressively made, old-fashioned favourites fairly priced. Portions are generous: gingerbread men are truly mannish and not boyish, and a reworked filled Bourbon biscuit is the equivalent of a fistful of the tiny packet variety. Although there is the inevitable cupcake, the cakes are definitely what you would hope your mother would make: a rich, layered chocolate cake, a startlingly pink and yellow Battenburg with real marzipan and a pleasingly home-made appearance, and a creamy-jammy Victoria Sponge Cake that wouldn’t look out of place at a village fete.
Albion has much to recommend it: smiley staff, plenty of seating including tables outside on the pavement, fish and chips, a hotel above should you want to indulge in a cake blow-out, a restaurant below should you wish to stay all day, and a wonderfully rich neighbourhood to explore. It has all the hallmarks of a carefully designed Conran enterprise which is why it does cake n' caff so well.
Cake: £1.50 - £3.50
2-4 Boundary Street
London E2 7DD
Tel: 0207 729 1051
Open: 8 am – 11.30pm seven days a week