In the middle of Old Street and Hoxton stations in trendy east London, Friends of Ours is far more than a playground for bearded hipsters. Instead, it draws those seeking bright brunches and speciality coffee from across the capital.
Co-owners Anthony Dyer and Man Wong, who met working in the city, spent considerable time working their way through Melbourne’s brunch and coffee spots, and teamed up in 2015 with Kiwi chef Adam Andrews (formerly of Milk and Hawksmoor) to create a stonking Antipodean menu with inventive Asian twists.
Park yourself outside on the long wooden tables if the weather is nice or relax inside on teal blue chairs that contrast dark wood tables and floors. A large counter gives the epic coffee machine pride of place, along with a display of cakes from Knead in nearby Broadway Market and pastries from Celtic Bakers. We started with kedgeree, which had been given a sophisticated twist courtesy of hake (from local fishmongers Sutton & Sons) that had been smoked in-house with black tea, subtly spiced black rice and an egg yolk cured in soy sauce. Studded with pickled and roasted cauliflower, for a great contrast in texture, and topped with aromatic coriander, this was a really special way to start the day.
Corn fritters are a popular addition to brunch menus across London, but Friends of Ours has managed to give its fritters an original and distinctly antipodean twist with beetroot. A bed of roasted golden beetroot and fiery tomato kasundi added a punch, while feta and coriander sprinkled over the top gave an extra hit of flavour. There’s the added dilemma, too, of whether to add a side of salmon, cured for 24 hours in lime juice and smoked with green tea. (Clue, always add the salmon.)
For dessert – and yes, it’s perfectly acceptable here to have a two-course brunch – warm strawberries were soaked in star anise plum wine and buried into sweet ricotta on airy sourdough.
olive favourite Good and Proper Tea Co takes care of breakfast brews with the likes of Assam, Darjeeling 2nd flush, Sencha and mint tea. Coffee is excellent. Sourced from local Hackney roaster, Dark Arts, the blends and beans rotate weekly. We enjoyed the syrupy single-origin Tanzanian coffee of the day. There’s no coffee snobbery here, though – coffee is served as you like it, not as the barista dictates. As we got up to leave, the red-capped barista politely asked from behind the huge La Marzocco coffee machine if my cortado (often confused with a piccolo) was what I was after. The answer, of course, was yes, it was perfect.
And that is precisely what shines in this little café. The name Friends of Ours reflects the impeccable hospitality and true neighbourhood feel.