Age: Just a few weeks, if you don’t include the post-Xmas soft opening, or the original café at Hackney’s Netil House (now closed).
Where exactly is it? Running the full narrow length of a single ground-level arch under the Eastern Coal Drop building, with entrances both on CDY’s main square and Lower Stable Street. It’s a touch more of a ‘secret’ spot for a bite than its bookending big gun neighbours Dishoom or Casa Pastor.
So what goes on there? Toasties. Big, fat, steaming oozingly-melty ones. A signature combination of tangy cheeses between two hunks of superior sourdough, whacked under the grill. Variety comes via the addition of either cured nduja salami or truffled roast mushrooms to the simple mixed onions of the original. For those obstinate types dining in a cheese toastie bar but caring not for a cheese toastie, a couple of riffs on the hot sarnie theme involve avocado, steak and eggs or salad (which is served with feta, so you still don’t swerve the fromage with this choice).
What should I eat? Do we really need to spell it out? On our visit we opted for the mushroom one. Cheese melted into/onto toast is such entry-level, idiot-proof comfort food that it’s hard to elevate it gastronomically without losing the simplicity that makes it work. Morty and Bob have therefore focused on the subtleties to distance themselves from the cheddar-slice-on-Hovis pack, zeroing in on the ideal juxtaposition of outer surface crunch with hot inner goo. Once the dish has cooled from its volcanic arrival temperature, there’s a short-but-perfect window during which to enjoy the interplay of tastes and textures before it all starts to set into a less beguiling slab. A side order of truffle fries were crisp-but-fluffy and delicious, although going double truffle with the chosen toastie proves a bit one-note. Green Toast – an avo open sandwich with kale chips and radish tumbling off it – also unleashes a battle between brittle versus goopy sensations, each vying for attention in one’s mouth.
The interior: discuss. We liked it. Dark and cosy, even at lunchtime, with clusters of good-looking brunchers each tucked away despite the arch’s limited width. Deep armchairs prove good for a post-toastie slump (almost guaranteed) or stools for those lively folk perching.
And what do I drink? Cold-press juices and Allpress coffees dominate daytimes, but the café is also open late Wed-Sat (until 11pm), with a keenly priced cocktail menu (nothing over a tenner) plus a select few wines by the glass which should cut nicely through a late-night toastie a treat.
What’s the service like? Friendly, slick and assured on our visit, despite having only just opened and it being peak lunchtime rush.
Do say: “Who knew simple cheese on toast could be so refined?”
Don’t say: “I still prefer my mum’s Kraft Singles version.”