There’s a guy who hits up the Bankside Health Club at lunchtimes who tries way too hard. If he’s not throwing himself across the floor on a rowing machine he’s back-peddling on a cross trainer faster than a Tory near a pasty, or gimpily performing thousands of upside down sit ups on a Powerplate all dead-eyed and eye-of-the-tiger visaged. It’s annoying. (NB: I look like I’m giving birth after two reps so I can hardly talk but still.)
The point is, you should never try too hard. Or look like you’re trying too hard. In gyms, or indeed in restaurants. Of course, and mentioning no names, many places do, but it’s a lot better to let the concept speak for itself. Meat Liquor has no manifesto; there’s no ‘philosohy’ to Pitt Cue Co. Overtly quirky or stylised places miss the point, as does anywhere that feels the need to explain itself. Restaurants that want to succeed and entice: just be.
Brew & Que, on Downhan Road in the heart of derelict Dalston, barely looks like it’s breaking a sweat. They’ve only just opened and seem to be building the place as they go along, but they’ve already mastered the laid-back insouciance we’d expect from this part of town. Take the décor – a mishmash of moose antlers, loose light fittings, exposed brick and the rest thrown together with a half-arsed shrug and yet it looks great. Our corner of the pub was stacked full of road signs, empty prams and other random paraphernalia and it was hard to work out what was art and what was just lying around waiting to be cleaned up. The website, meanwhile, looks like it was thrown together by a Key Stage 3 IT class at 3.30pm on a Friday afternoon sometime around 1998.
When it comes to what matters, though, they’re obviously trying really hard (behind the scenes). Angling itself, as the name would suggest, as a beer and BBQ joint it specialises in craft ales by the pint, half pint or third of a pint and slow cooked ‘que’. We were there at about 11am, so we opted for a third of some fruity amber ale whose name I forget and some US-style brunch.
A Popeye Omelette, all wilted spinach, tomato and sliced onions in a mostly egg white duvet, was a decent enough fortifier accompanied by some moreish sourdough, while scrambled eggs came creamy and warm. Both were served with home fried potatoes, which is one of those sides – like hash browns and potato hash – that rarely lives up to its billing on the menu. Sadly, these were no exception, too soft and under-seasoned, in dire need of a proper roasting until the crunch factor was almost unbearable.
This is mid morning munchies as we imagine the Americans enjoy every day, as good as any coastal cafe I’ve ducked into along the edge of the Pacific if not particularly better, but nicer than many of the breakfast options round Dalston way. And if my Instagram-addicted friends are anything to go by the ribs are even better.