Arthur’s- 495 Kingsland Road

I’m not a fan of greasy spoons, in my mind they are greasy tables, crusty condiments and food that isn’t of the highest quality. They conjure up early childhood memories of me sitting in a chip shop at the seaside, squeamishly avoiding touching the floor because there was a butt-end of a sausage and some smushed up chips under the table. The same happened a few years ago when friends were insistent that we went to Nico’s in Bethnal Green before Field Day, these places make me want to gag.
But as we are determined to squeeze in at least two Kingsland Road eateries before James departs to Cannes for two and a half weeks (work, not pleasure), we force ourselves up relatively early on a Friday morning and head outside; something of a feat in itself given we were slightly hungover from the previous night’s visit to The Fox.
 James’ two week departure from our shores had given me ample excuse to drink more than a bottle of red wine, so it was only natural that I’d give in to my hangover and have a fry-up, greasy spoon style.
Making our way down Kingsland Road, passing by two of the more terrifying Nico-esque cafes, as James is insisting that we have a nicer breakfast before he goes, which does little to calm me as I have never been to Arthur’s so can’t possibly tell if there is going to be half-eaten food smushed all over the floors and chairs. James has reassured me that this cafe will be ok it’s been there since 1935, a family run business and is closed on Sundays, which for some reason he claims in a good sign (James – it’s because I think it means the place is for people who work, rather than feckless weekend diners like us. And if there is one group of people who know a good greasy spoon it’s builders).

Stepping over the threshold of Arthur’s, a wave of relief comes over me, a quick scan of the bustling cafe and I couldn’t see the tell-tale gleam of neglect, so my only panic was finding us a seat. Another one of my hates is having to perch on tables with strangers, and even frequent visits to Wagamamas have only this reinforced hatred by irritating neighbours who eat too loudly. Luckily someone moved and we darted around the tightly packed furniture and waltzed with various family members, including Arthur himself, to sit down.

The cafe had a limited menu so it didn’t take us long to choose, despite it being busy the waitress, a true East London maiden,  sped past our table asking us if we wanted a drink, addressing me as “Young Lady” and James, well… he was barely acknowledged by her. A few more minutes passed by when once again she made a pit stop dropping off our tea and coffee without so much of a glance as she headed off with plates of food for other diners. It wasn’t with rudeness or intention that she paid us no attention, in fact she had paid so little attention to James that his coffee was in fact tea, but we just laughed it off, she had been doing this for years and was simply hardened to it, we just enjoyed the show.

The cafe had a really nice atmosphere, and the age gap between us and the regulars was substantial. It wasn’t over run by the new generation of Dalston dwellers, but instead people who had lived here and been coming to Arthur’s for years. The customers seemed to know the staff and vice versa. Admits all the hubbub of eat-in diners and people popping in to grab a takeaway sandwich Arthur pottered around from table to table, taking some orders, clearing a few plates but mostly chatting.

My plate of food arrived first; ham, egg and chips. It was a good cut of ham and it and the chips were both generous in portion, the egg was an egg and I happily dipped my chips in the yolk and passed the white to James’ plate as I don’t like fried eggs and this was the kind of place where you aren’t allowed to be fussy and ask for poached eggs.

The sausage, egg and chips arrived and the waitress finally acknowledged the ‘young man’ to ask him if he wanted any bread. When it came it was the proper fresh stuff, not the cheap and nasty sliced muck that disintegrated when you tried to butter it. Luckily the din of the cafe absorbed his loud exclamation and delight that ‘it isn’t an arse sausage!’ and he was right, all the food that was served to us was decent and I envied all the plates of roast chicken and veg that sped past us.

I happily slurped my builder’s tea and cleared my plate, hangover or not, this was a place I could trust; even though the brown sauce bottle had the tiniest speck of crust on the nozzle, I forgave Arthur for it because he had perfected his craft and certainly earned his spot on Kingsland Road.


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