There are some places that you just never really remember exist. Places that you walk past a lot but never really register at all in any way. They’re a bit like that guy every friendship group seems to have. The one that is at the pub with your pretty often and you talk to easily enough when he is, but you could quite easily forget to get in contact with for six months and not miss him once. That’s what The Love Shake at the bottom of Kingsland Road is like. I probably pass it three or four times a week, register its presence each time, and then forget all about it.
It’s not that it looks all that bad. I mean I do think the way it describes itself as “a 1950’s inspired Media Cafe in the heart of Shoreditch” is pretty wanky, but not so wanky as to actually put me off. It’s more that I never feel the need to go to a latish-opening snack café and bar. If I want a late-night nibble, I’d just go home and make something, and if I want a drink, most of the pubs stay open late enough to satisfy me. So the place just floats past me, just under my radar.
Until the night I find myself sliding into on to one of the café’s booths with a relatively large group of friends, all slightly hungry following our failed mission to fill up on free samples at Brolly & Ice Cream a couple of doors down the road.
I’d already scouted ahead to make sure they were still serving food (as it’s 11 o’clock) and, having received an affirmative, have rallied the troops. However, when we go to the bar to order, the truth behind of ‘still serving food’ proves slightly limited. What the very friendly barman should have said was something more along the lines of: “Yes, we are still serving food, as long as the food you want is either a hotdog or some nachos as that’s all I’m prepared to make for you now.”
With no other choice and wary of a mutiny if we don’t deliver any food back to the table, we pick a couple of each, along with a load of the (very reasonably priced) bottled beers on offer.
When the food arrives it turns out to be absolutely bog-standard; the hotdogs are slightly better than the ones you get from IKEA, but only just, and the nachos – while generously topped with cheese and a relatively tasty salsa – are nothing special at all.
Suddenly, and collectively, we realise that what we’re eating is stoned person food. It’s exactly the sort of stuff you make when you are 15, your parents are away for the weekend and have left in charge of the house, and your mate has got some crappy resin from a trampy guy in the park. In fact, you wouldn’t be surprised to find The Love Shake offering to cook up two oven pizzas at once and stick them on top of each other to make an unholy pizza sandwich.
If the café was somewhere else in Europe it would probably be really popular with the local teens so would turn up slightly stoned and eat the place dry. It would probably even have a table football table to keep them all occupied. But as it is, I think it’s safe for me to go back to forgetting all about the existence of The Love Shake again.