I think I like the idea of Leopold’s of London more than the actuality of the place. Don’t get me wrong, I like the actual place as well, but the idea is far superior to the reality. But isn’t that often the case? Trying to get a seat on a Friday morning was a bit like trying to find a watering hole in the Serengeti. My partner and I obviously arrived through the wrong entrance and spent several awkward minutes searching for a table. We looked like two meerkats stood on an ant hill looking for something to eat. And despite numerous staff buzzing around like flies on a hot day, no-one actually plucked up the courage to approach us. So we fought our way through the other table searching meerkats to “re-enter” the establishment via the terrace entrance. Whereby we hit our next obstacle; a slightly sweaty hostess in a slightly too tight skirt suit. They either change the uniforms, or I am sure they will dehydrate into just empty crumpled suits.
I don’t think the experience would be any poorer for it, if I am honest. Having asked for a table outside, we covered our ears as she bellowed, literally fog-horned it up to the balcony on the first floor to inquire on a table for us. Having got absolutely no confirmation from anyone upstairs she confidently instructed us to make our way back through the Serengeti of meerkats and flies to our potential table on the upper level.
It was at this point I was willing to continue walking and try our luck at another place. I was dreading what experience could await us upstairs. I felt like Simba walking out of the Pride lands and into the dark forbidden elephant’s graveyard. I was convinced I could hear the Hyenas laughing from upstairs. But, as I said at the start of this review, I really like the idea of Leopold’s and so I persevered. And I am glad I did.
Upstairs was like a different world – the lush green foliage on the wall of the staircase acted like a Feng Shu cleansing for me and we arrived to a wonderfully considered mezzanine floor. Ornate and eye catching with tea and coffee labs, where they probably practiced sinister caffeine alchemy. Their coffee menu had wonderfully exciting names like Chemex and Cold Brew and Syphon and my favourite, the Manual Shot. How alpha male! This is what Putin would drink if he came here.
The tea menu was over-complicated, perhaps to justify the pricing. It’s difficult to charge premium prices for what is effectively a fancy cup of PG Tips. The food menu was succinct and considered. Their breakfast range was what you would expect – the usual egg menu, poached, scrambled, omelezzzzzz….. I ordered the eggs benedict, with a choice of soft cooked eggs. My partner wanted to try the healthy breakfast, a chickpea bruschetta type dish and then, after some internal deliberation, she added the vanilla bean pancakes, because, well, you don’t want to be too healthy.
We sat back and enjoyed the mayhem and what turned out to be excellent coffee. The staff were plentiful and diverse, and seemed to be just managing to stay afloat of the Friday morning tsunami. I started to explain the history of Leopold’s, but when my partner learnt that there was actually no Leopold and he wasn’t from London, she lost interest immediately.
Luckily the food arrived and we were saved from the impending one sided discussion. My eggs benedict was satisfactory, but certainly the eggs were not soft. The muffin was fresh but the hollandaise sauce was not sharp enough for my liking. But it was better than Paul’s but not as good as Tom and Serg’s. The healthy breakfast was poked at with both our forks, but largely left untouched. The chickpeas and tomato based sauce made the bread soggy and with too many strong flavours, it was far too heavy to be considered a breakfast dish or a healthy dish. Luckily we had the pancakes as backup. They were thick cakes, slightly Bavarian in nature, with a good, not too sweet cream and some artisan home-made style jam, sorry, compote.
Leopold’s of London is a clever, well designed “home grown” concept, with a strong location down at the beach on JBR. It will have a good following of European expats and locals, looking for safe, suitable food and good quality coffee. It’s the new wave of gastro-ish coffee/café/restaurants. It has a good story behind it but I feel there are just a few too many errors in the plot for it to be a blockbuster just yet. But what do I know; I spent half my time there thinking I was Simba from the Lion King.