Located in the heart of Northcote Road territory, this little cafe tries hard to look effortless.
Brew is based on simple, no fuss food in similar surroundings. The place is tiny and almost never feels empty, with no more than ten tables in total inside and a few outside if it’s sunny. A mirror runs the length of the wall above the comfy sofa seating, reflecting the specials menu chalked up opposite. The counter at the back is laden with sweet treats fresh from the kitchen, which customers are able to glimpse behind it. At the moment it’s nothing special, standard cheap cafe chic, but a future refurbishment is planned to make it look much more rustic, with a change of furniture that includes a long farmhouse-style table.
Nevertheless, Brew has a cosy atmosphere. Their own stylised brunch options make up the menu, so relaxing and reading the papers feels like the appropriate thing to do at any time of the day. Also appropriate, given the name, is an afternoon cuppa and a cake with a mate. The only downside is the staff, who aren’t quite in sync enough to make it work. Not that they rush around, instead they rush you. Clearing up as soon as the knife and fork meet on the plate, pressing you to decide whether you’ll be ordering more as the table is swiftly swept clear, and bringing the bill before the dregs could even consider forming at the bottom of your brew.
Eggs, however you like them, dominate. Poached, scrambled, boiled (with Marmite soldiers), Turkish, Benedict, Florentine, Royale… A bog standard full English is absent, but it’s components – including Boston baked beans, breakfast sausages, smoked salmon, roast tomatoes with feta and treacle-cured bacon are all on offer so you can create your own. The scrambled eggs (£6.50) are light and fresh with punchy lemon and parsley, piled on sourdough toast which ups the taste ante even further. A side (£3) of field mushrooms served in a garlic-y balsamic, cream and pesto sauce complement them well. Granola, Coco Pops, croissants and pancakes are some of the other breakfast alternatives which cost up to £6.50.
Lunchtime offerings are well executed, too, including bagels, meze and steak sandwiches, whilst the specials include even more fashionably seasonal ingredients. Cakes, cookies, fat jam and custard donuts, brownies and pastries are temptingly displayed and substantial in size and priced at around £1.50 to £2.50. Carrot cake is one of their more popular options, with a thin, buttery cream cheese icing and juicy sultanas to keep it moist.
Union coffee is served at Brew and whilst an Americano (£1.50) is the freshest way to appreciate its quality the other options are also worth trying. Mochaccino (£2.20) is nicely strong, topped with sweet foamy milk and served in a squat glass. Along with the standard breakfast, Earl Grey and herbal teas (£2), they also do a mint brew stuffed full of fresh leaves (£2.20). Breakfast juices, a yoghurt and muesli smoothie and indulgent milkshakes also on offer for up to £3.80.
The Last Word
The fact that Brew serves almost every breakfast dish besides an ordinary full English means that it probably won’t suit those who are looking for a standard fry-up – but then again, if that’s what you wanted, you’d probably still be at home, eating it in your pyjamas.