Of all of London's curious historic institutions, the Coffee House captures a unique synthesis of the serious and satirical, the collision of ideas that defines city life. In the blooming London of the 18th century, it was in these social establishments that the latest political, economic, social and scientific ideas were shared and debated. The Coffee House captured the vibrant diversity and raw energy of the city. Arguably the English Restaurant, situated on Brushfield Street, just North East of Liverpool Street Station, recaptures some of that fire and character and adds a wonderful flavour of its own.
Walking down Brushfield Street is like walking backwards in time. You begin surrounded by the towering glass and steel monolith of the RBS headquarters and progress eastward towards the facade and steeple of Christ's Church Spitalfields, an iconic Hawksmoor Church, built in 1714. As you move along the street the buildings become steadily lower and brickwork replaces the glass while wood framing replaces the steel. About three quarters of the way along the street is a rich brown building over which is painted in white 'The English Restaurant.'
Entering the building through the double swing doors, you will be confronted with rich wood panelling, the strong smell of coffee and home baking and the delightful hum of conversation. The restaurant's layout is highly irregular with lots of nooks and corner tables. It looks small, but looks can be very deceiving. To the right is a dining area while to the left are the coffee tables around which sit a mixture of businessmen, tourists and socialites. The quirky layout and wooden panels reflect the noise of the conversations unevenly so that as you move about you overhear snippets of conversations without actually knowing which part of the restaurant they come from. This has the charming quality of giving you a quick glimpse of the interests and concerns of your fellow customers without making you feel like you are eavesdropping.
Good coffee is a very rare treat in Britain and The English Restaurant makes some of the best; it is strong without being bitter, thick without being grainy and rich without being overpowering. Accompanying a drink, there are very tasty soups and light meals along with a broad selection of baking, all of which is freshly made at the restaurant. When last there, I found the Pumpkin Soup particularly good since it combined a light and creamy texture while maintaining a strong flavour. The Restaurant also makes some exquisite scones.
While my experiences at the English Restaurant have always been during the day, the restaurant caters right through from breakfast to dinner and considering the quality both of the food and the aesthetic experience during the day, I would recommend it to anyone, whether for dinner or lunch. If you are around Liverpool Street and want a good coffee, then you won't regret taking a walk down Brushfield Street and experiencing what the English Restaurant describes as "the noble and rich traditions of the English kitchen."