Sunday, 27 March 2011

Little Green

There are some that will argue that Brook Green is not Shepherd's Bush. Strictly speaking they are probably right, however when you live within hopping distance (not yet tried and tested) of both Shepherd's Bush Green and Brook Green, I think you're allowed to bend the rules.

Never afraid to bend the rules, I have enjoyed a number of places on this side of Shepherd's Bush where W14/W6 meet; Los Molinos Spanish tapas restaurant, Rice Thai restaurant and the British Red Cross charity shop are some of the reasons I regularly venture south down Shepherd's Bush Road.

I used to happily add Brook's Counter and Table to this list, and I was all excited about doing an overdue review  however I was deeply disappointed when I went to Brook's last weekend armed with my camera, best food reviewing appetite and a very hungry NewMan.

When NewMan and I were first "courting" last year we were both living in unhappy flat shares. Additionally at this early and uncertain stage in our relationship there was also a need to impress one another so going out for breakfast became a regular and increasingly expensive event. It is fair to say that NewMan won hands down with him living in N1 and treating me to eggs scrambled exquisitely at Ottolenghi or Caravan. Though I love the breakfasts there dearly I knew Ruby's next door to Goldhawk station or the stuck-in-time-charm of Harris' Cafe Rest wasn't quite in the same league. (Ironically now at this more comfortable (i.e. slobby) stage in our relationship when there is no pressing need to overawe each other with smoked salmon and posh frothy coffee, Cafe Rest and Ruby's are precisely the place we head for.) So it was the overwhelming deli counters and freshly cooked breakfast of Brook's Counter & Table that we rolled out of bed for when in W12.

Last year Brook's was guaranteed good food, good staff, good atmosphere and only a hit and miss chance of being too busy. Last Saturday morning there was the good food, but there was also terrible staff, a therefore lacking atmosphere and inexplicably it was chaotically too busy. The older I get the more I value good customer service. I didn't see one smile between all four members of staff that day. I felt Brook's let itself down primarily because its' staff came across as rude, abrupt and most fundamentally lacked any kind of indication that they actually wanted to be there. Now this I can understand. It was the first warm sunny day of the year and Brook's was filled with smug young couples (guilty!) enjoying a day off or Yummy Mummies desperately waiting for their supersize extra shot lattes with their nagging children banging their scooters into my ankles (true story!). I wouldn't want to be working there on such a day. However, Brooks is not a cheap establishment. Their breakfast options range from £4.50 to £9.00 in price and most of their extensive range of organic products will sadly never make it into my kitchen cupboards as they are way out of my budget. But for a guaranteed good breakfast, I don't mind paying the price every now and again.

NewMan ordered poached eggs and salmon, I ended up just ordering some toast and a large pot of English breakfast tea, which wasn't that large and thus stewed pretty quickly. I would have asked for some hot water but after I'd witnessed a slight altercation between one Yummy Mummy and the hot drinks barista (who apparently missed out their order and failed to apologise) I was reluctant to ask for any favours from the staff. This in itself is sad and a big let down when you're like me and like you're tea, "just so" or failing that, just not stewed.

The food was still good, there's no denying that. NewMan enjoyed his eggs and the salmon very much, but (again a but!) his toast came without butter and strangely his meal arrived a full ten minutes before mine. I had to go back up to the counter of doom and risk my ankles as more kids on more scooters flooded in to chase up my toast. It was sitting in the toaster getting cold. It was put on a plate and handed to me, with butter and jam, but without an apology. It's a testament to how the good the freshly baked bread is that even cold, it was still good toast.

I fear this review all sounds a bit moany just because these poor people working on a Saturday didn't bust out a smile or a sorry. If you've read any of my other reviews you'll know that I'm a little out of my usual positive depths here as I've not yet done a "negative" account of a restaurant and I don't do it comfortably as I'd like to think my cup of (stewed!) English breakfast tea is always half full. Yet I want to be honest and feel in this case honesty is the best policy. I think maybe it's because Brook's has a monopoly in our area of being the only "organic deli" type breakfast spot they have let standards and staff morale slip. The Yummy Mummies and the young post coital couples will all go back because there' s really nowhere else similar to go this side of the Bush. Depressingly in much the same way I will probably go back to Brook's one day as the food is that good, but it won't be as soon as it could have been had the service been with a smile.


  1. Nice dark-haired Polish lady is nice. Blonde girl is always grumpy and I have a points-scoring system for if I ever get a smile out of her!

    Raoul's has opened up on Hammersmith Grove - check it out. Take your credit card....

  2. Great review. I've never been in there but walked past it a few times.

    The Eggs & Salmon look very nice but coming without butter is a bit slack really. Plus you only ordered toast but had to wait 10 minutes longer for it to arrive (cold), is a shame. No accounting for poor service really; if they serve the vicinity of Brook Green, they really should be used to a few yummy mummies / smug young couples ordering breakfast at the weekend when the sun comes out.

    For what its worth, in the quest for the Bush-vicinity breakfast holy grail. I can't beat the Central Bar (aka Spoons) for a value fry-up, but the most tasty is Patisserie Valerie which is a short walk up Holland Avenue (particularly the Eggs Florentine which comes served on brioche loaf...nom nom!).

  3. Well, it's definitely not Shepherd's Bush, but I remember my mother telling me to 'Be Careful" when I went to my friend's house after school about 40 years ago. I live in Kensington and she in Brook Green. Perhaps that shows how things have changed. Now I live in Shepherd's Bush and she lives in Acton and neither of us could afford to live where we grew up.