Article by James Coldrey-Mobbs – A Coverpoint Consultant
I have always been a huge fan of Benugo, as they are one of the only caterers to successfully operate in both High Street and Business and Industry environments. Their fresh, natural and honest approach has proved a winning formula with Clients, and whilst they may not be on the same level in terms of the number of sites, as the Compasses and Sodexos of this world, they do what they do extremely well. As part of WSH, they have gone from strength to strength owning most of the business on Exhibition Road!
When I heard Hugo Warner was set to open Market Café, his own Restaurant set amidst Broadway Market’s hustle and bustle I got rather excited. Now first of all, if you read this blog and fancy a trip to Market Café, don’t rely on Google maps and the post code to get you there. As I found out, you end up down a residential side road with no bars, restaurants or cafés in sight! However, on the lovely, dare I say, summer-like evening that I visited, I was more than happy to burn off those extra few calories to find it. Broadway Market itself is scattered with independent offers all of which were lively, bustling and full of atmosphere. It was a fabulous sight, seeing so many places that busy, in the recessionary times we currently find ourselves in.
Market Café is styled on a 1950’s traditional Italian ‘Formica café’, with the traditional miss-match of fixtures and furniture. The chess board ceiling, wooden boarded walls and very 1950’s flower-power wallpaper makes for a very family friendly, yet ‘hip’ atmosphere. The restaurant is split into different levels, with the more formal restaurant situated at the back and a busy bar at the front bursting out onto the street.
We were greeted by Hugo, who most definitely runs the floor in a very hands-on manner, taken to our table, equipped with high school wooden chairs, and offered free still or sparkling water. Along came our Italian waiter to explain the menu, with hand cut tagliatelle and meat sauce, chicken al mattone, grilled fish of the day and a selection of simple side dishes. Desperate for a drink and feeling all Summery, we try the infamous Hackney Cup, a sweet, fruity and refreshing concoction made with gin, vermouth, Campari, grapefruit juice and lemonade, all served with fresh blood orange and cucumber and served in plastic tumblers.
I had heard good things about the hand cut tagliatelle so I chose that, with my better half opting for the chicken al mattone, a traditional dish with the chicken cooked under a heavy stone to make the skin delicious and crispy. The food arrives quickly with simple presentation, but good hearty portions. The food was perfectly nice, but, if I am being honest, it didn’t blow me away. Everything was cooked well, with the chicken moist and juicy in the middle and the tagliatelle al dente, mixed with a tender and succulent meat sauce. The pork meat was cooked in milk, with a mixture of onions and herbs, so it provided something different from the traditional Italian tomato sauce. It was clear, both from reading the menu, and having eaten there, that the food at Market Café is meant to be simple but tasty, and that is exactly what it is. Having said that, the Blood Orange Sorbet was sublime, with exactly the right amount of acidity – not so tart that it make you wince, but sharp enough that it tingles in your mouth. I would happily return, even if it was just for the sorbet.
Whilst all members of the staff were very polite and welcoming, there were certainly some more ‘experienced’ members who had much greater knowledge of the menu and who were more confident talking about the dishes. However, I think this is merely a teething issue as the restaurant has only been open for three weeks or so. It’s a friendly, bustling, ‘local’ operation that encourages interaction between customers and staff members, but on one or two occasions staff were slightly unsure what a certain dish was served with. Maybe this is just my consultant side coming out and asking too many questions!
Staying true to his “hands on” approach, Hugo came round to check that we had enjoyed our meal and we got speaking about the new venture and his plans for the future. Hugo explains that he is thoroughly enjoying being his own boss again and relishing working on the restaurant floor, where his true passion lies. He explained that there are plans for the future in terms of new restaurants, but for the time being he is concentrating on making something special out of Market Café.
If my experience is anything to go by then I am certain Market Café will be a success. The super trendy and hip Broadway Market is likely to continue providing Hugo with a stream of new customers, as the surrounding areas of Hackney and Dalston develop into some of the most popular destinations for independent restaurant goers. First and foremost though, Hugo needs to get on the old ‘Dog ‘n’ Bone’ (sorry I couldn’t resist a bit of east-end Cockney slang) to Google and get the Google maps issue sorted, as not everyone will be a patient in searching for Market Café as I was – and that would be a shame!