Sunday, 30 May 2010

The Inflated Price of Childhood Regression for the Middle Classes, Yeah?

Wake up. Hangover, Grotty feeling in the stomach. Fry up, greasy spoon. Cafe.

Easy choice to make, wake up with a hangover in East London and you'll never be too far away from a place that specialises in making eggs on toast with all trimmings.

Venturing into Hackney Wick these days can bring all sorts of joys, you can find interesting things going on, artists having open studios, music, flea markets with Dinosaur Jr. T-shirts and warehouse parties. Basically a good place to go if you don't mind the 'creative type', being achingly cool and having a lot of good fun.

However creative areas, self confidence and a distancing from reality can lead to some bizarre choices you have to make. For instance, you've wondered up to the flea market, had a look around, decided to sack it off and find some scrambled eggs on toast. The first stop is the Hackney Pearl, a cafe / bar in the Wick that hopes to 'become a lustrous gem nestled in a rough exterior'.

I walk in, thinking eggs on toast, I walk out and start to breathe more easily. So many things were wrong with the situation, firstly there was nobody in there who was morbidly obese. To get an English Breakfast there must at least be an approximation of somewhere between 10-50% morbidly obese people sat around. Next there were two achingly cool (twice in one post!) skinny girls with enormous sunglasses sat in doors playing cards, except the cards were MASSIVE, A4 sized cards (maybe the cards had to be so large so that they could make them out with their sunglasses on?). For some reason I still hadn't realised that the only place to go from here should have been the exit and fast! I walked up to the counter and stared at what, to be fair, looked like the 2nd nicest carrot cake I had ever seen, one slice was priced at £2.70, next to this was a very sorry looking cup cake, with no icing, the size of a malnourished poverty stricken eight year old girls fist, priced at £1.70. Looking up to the board with the breakfast options listed there I spotted it, scrambled eggs on toast £4.20. Bugger. No thanks. Left. Phew!

Just around the corner The Wick Cafe.

Go inside, roughly 35% of the patrons are morbidly obese, there is a family sitting down for their Sunday roast, builders in high-vis jackets eating and reading the News of the World and lots of little notes, flyers and community news attached to a pin board on the wall. Sit down, scrambled egg £2.20, full English £3.95, Tea 50p. Winner. The food was bang on, the service was alright and we left with full bellies and a little bit less of a hangover.

During the egg fest we discussed eggs. How much does it cost to make scrambled eggs? 2 free range eggs 40p, toast 20p and probably about 5 p worth of butter. 65p what a mark up for the Hackney Pearl. What is the value of scrambled eggs, what increases the value, what doesn't? Has the Hackney Pearl become a parody of itself. Imagine one of the builders going into the Hackney Pearl and sitting down, spending a fortune for eggs on toast to be surrounded by people playing with giant cards.... It's a juxtaposition that just doesn't work and quite rightly so.

Eggs is eggs, it isn't a lifestyle choice.


  1. it's the same with pubs, how can some central/east london pubs justify nearly £4 a pint, when others can do it for £3? I don't mean bars or clubs, I mean pubs! rooms what have beer, what are the overheads?

  2. With regards pubs: rent, wages, national insurance, business rates, insurance, licenses...the list goes on. And yes it is more expensive to operate in central london than anywhere else in the country. Much more expensive.

    Pubs are closing at a rate of 39 per week ( in the UK. This wouldn't be the case if they were making extraordinary profits on beer or food. Typical costs for a well managed pub (measured as a percentage of net turnover) would be something like this: wages 30-35%, cost of goods sold 30-35%, rent 12-15%, other overheads 10-15%. Add this up and you can see the profits are small with not much room for error.

    As for eggs on toast- how many eggs? battery or organic? milk or double cream? dry, watery, overcooked, rubbery, light, fluffy, creamy, juicy? cooked en masse or cooked to order? a slice of hovis with a scraping of marge or something more substantial and tasty? Let's not mention the bacon.

    Any or all of the above may or may not be what you're looking for on a given day- that's up to you.

    Food can satisfy in many ways- it can fill you up, satisfy a craving, stave off a hangover, nourish you, surprise you, excite you, evoke childhood memories etc etc etc.

    Sometimes food just does a job; sometimes there is more sensual pleasure involved. Some people have a perfunctory approach to food; others a more Bacchanalian relationship with it. Most of us find a balance between the two extremes with one or the other taking precedence at different moments.

    Of course there are other factors to consider when you are going to the expense of eating out- atmosphere, service, music, decor, location. No matter how casual the appearance, none of these things happen free of charge.

    You certainly shouldn't spend money on something if you can't find value in it.
    But you can't compare apples and oranges 'cause eggs ain't eggs.

  3. Wow - What a comment!

    In other news I have heard that the hot chocolates in The Pearl are nice. Still yet to try it out but I am sure the day will come, probably not at breakfast time though.