When I took last Friday afternoon off work, I didn't have grand plans, but culture, coffee and brunch were all on my shortlist so naturally, I headed to Shoreditch. I had heard great things about Friends of Ours, a cosy, Aussie-style neighbourhood café located a few blocks northeast of Old Street roundabout. I was particularly pleased to hear that their brunch-ready menu is available throughout the week.
It was almost 2 pm by the time I arrived (I did the 'culture' part of the afternoon first, but, Humpty Dumpty-like, I will come to that later) and although Friends of Ours was bustling, there were a couple of free tables. The café itself if bright and colourful with red, black and grey accents (the tiled coffee bar is particularly stylish) and a cheerful mural on the back wall. There are a few small tables next to the bar and in the front window as well as a larger communal table at the back.
The coffee is from Hackney-based Dark Arts and there are a few options on offer, including cold brew and batch-brew filter coffee, as well as the usual espresso-based drinks. I ordered a piccolo (£2.40) and thought about getting a cold brew too, but I wanted to try one of the cold-pressed juices instead (£4). My piccolo was very well-crafted and had a smooth, well-balanced flavour and a neat little latte art heart. The juice — I went for 'the purple one', which involved beetroot, apple, carrot and lemon — was refreshing too.
It took me a while to work my way through the food menu as I was choosing among nine of the dishes (there were nine dishes). I was tempted by the huevos motelanos (£8.20), a combination of fried egg, smoked ham, chorizo, chipotle and veggies on arepa bread. But it was the corn fritters (£9) that won the day: sweetcorn and beetroot fritters, with a poached egg, smashed avocado, feta, mint and coriander. This sounded like a lot of food, so I didn't add a side of streaky bacon, although with hindsight, I probably could have managed.
The fritters were really tasty, the beetroot adding some interesting colour, flavour and texture to a brunch standard. The egg was small but perfectly poached and the avocado, tucked away from sight, was tasty too. I could have done without the feta, but otherwise, this was a delicious and creative dish. There were a few cakes, cookies and doughnuts on the counter but I decided to save room for my next coffee stop instead.
Friends of Ours is a really lovely café with friendly staff (of course), a relaxed ambiance, and great food and drink. They open every day until 5 pm; they don't take reservations but if there's a queue, it will be well worth the wait.
As for the cultural component of my afternoon, I went to the Yayoi Kusama exhibition at the Victoria Miro gallery, a few blocks west of Friends of Ours, near the City Road canal basin. I was looking forward to seeing the Japanese artist's golden pumpkin work (All the Eternal Love I Have for the Punpkins), which required a 30-minute wait even on a rainy Friday. When you reach the front of the queue, you and up to one other person head inside the room where you are allowed 30 seconds to enjoy the art. I spent about 20 seconds snapping photos and then spent 10 seconds just enjoying the infinite reflections and stunning light and geometry.
Downstairs, there was another work (Chandelier of Grief), which you could look at for one minute in groups of four. My photos didn't come even close to capturing how beautiful it is: it was like being inside a sparkling kaleidoscope. If you're in the Islington/Shoreditch area and aren't in a particular rush, I'd recommend stopping by the gallery, even if there is a bit of a queue. Entrance is free.
Friends of Ours. 61 Pitfield Street, London, N1 6BU (Tube: Old Street). Website. Twitter. Instagram.
Victoria Miro Gallery. 16 Wharf Road, London, N1 7RW (Tube: Angel or Old Street). Website. Twitter.