15 November 2019

At Borough Market's Flor, Flawless Cooking and Speciality Coffee

Somehow, I still haven't made it to Lyle's, the modern British restaurant in Shoreditch, whose high-quality speciality coffee offering has won as many plaudits as the food. Luckily for me, a sister restaurant, Flor, opened up closer to home, in Borough Market, a few months ago. I've now visited twice, experiencing both a light breakfast at the downstairs bar and a lunch in the tiny but beautifully designed upstairs dining room.

In a stuffier establishment, I might have felt out of place showing up for breakfast in my running kit one August morning, but at Flor, the welcome was warm — while the marble counter  that occupies most of the diminutive downstairs was pleasingly cool. There isn't a coffee menu — and there's no filter coffee — but the usual espresso-based drinks are available. They rotate coffee roasters, and on this first visit, the espresso was a honey-processed El Salvador variety roasted by Berlin-based Bonanza Coffee Roasters. I ordered a piccolo, which was immaculately brewed, sweet and well-balanced.

There were a few light bites on the breakfast menu, but I was always going to have the fig and fig-leaf custard pastry, which was, by turns, crisp, gooey, sweet and tart. It was almost too pretty to eat, but needless to say, it did not last long!

I returned last week, taking the opportunity to visit on a rare day off in London. I booked a table in the upstairs dining room, which seats about 20 people. Although there were a few free tables when I climbed up the cast-iron spiral staircase at the back of the restaurant, before long, they were all full.

Once again, I started with a coffee, ordering another piccolo. There was a Ugandan coffee from Assembly in the hopper this time and again, it was very well made. After spending a week in New York where piccolos and cortados tend to be on the longer side, it was good to enjoy a more appropriately petite version.

As for the lunch menu, it included 15 dishes of varying sizes and prices. I knew that I wanted to try the scarlet prawns with yuzu kosho (£18), and that I wanted to save room for a pudding. There were lots of tempting dishes on the menu, including an oxtail muffin (which looked great), but in the end, I went for the purple sprouting broccoli tempura with bergamot (£9). I'm not sure the two dishes went very well together necessarily, but they were both delicious. The prawns were so flavourful with the yuzu kosho adding a potent citrus and chilli kick. The broccoli tempura, meanwhile, was perfectly crisp and very moreish.

For dessert, I ordered the delica pumpkin ice cream, which came with a well filled with macadamia milk and a macadamia cookie (£8) — a clever twist on the classic milk and cookies. It was not a cheap meal (£43 including service), but each item was well-executed and a delight to consume. The service was very good too, even though it was busy.

Flor. 1 Bedale Street, London, SE1 9AL (Tube: London Bridge). Website. Instagram.

For 100+ more of my favourite coffee shops in London, please check out my speciality coffee guide.

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