The Benugo chain is certainly versatile. From humble beginnings as a sandwich bar, they now pop up in many other prime locations; their Bar and Kitchen at the BFI is possibly the most enjoyable place to eat on the South Bank, and their Ashmolean Dining Room is one of the best places to eat in Oxford. This edge-of-City café-bar is – like their other brasseries – mid-market, fun and affordable.
A glass box the size of a Portakabin has been built onto the front of the Bishopsgate Institute to create this light-filled space. It’s all a bit funky: primary-coloured Dualit toasters, potted herbs on the tables, rustic tables made of reclaimed wood. A large, refectory-style central shared table helps keep the feel casual, along with feel-good music on the low-key sound system.
The menu’s very straightforward. Porridge, bacon sarnies and fry-ups from 8am; assemblies of cheese and cured meats,for lunch and dinner – plus a few cooked dishes. Ratatouille topped with poached eggs, toasted sourdough and a grating of manchego cheese was a winner of a dish. The component vegetables of the stew were sautéed separately, then the sauce was added prior to serving to keep the textures firm.
Chef Lisa McCourt admits to being a chocolate fanatic, and her version of the classic chocolate torte was denser than a black hole. By not baking it, but mixing the cream and chocolate at room temperature, she tips the intensity of the chocolate flavour over the event horizon.
Coffee comes from a La Marzocco espresso machine, deftly handled by the chummy staff. If you’re after booze, there are wines by the glass, carafe or bottle, plus a few bottled beers. Outside of peak hours, it’s still blissfully calm.