A more highfalutin magazine than ours might describe Hackney Bureau as ‘under designed’. The exterior has been left so plain – not much more than a daub of white undercoat above the street windows – that the only indication you’re at the right place is a soberly lettered sandwich board outside advertising the associated gallery.
Inside, the interior is plain, but a little less spartan than the outside. Potted basil plants and scruffy piles of magazines decorate shelf-thin window tables along two sides of a room that’s full of light and the expected mismatched chairs and salvaged tables.
Importantly, the self-consciously drab look doesn’t interfere with the service, which was unaffectedly warm on our visit.
The food offer is simple – sandwiches, salads, pastries and cakes – but also provides a few surprises. With our toasted mozzarella and beef-tomato sandwich, we ordered a curious-sounding side salad of watermelon, tomato and crumbled feta. It was a summery success.
Despite lacking any discernible hit from the advertised chilli, roughly chopped mint nicely offset its fruity sweetness.
The sandwich was well seasoned, served on good bread (from the E5 Bakehouse) and with a generous amount of basil. A richly frothy hot chocolate and a flat white from La Marzocco hit the spot, but the raspberry and oat bake (a thin flapjack with a fruity layer) was disappointingly bland.
Andor runs weekly films alongside its gallery shows, and schedules occasional dinners that promise to be more elaborate than the daytime café staples.