The cosy new Maison d’Etre is filling the coffee shop void that starts where Upper Street ends. Its diminutive space is in the nostalgic/quaint mould of several recent openings: vintage crockery, pre-loved furniture, flat whites.
Still, it manages its own little clins d’oeils. In the corner there’s an old-school record player, which, on our visit, jangled away with a Beach Boys album; tables are dotted with own-made strawberry jam (in jars), and paintings by local artists are hung on the walls.
Food-wise, it’s back to more standard fare. Lightly toasted sourdough sandwiches are made with bread from Paul Rhodes bakery. There’s a small selection of cakes and tarts as well as granola and brioche for breakfast.
A crusty sarnie of proscuitto cotto with cheddar and own-made tomato chutney was generously sized, yet not totally convincing. The sweet, raisin-loaded tomato chutney overpowered the melted cheddar and subtle cooked ham to such an extend that the latter could only be distinguished from its texture.
Miniature tarts are quite pricey at £2 a pop, and fail to justify the price-tag. A lemon tart was disappointing: more like a shortbread topped with a thin layer of lemon curd. Pecan tart was a better choice – here the thick pastry complemented the chunky nuts.
Coffee beans are sourced from the Nude Espresso micro-roastery off Brick Lane – which make for a good quality cup of Joe.
Maison d’Etre manages to offer what that side of Highbury Corner was hitherto lacking, so maybe that can be enough raison d’etre for its existence.