Newly launched Blixen, in the heart of Old Spitalfields Market, is a fashionable take on the timeless brasserie concept and is just one example of the culinary regeneration around Liverpool Street. What once was an illustrious old bank branch, typical of so many Square Mile buildings, has been given a grand café sprucing up by Clive Watson. Watson is also the founder of Village London – the group behind trendy Bermondsey Street’s “The Garrison” and the fashionable “Village East”, as well as the West-End brunch haven the Riding House Café (another place on my hit list, mostly as I hear they serve smoothies/juices in old-school milk bottles!).
I was drawn to Blixen not only because of it’s handy City location, it’s recent opening – for which I’d been on vacation during its soft launch – but also the fact that its Head Chef, the kiwi Matt Greenwood, comes from the ever so successful Caravan. Like its predecessor, Blixen eschews brasserie classics in favour of a Modern-European all-day assortment. Even their breakfast looks exciting, featuring Toasted banana bread with whipped vanilla butter (£3.50) (yes, even the word “whipped” conjures up the idea of a visual delight and a light treat) to exotic spreads including kumquat mascarpone.
The stylish interior has been designed by Justin Gilbert of the aptly-named design company Coriander Buildings. With elements of the grand European brasserie about it, it’s such a brasserie might look when seen through Shoreditch shabby chic tinted glasses: imagine obligatory distressed paintwork and vintage crockery, alongside rough brickwork, which is whitewashed and surmounted with walnut wood. The high ceiling is also a beautiful construction of pale floorboards. Best of all for me is the view of the bustling open kitchen. Adjacent to the kitchen is a cute pergola hung with vines and an outdoor terrace for summer drinks. Upstairs, the space is cleverly broken up into separate areas marked by a change of material, proportions, and lighting.
Downstairs, meanwhile, is a cocktail bar and what was once the bank’s old “Safe” is now a cosy private dining room for 18. The unmistakable bank conversion interior, brass details and potted palms have something of the high street café bar about them but are saved from shuddering naffness by pretty details and the charming outside inside effect of garden bench-style slatted seating in glossy white and dark brown varnish and plenty of greenery from east London florists, Grace and Thorn.
Blixen’s menu allows you to eat either daintily or dangerously, perfect for people of every appetite. Perusing the menu over a plate of Padron peppers (£3) and being my typical indecisive self, I couldn’t decide on one dish so opted for two starters: the Cauliflower, almond and pattypan squash salad with romesco (£6.50), alongside the Fresh goats curd, grilled courgette, padron peppers and minted honey (£7.50). The squash was deliciously roasted and the romesco provided a delightful, garlicky seasoning.
My companion, meanwhile, went for the main salad option of Kale, pomegranate, walnuts, avocado, beetroot and pickled courgette (£10). What salad could be more current and loaded with superfoods?! Another companion, meanwhile, went for the Asparagus and broad been rigatoni served with pinenuts, lemon and mint butter, as well as Scholossberger and a poached egg! (£12). Although the idea of an egg on pasta creeps me out, it suited the palette of my companion!
Given the lengthy wait we’d experienced after ordering our foods, we were given a complimentary assortment of all the deserts on offer. This ranged from a Warm banana and caramel pudding with a coconut sorbet, to a Passion fruit tart and raspberry sorbet, as well as a Pistachio ice cream with lemon shortbread and Blixen sweets and chocolates. I’m sure there were more, but you lose track when presented with such an assortment…So bad service really does pay off!
All in all, Blixen would be a good bet at any time of the day, aiming to satisfy all, from morning coffee drinkers to late-night bar drinkers. It’s particularly convenient for City folk and is reviewed in Bloomberg as a friendly brasserie alternative to the corporate canteen. Perhaps I’ll return for a quick pick-me-up morning smoothie as, for me, starting my day with a nutritious and energising drink is essential. And the names of the juices and smoothies on the menu are outstanding. The “End Strife” smoothie (£4.50) particularly appeals not only because of its optimistic label, but also as it’s made of banana and pineapple (an ideal combination), as well as lime, agave, flaxseeds, and pink Hamalyan salt. Alternatively, their “Prevent Danger” precautious smoothie (£4.50), which is a concoction of black grape, manuka honey, blueberry, cinnamon, and anise, sounds good. Who needs wine when grapes can be used like this?! A Blixen breakfast is definitely in order…
Blixen, 65a Brushfield Street, East London, Spitafields, E1 6AA