Crispin had been on My List since its opening last August. From the team behind Ludenwic (Dominic Hamdy and Oli Hiam) this should come as no surprise. Their small, Danish-inspired, blue-awned café is one of my favourite grab-and-go coffee spots on my morning commute through Aldwych and serves one of the best porridge pots in London. Even reading about their Spitafields spin-off (and seeing photographs of their dishes, cue their active Instagram feed) left me with a lot to get excited about.
Unsurprisingly, Crispin’s coffee is on point: supplied by Assembly Roast, guest filters change regularly and are supplied from roasteries such as Dark Arts and Square Mile. Bags of beans are even lined up alongside the wall as casual décor. On that note, Crispin’s interiors (and its exterior) excite. Constructed from a zinc, glass pavilion, Crispin lies just outside Spitafields market near Liverpool Street. Whilst my companions and I felt it reminded us a little of an Ikea pre-fabricated import, it would be a great spot for a private party. Inside, the decor is equally Scandi minimalism: think natural wood, plants just about everywhere, terrazzo surfaces, simple tables and chairs, and a small open kitchen. Narrow and mood-lit, it feels very intimate.
Beyond their coffee, though, Crispin is a day-to-night eatery, with a weekly-changing dinner menu inspired by local and seasonal produce – think Clapton Park honey and Dalston’s Dusty Knuckle bread. The simple and short menu rotates weekly and their Instagram feed featuring their delicious looking pastas (think cavolo nero tagliatelle topped with a very generous grating of pecorino) reeled me in. Very ingredient-led, looking at their menu you may just want to try it all and you can do just that: one of everything is a written option — all yours for £45.
I was really here for their pasta, though, and up this week was Butternut Squash Pappardelle (£10), my absolute favourite form of ribbon-like pasta, which all my fellow diners ordered. Alongside, we shared small dishes of Roasted Fennel, Hazelnut & Rocket Pesto (£8) and Crispy Potatoes & Aioli (£7).
Having had high expectations of their pasta, sadly I was disappointed. Whilst the food certainly looked the part (excuse the lighting in my photographs) and even tasted convincing, texturally it lacked the silkiness that is so essential to a successful pasta. Though the pasta wasn’t designed to have a sauce, I wonder whether the chef had forgotten to reserve a spoon or two of the pasta water to help bind the dish? The finish was dry – such that I had to request olive oil to bring the pasta ribbons together. All a bit underwhelming.
Equally, whilst the Fennel and Crispy Potatoes weren’t bad, they offered nothing much to write home about. Though I appreciate some of the best food is often that which is produce-led and simply assembled, here the finishing of each dish just wasn’t quite there.
Perhaps, as my companion pointed out, Crispin is better for breakfast/lunch. I’m happy to give this spot another chance and try out their daytime menu as I do love the ambience here: relaxed, intimate and simple. Good potential, but for me, needs work. Due to their limited menu, my companions and I peeled off for desert at nearby Ottolenghi – which never disappoints. As I said to my fellow diners, London needs more of these kinds of casual coffee/desert spots, which are open late and where you can linger for a long while alongside quality hot drinks and, of course, cake.
Crispin, Pavilion on The Corner, White’s Row, E1 7NF