owlfish: (Fishy Circumstances)
posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 12:50am on 07/10/2013 under ,
"Better than Belgique" read the recommendation from someone I don't know. Belgique's a chain of Belgian patisserie/caf├ęs in NE London and Essex; they're not bad. The Larder's website shows heaps of pastries and bread. I was looking forward to those. The problem was, I think, that the advice came from someone talking about their Wanstead branch.

The Larder at Butler's Retreat is right by a tourist site and a Premier Inn and is surrounded by picnic tables at the edge of a forest. The day was glorious, if cool, and the inside tables largely deserted. We'd rushed out when the thought of trying it occurred to us, on the off-chance they switched menus at noon and we'd miss a late breakfast. They don't; they switch at 11:30, which meant we arrived in the culinary lull between breakfast and Sunday roast.

Snacks, sandwiches, salads, and specials from a short menu which, in retrospect, wasn't a bad one; but which didn't stock the pancakes I'd hoped for, nor the hummus and pitas I was intending for Grouting. Also, not a pastry in site, although the cakes looked promising.

My sandwich special layered richly, complicated Monty's cheddar with lettuce and the complex personality of red onion marmalade, all on a soft (but not too squishy) ciabatta. C had a sausage sandwich - good sausages, properly cooked. Grouting's cheese on toast (not on the proffered menu, but they offered it as an option) featured cheddar again, surely the same one. (A little digging shows it's probably this cheese - PDF.)

The staff seems a little frazzled, likely just from the steady stream of customers (who had also just missed out on the breakfast menu?). Tables were cleared, but not cleaned, regularly during our meal.

The Larder at Butler's Retreat has a really pleasant location whose design made the line to order often look more intimidating than it probably was. Food was fresh and well-considered, with very good ingredients. I just wish I'd gotten off to a better start: between expecting pastries from the website and our own fault in mis-guessing the end of breakfast service, it took a while before I was in the right frame of mind to enjoy all the positives which the place did offer.

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