Crispin, Spitalfields: Simple, Seasonal, Small Plates
It’s embarrassing but I managed to get lost on the short route from Liverpool Street Station to a birthday lunch with friends at Crispin in Spitalfields. I blame Google maps, which took me through multiple back streets then told me I'd arrived, when clearly I hadn’t. However, on the plus side I got to weave my way around one of my favourite parts of East London. It’s worth walking along Artillery Passage, a narrow 17th-century walkway so slender the houses nudge towards each other at the top, (then) you'll spot the all-day-dining cafe across the road from Ottolenghi's East London outpost.
Looking like a sharp-angled gallery or groovy library, Crispin also celebrated its birthday (first, not 50th like me) and I can’t find a review that doesn’t salute the food or the attention-grabbing geometric glass and zinc building (the Gherkin, eat your heart out).
Naturally, such an angular space isn't easy for seating 40 covers, so inside it’s a little cramped with Habitat-ish furniture and house plants, but if diners minded it wouldn’t be full on a Thursday lunchtime. I like space so I sat at one of the outside tables in the autumn sun waiting for my friends.
The only near-complaint was the service, which began cool but warmed up. I don’t want someone fussing over me with a napkin, just friendly helpfulness. Although our waitress turned out to be charming, so I’m retracting the moan.
The small plates that crowded our table were chosen from a brief menu of simple-sounding dishes so full of flavour you wish you had ordered more. A lot of love is created by the bread, so unless you have an allergy, this is not the place to worry about eating too much. Doorstop-thick hunks from Dalston’s Dusty Knuckle bakery brushed with butter then toasted on the grill are a thing of pure joy. We ate them with everything, from prettily arranged slithers of smoked salmon with capers and dill, £7, to milky bulbs of burrata, scarlet wedges of Heritage tomatoes, £9, and tortelloni filled with creamy asparagus and pecorino, £9.
My friends are generous women, even so we made sure to divide everything equally, three ways. With food this good, you have to. Puddings include tea-time cakes. We shared a well-made banana bread but the rich, gooey almond brownie was the winner hands down. Like Crispin, it was small but perfectly formed.
* Crispin, Spitalfields, Pavilion on The Corner, White’s Row, London, E1 7NF; email@example.com Greater Anglia runs regular services to London Liverpool Street. Adult single fares from £5, children travel for £2 with an adult and under fives travel for free. Tickets can be bought online from Greater Anglia or via the Greater Anglia app.