Katherine Brand heads to London in search of one of the Big Smoke’s better-known and better-renowned cyclists’ cafes.
The thing that struck me most upon entering the Old Street branch of Look Mum No Hands, was the fantastic array of bike-related paraphernalia on display, adorning the place from floor to ceiling in all the colours of the rainbow.
This eatery-come-bike workshop is a feast for the eyes, and one that is not to be missed should you need a pit-stop to rest the weary legs in this part of the capital.
We visited late-morning on a weekday. The place had a vibrant buzz about it, created mostly by twenty- and thirty-somethings enjoying a casual work-related natter over a coffee and a plate of scrumptious salad or piece of cake.
Nabbing one of the only vacant tables in the room, complete with a beautiful vase of fresh flowers, I headed to the counter to order some fodder – a savoury first course to share.
Homemade slices of pie, scotch eggs containing all manner of enticing ingredients, and delicious-looking croquettes all vied for the attention of my hunger. After some deliberation I plumped for a mushroom and lentil scotch egg, with a mixture of homemade salads and an americano to accompany it.
The ability to choose a piece of cake for second course had completely eluded me by this point, such was the array of truly indulgent and wicked homemade slices displayed tantalizingly close to me at the counter. So I left this decision for my somewhat more decisive companion.
Waiting for the food to arrive, I took the opportunity to properly take in the tiny knitted Tour-de-France cycling jerseys hanging above, the cycling posters strung-up on a washing line, and the Look Mum No Hands branded cycling clobber.
I had heard a lot of positive things about this place prior to our visit, and even before the arrival of food, it had become utterly obvious why.
The food itself was excellent. The scotch egg – my first ever of the vegetarian ilk – was warm and the egg yolk deliciously soft-boiled. The accompanying salads were equally tasty; a cauliflower one, a broccoli and radish article and a cucumber salsa amongst others.
The plate of food was comfortably enough to feed two for brunch, particularly with the promise of cake to follow.
Said cake – a chocolate and hazelnut slice – was promptly purveyed to our table upon ordering. This chunk of heaven was something else: moist, dark, and with what we both decided must have been an orange flavour running through it, the slice was of generous size and rounded off the meal perfectly.
“This chunk of heaven was something else: moist, dark, and with what we both decided must have been an orange flavour running through it…”
If a hearty but healthy and nutritious meal is what you’re after, Look Mum No Hands is a fine choice. The same can be said if a punchy cup of coffee and beyond-divine slice of cake are the orders of the day.
But Look Mum No Hands is more than just a cafe – open until 10 o’clock every evening at the Old Street branch, it’s a great place to enjoy an evening meal with friends. Look Mum No Hands also serves as a highly-reliable bike workshop, offering a same-day service for repairs and monthly bike maintenance workshops if you prefer the do-it-yourself approach.
With plenty of seating in a courtyard area set back from the busy road, Look Mum No Hands is also a viable stop-off point for any cyclist in need of a repair, or for one just searching for some homemade, seasonal sustenance while out on a ride.