over the last couple of months, i have been to exmouth market a fair bit. there is something quite charming about this little street. during the day there is the calm bustle of people shopping in independent stores like family tree and bagman and robbin. i particularly love the bookshop clerkenwell tales which reminds me of the intimacy of small bookshops that my mum and i frequented when i still lived at home in pakistan. i love the smell of paper and ink and the feel of the spine of books. that probably explains why although i can see the reason for buying a kindle (especially if you are commuting on the tube), i still have not ordered one.
aside from the smattering of independent stores exmouth market is a nice place to brunch, lunch or dine as it has a bit of everything. moro and morito do tapas, santore serves up some pretty good italian food from naples, the antipodean caravan has all day dining options and the list goes on. gail's artisan bread is a recent entry and i was secretly hoping that j would pick it for brunch [which luckily she did]. while i was waiting for j on what was a lovely spring day a traditional london phone booth reminded me to call my mum...
gail's exmouth market is spacious with a open interior. there is a communal table littered with newspapers, low couch type seating against the wall and if you so please you can sit right next to the bread and cake counter. we shied away from that partly for comfort and partly because if we had sat next to the bread and cakes, we would have never been able make up our minds on what we wanted to eat. gail's exmouth market also has lots of different cheeses from paxton and whitfield.
there is a concise brunch menu with a choice of sweet and savoury. j settled on a fried egg which came on a field mushroom with cheese and some bread. i haven't seen such a perfectly fried egg with a perfectly runny yolk. the mushroom was meaty and juicy. i went for the brioche french toast with stewed rhubarb and orange ricotta.
i haven't had such good french toast in a long long time. the brioche was satisfyingly yellow with none of the density of french toast made with bread. in fact i almost thought that it had been dipped into an eggy batter rather than soaked, but was told later by our waitress that it is the texture of the brioche with allows for it to be soaked but still be light and airy. the acid sweetness of rhubarb added a sharp edge to an otherwise mellow french toast and the slightly sweetened ricotta loosened with orange and zest gave it a pleasing richness.
after much interesting conversation on women's rights, terrorism, gay relationships and tv series j and i decided to split some further calorific guilt. i had been eyeing the reverse cookie at the table next to us, an almost mud coloured cookie with white chocolate chunks. i asked our waitress if it tasted as good as it looked. she recommended the regular chocolate chip cookie with dark chocolate chunks instead. it was well worth it because the edges were crispy, the centre chewy with a buttery crumb and lots of dark chocolate. j and i had to keep licking our fingers because of the melting chocolate.
i found the staff at gail's very friendly and helpful. in a city/country that doesn't exactly offer the best customer service this was a pleasant surprise. i asked for a recommendation for bread that i could use for dinner and found myself telling her what i would be making. she not only recommended a really good sour dough but also put aside a quarter for me at the till so that i could have it ready for me when i was leaving. since o had been home alone and studying for his daunting cfa i picked up a pecan brownie for him.