Comedian and food-fiend Jessica Fostekew puts her mouth where others fear to tread. A celebration of eating: from posh nosh to kebab shops to stuff that’s been on the floor. This week Jess visited the Shoreditch breakfast food caff everyone is talking about.
The idea behind Cereal Killer Cafe on Shoreditch’s Brick Lane is that it sells cereal all day and night. The menu’s longer than the Nile. They have every cereal you’ve ever heard of and plenty you won’t have, from ‘Lion bar’ to ‘Dora the explorer’. If you’re a cereal-hater there’s toast, pop-tarts and my best advice: other places to go. This cafe is for the cereal lover. I’m a cereal liker.
The place is a silly shrine to the crunchy breakfast type and praise where it’s due, they’ve certainly committed to theme. Gary, the co-owner (with his twin Alan) says he doesn’t want people to see it as a “novelty place”, but somewhere they want to come back to and try everything. It is most definitely a “novelty place”. For me, I’m pleased it exists but as a museum more than anything else.
There are pictures of serial-killers made out of cheerios and honey puffs which I loved. There are shelves full of toys from ancient boxes of cereal and others stuffed with novelty niche cartons. Who knew there had been an Aladdin cornflakes? Or a Ghostbusters hologram series? The decor is bright and manic, with a feeling of sitting in a 1960s advert kitchen. It’s small and there’s a warm giddy bustle. That could well be because there’s more sugar than blood in the veins of everyone there.
Not being a connoisseur, the sheer breadth of the menu stressed me out. Thankfully there’s a shortlist of recommended ‘cocktails’. I went for ‘peanut butter jelly time’ which costs £3.50. It’s ‘Cap’n Crunch Peanut Butter’ and ‘Strawberry Pops’ with, sprinkled on top, Reece’s Pieces. All imported from America. It smelled of children’s breath. As an extra special nod to this being run buy people who are much like children, they’d spelled that last bit ‘reeces peices.’
I won’t muck about: I hated the food. But then I’m not into breakfasts for children from a time before we realised we shouldn’t be pumping our spawn with processed with crap. Mine looked less like a meal and more like the contents of a kaleidoscope. I got a headache from looking at it, let alone from eating half of it and thereby consuming my recommended monthly sugar allowance. The cereal just tasted of malt and sugar. My milk went pink and tasted of a mixture of strawberry flavouring and metal. The Reece’s Pieces were a beautiful thing, sadly drowned in milk. Oh. It’s like when I went back to watch Captain Planet. I loved that when I was 10. In my 20s I got all of them on VHS for £1. Oh man, from an adult’s eye-view everything about it is heartbreaking. I’m afraid I feel the same about the cereals of the 1970s to 1990s: garish, bland and sickly. For me, they’re best left in my rose-tinted memory bank where I can still feel naively fond of them.
I’m still glad I went, it was amusing. It’s for trendy types, yes, but also just for anyone really into their cereal. I spoke to Gary and he said that one day he was pondering his lunch options and wished he could just have cereal. He realised there was nowhere to get that in London and so this cafe was born.
On the day that the cafe opened Channel 4 did a television interview with Gary, during which he asked for it to stop. C4 grilled Gary about poverty in the area. He got flummoxed, saying he didn’t think Shoreditch was poor and that poverty wasn’t his fault. Not the best pair of answers, granted. But, in his defence, he wasn’t expecting the questions. Shoreditch has become extremely affluent and this cafe hasn’t started up randomly in a street full of food banks. It’s on Brick Lane. Surrounded by other silly designer bars and clothes shops (and brilliant Indian restaurants), packed full of people with money. Yes, Tower Hamlets (2.5 miles away: a lifetime in terms of London’s density and diversity) is in a terrible way. It doesn’t make it a relevant or fair line of questioning to have gone down.
Hipsters are too easy a target. It was sensation-seeking which worked. The internet united in deciding that Gary and Alan are evil. Opportunistic and mildly tasteless? Fine. But in the mass hysteria I saw them repeatedly called everything from ‘smug’ to ‘privileged’ to ‘cunts’.
If you’re keen to be angry and sad look at Gaza, look at Ebola, look at the delays on really changing our climate. If you’re busying yourself making villains out of twerps opening a cafe, that is misspent time in your life.
I wouldn’t go again but I’m glad I’ve been. If you love cereal or indeed trendy niche places which have gotten off to an unfair start in the press, you should definitely give it a try.
Cereal Killer Cafe
Address: 139 Brick Lane, London, E1 6SB
Tel: 07590 436 055
Opening Hours: 7am to 10pm
Disabled Access: None (but they seemed genuinely pissed off about that, at least)
Jessica Fostekew is a writer, comedian, actor, law degree-waster, sister, daughter and beard-fan with an unabashed food infatuation.