L’ETO Caffé is a small London-based chain of fancy bruncheries that seems intent on replicating the patisseries across the Channel: the food is delicious, the pastries are beautiful, and the staff are among some of the rudest and least attentive I’ve ever encountered.
We arrived at the Soho branch on a Saturday lunchtime and were seated within about ten minutes, which was fine by us as the queue was next to the the pastry counter, a canny move on their part to ensure you order a big creamy slab of edible sex on the way out. It was also a bit of a relief after passing the clusterfuck of a queue around the corner at the Breakfast Club. Honestly, it went all the way around the block. For eggs. I mean, I love a good egg, but only a complete chucklehead would wait an hour for one.
Anyway, the place was pretty busy, post-coital brunchers and posh hungover folk to the rafters. We plonked ourselves down and admired the vast and beautiful boards with their fancy-pants hand-written serif menus. My friend Emily ordered a blueberry pancake and Carla ordered the three poached eggs (three!) atop “artisan” bread, whatever that is, with avocado and tomato.
I had the Eggs Benedict, obviously, as Hollandaise sauce done right is fucking brilliant but I hate making it at home because a) it’s a real bitch and takes ages and b) it is impossible to truly enjoy once you’ve seen how much butter goes into it.
The food, it must be said, was delicious. Everything very fresh and made to order, and it really would be a nice place to go with friends or dates after a heavy night. We split the Baileys cheesecake, which was light and creamy with plenty of booze in it; the chocolate torte, which was packing more fudge than Perez Hilton on baking day, and some sort of leaning tower of apple and maple which was fantastic but so rich poor Emily had to box half of it up and take it home, the skinny amateur.
Now, we were there as mates having a bit of a chat and a catch-up, but even considering we were taking our time and raving on and on like girls do when they get together, the service was appallingly slow. At one point I counted nine staff, all behind the counter giggling away or busying themselves in sidework when they had a full restaurant and a queue of customers spilling out the door. The American couple next to us, who as Americans were big on service, started looking at their watches and tutting. Eventually the man went to the till and was told to sit down again. A few minutes later a surly waitress come over with the bill. We all shared an eye roll.
Eventually we managed to flag down one of the staff so we could stuff our money down her throat and leave. It was a shame, really, because the food was so nice, but we’d only really go again if we had three hours to kill.
Our food came to about £15 a head, including an main, a hot drink and a posh cake. They don’t include service, or even suggest you leave any, on the receipt, which may explain why it was so crap. You can find L’ETO caffés all over town (see locations here), but we visited the one on Wardour Street, Soho.