I remember often walking past Henderson’s shop on my way home from work, curiously glancing at the pots of fresh herbs they had displayed outside for sale (I even recall a small orange tree at some point). I never actually visited the green grocers – or the restaurant downstairs which I hadn’t known it existed. I only learnt about it during my last visit to the city when a couple of great people both suggested that was where we should have a “long-time-no-see”.
One of the reasons why they picked the spot was their own previous experiences – they liked the food and the atmosphere of this somewhat hippy, somewhat arty place, with a huge “pick and mix salad” selection and a large fridge full of home made desserts, on top of an extensive menu of alternative hot dishes served over two floors (one and a half, actually) in Henderson’s cellars, among a variety of paintwork on the walls. The other reason was the recommendation of one of their relatives, who is an artist herself, and enjoys frequenting the venue, particularly on live piano nights.
The place was buzzing when we entered Friday lunchtime and there was a (seemingly never-ending and constantly reassembled) queue by the salad bar/paying counter, but the vast interior still offered a lot of seating place. Having just eaten a posh-nosh lunch at Hadrian’s Brasserie (accompanied by painfully pricey wine), I was just going to make this one a review opportunity, limiting myself to coffee… but it only took one look at the desserts’ section and I was gone. Out of a few sweet treats that stood out for me – like the ample trifle crowned with an abundance of fruit – I had to settle for the raspberry cheesecake. I got to the counter and ordered a mocha with the cashier who looked little interested in the service. As my companions chose their food I realised the place was actually vegetarian – which was quite impressive considering their full-on menus.
We picked a table by a galley window, got ourselves a jug of tap water and tucked in… The cheesecake was wonderful – not at all heavy, with plenty of fruit throughout, it was heaven to my mouth. Unfortunately, the coffee spoilt what could have been a lovely foodie experience. The mocha was bland – it had no flavour either on the coffee or the chocolate side, and only tasted a bit of hot flavoured milk. It had a thin texture and hardly any substance to it. I tried fixing it with some freshly whipped cream from the top of my cheesecake, but that was my mistake – the cream simply melted into the brew leaving huge spots of fat on the surface.
We had not yet finished – one of the two was just ordering tea by the counter – when one of the waitresses cleared our table – together with the half-full jug of water and glasses, without asking if we had finished. I found that rather off-putting, and would have probably minded more if I wasn’t busy chattering away. We stayed there for a while, but only because there was so much to talk about.
It was a lovely afternoon spent with some good people I had been longing to see for a while, so a bad coffee and not-so-great customer service could not spoil it. However, next time I will suggest a different place for a catch-up.
Verdict justification: Tasteless coffee and mediocre service – at least the food makes up for some of it