Josh Barrie's bacon and eggs: Café Verona, Moorgate

Going Out | Restaurants

Josh Barrie's bacon and eggs: Café Verona, Moorgate

Café Verona is Shakespearean in that it simply never misses, says Josh Barrie

I had never heard of Café Verona before I started working near Moorgate. In my experience it is usually shrouded by scaffolding, a small sandwich bar barely visible amid the bustle of City workers and people who like to buy fish finger wraps from Leon. 

It was my editor who informed me of its existence, a “charming place,” he said, with Anglo-Italian sandwiches, flabby pasta and cooked breakfasts. I’d like to ponder the sandwiches for a moment and then I’ll finish by talking about the eggs.

These Anglo-Italian sandwiches are not en vogue. Today London is more about mortadella-filled focaccia made with flour sourced from a regenerative farm called Wildfarmed. Preparations of this ilk might involve ‘nduja, stracciatella too, a handful of rocket leaves and something fermented or pickled. I’m not doing these down, by the way. On the contrary: I adore them. But there is a nostalgic element to the old school combination of ham, chicken, mozzarella and sun-dried tomatoes in ciabatta, probably with garlicky pesto. 

You won’t be surprised to learn that I lived in the Clapham area for many years. From the days when Margot Robbie hung out in Infernos to a few years ago. I used to visit a local shop from time to time and always enjoyed its late Nineties-style ciabattas and paninis (I know). 

Cafe Verona
Cafe Verona

They were simple, centred round soft meat or a wrinkled stretch of aubergine, spiked by some sort of rigorous salsa or chutney. Cheese would always be vividly apparent, cheddar, mozzarella, placating the cloying sweetness. The sandwich would be warmed to invite its splurge and would serve to remind eaters that no, they weren’t in a Roman trattoria surrounded by vine leaves and drinking soldiers’ wine and eating olives, they were in Southwest London, and were they to step outside unawares then chances are they would be hit in the face by an Ocado order or a pair of smooth loafers.

Café Verona serves these sorts of sandwiches. Suburban but slap bang in the middle of London. It is a meeting of cultures: one refined, one unashamedly live, laugh, love. 

The place also serves a top fry up, cooked lovingly and with care, with tea or coffee. Particularly good are the sausages, so plump and herby, while the eggs are cooked quickly in true greasy spoon style. Heed the mushrooms, too, which come packed with flavour and are juicy; the bacon arrives fairly crisp as standard, so that’s something to consider. 

The last time I went in, I forewent toast and bacon and any other accoutrements. I am sometimes partial to a more basic three-piece: sausages, hash browns, eggs. In these moments, I’m heavy with the ketchup, suitable for a cursive mid-level hangover rather than one that is soul-destroying. Any fuzziness is quickly vanquished by the soft relief of a herb-flecked sausage rolling gracefully atop a hash brown mattress. To that end everything is circumspect.

And all this enjoyed in the busy confines of a small space of white and red, tucked into the old stone of the City. There are tiles, a hard wooden floor. There will be finance dudes in there, but usually an older crowd or at least one not hellbent, or maybe not yet hellbent, on pints and arrogance. Mostly time just ticks by: hot plates of food are delivered and empty plates are quickly swept away. None will be distributed on Sunday, when Café Verona is closed, but during the week and on Saturdays until 2pm there will be plenty feverishly purchasing a full English for little over £8.

So here we have a resolutely classic Anglo-Italian café, where lasagne is there and so are wonderful sandwiches. And then there are top fry ups, quick and willing, most assuredly among the City’s most proficient.

80 Moorgate, EC2M 6SE, 020 8127 5840