Campania Gastronomia, Shoreditch
95 Columbia Rd
020 7613 0015
by Malcolm Eggs
Campania is as authentic a rustic Italian café deli as it's humanly possible to be when you're based at the Shoreditch end of Hackney. There is ramshackle wooden furniture, a tall rack of sepia-tinted bottles and a tiny kitchen manned by a proud-looking cook. In a large, wide fridge sit hunks of meat, blocks of cheese and cans of amusingly named continental fizzy drinks.
But the breakfast menu is about as Italian as Castlemaine XXXX is Australian. Take my 'benerica': fried eggs in olive oil, Neopolitan sausages, pancetta, rocket. A British fry-up, basically, viewed through Rossini-tinted glasses - the chicken tikka masala of fare colazione.
But is this a terrible thing? As we've pointed out before, Italy is known for many things, and many of these are culinary, but none of them are breakfast. It has always been thus: evidence from Pompeii suggests mornings powered merely by bread and water, but at least there was food. Barring remarkable luck, today's breakfasting tourist must learn to get by on dense espresso washed down with strong cigarette.
Give me a Campania breakfast any day of the week - unctuous, dense sausages and tasty pancetta satisfyingly laced with ovals of unyielding fat. My faultless eggs had a healthy - virtually Deep South - olive oil glow. You'll be wondering about the rocket, because rocket on a breakfast plate is always weird: it was true here too, but given that proviso it played its role strangely well - a deft junior partner in an oddball coalition.
Looking around smugly after an excellent double macchiato I noticed an even more telling East London tic: a chandelier. But hey, I reflected, if the breakfasts are this good, I wouldn't care if the whole place turned out to be run by Vice magazine, who it transpired had been bought by Café Rouge, who in turn were a subsidiary of Nestlé. That would be fine, I realised cheerily.