I’m not in Broadgate Circle often, and judging from my few visits so far, I should stop by more. I usually get out of Liverpool Street tube to head to Spitalfields Market and Brick Lane; every time I’ve found myself on the other side of the train station, I’ve found a surprise waiting for me.
The first time, more than four years ago, I was taking a friend to the ice skating rink. Our wallet in hand, we joined the queue, only to find that they wanted none of our money that day: a mobile phone company was holding a promotional event, and giving tickets away for free, as well as food, hot drinks and sugar cane (oh, the irony: the same company would later manufacture the useless piece of plastic I’ve been calling a smartphone for the past two years. They should have given me that for free, too). Free rides aside, the ice rink was beautiful, another league from the overcrowded slush puddles I remembered from home. Some fictional children enter a whole new universe from a magic cupboard; we too felt as if we’d stepped into a magic world, by unwittingly turning up in the right place at the right time.
Months later, long before starting my first job, I happened to be in Broadgate around lunchtime. I had no idea how employed Londoners spent their fleeting lunch breaks; judging by what I saw that day, though, some of them had a pretty good time. They played man-sized chess in the middle of a square. They strolled on a cricket field, looking as focused and as serious as professional players. No longer covered in ice, Broadgate Circle had turned into a playground of sorts for suited City folks. I felt totally and utterly out of place, and yet I loved it, for it gave me another piece of evidence that London was like no other place I’d seen before.
Loads more exciting things have been going on in Broadgate since. A food and crafts artisan market launched on Tuesdays. A branch of Franco Manca recently opened, so it now hosts the best pizza in London, too. And last week, as if all of this wasn’t enough, one more gem has popped up.
Beany Green is an Aussie-inspired independent cafe chain, serving artisan coffee in five London locations (including a converted shipping container on the South Bank). Open since 16 April, their new 30-seater flagship cafe in Broadgate Circle promises a “distinctive blend of Aussie coffee, bold healthy food and unique street art”. It’ll only take you a walk outside, and a look at the colourful, cheeky pop-art window decorations, to realise they’re not doing things by halves.
Beany Green hosted their opening party on the terrace outside the bar room: a lovely spot for people-watching by day, or evening drinks on warm spring and summer nights (we’ll worry about winter later, right?). Sure enough, the opening evening featured free-flowing cocktails, including Pimms and Aperol Spritz. Would have been silly to say no.
If the small bites they served at the opening are anything to go by, their savoury menu also has a lot of potential. I had more than one share of prawn skewers in sweet chilli sauce, went for multiple helpings of avocado, smoked salmon and cream cheese tartines (hey, I’ve had four cocktails, but I’m eating healthy!), sampled juicy lamb chops and succulent Ginger Pig lean beef sliders, and spent the evening trying to get my hands on another mini puff pastry beef pie (they were all gone before I could help myself to seconds). I hope at least a few of these will feature among the daily changing dishes available in their all day menu; someone needs to show those City workers that there’s more to lunch breaks than a sad desk snack.
Dessert wise, Beany Green’s signature bake is said to be banana bread, which they’d probably already ran out of by the time I got there. Their brownies were there, though, and looked right up my street: picture big dark squares with a rich chocolate heart, doused in cocoa powder, and dense in texture as all proper, non-cakey brownies should be. They have massive rocky roads too, and since they open at 6am on weekdays, I have a firm plan to head straight there the next time I’m catching a morning train from Liverpool Street. Baked treats and hand-roasted coffee for breakfast? Don’t mind if I do.
Morale of the story? There’s always something to gain from hanging out in Broadgate Circle, and as far as breakfast before out-of-town work meetings is concerned, I might have found the alternative to the far too many high-street coffee shops around Liverpool Street station. Until the next time, Beany Green. Keep a stash of brownies safe for me, I’m coming to get them as soon as I can.
Note: I was invited to attend Beany Green’s opening party. All opinions are my own.