|Polo bar by night|
A 24-hour café does not normally conjure up images of good food. Late night kebabs, or somewhere to wait at three in the morning for the bus to the airport, perhaps. So it’s probably a good thing that the first time I went to Polo bar opposite Liverpool Street station that I didn’t notice its slightly dubious credentials. We went for breakfast – once every three months, I have to be in the office shockingly early, getting in a car around the time that a lot of Londoners are still out drinking. By the time 9am rolls around, we have several hours work under our belts and are in need of caffeine and a cooked breakfast. Before I joined, Polo bar was the regular venue for this team breakfast (possibly as it’s very close to our office); since I’ve been here however, I have been gently encouraging my colleagues to try other venues – and not just so I can write a review. I’m on a hunt for the best breakfast in the area.
Since my first breakfast at Polo, where I had a slightly disappointing sausage sandwich (nice bread, not enough sausage), I’ve been back for lunch, dinner and for evening drinks (not all on the same day). It’s the lunch that I’ve decided to review.
But first the café itself. It doesn’t look much from the outside – a small entrance, a huge sign declaring it to be a 24 hour establishment (how on earth did I miss seeing that the first time?) and a lot of white tiles on the wall as you enter which is vaguely reminiscent of either a toilet, or a tube station. It is deceptively big, with three floors, and some quirky touches like retro signs. Perhaps they were current rather than retro when they were put up – Polo bar has been here since 1953, “before rock ‘n’ roll was even cool”, its website proclaims. It had a makeover/refurbishment earlier this year.
The breakfast – possibly the main event – is served 24/7 and includes some tasty-sounding options such as eggs royale (poached eggs with smoked salmon and spinach) as well as favourites like the full English and a breakfast bap. Its pancakes were voted London’s best by the Evening Standard. If you’re going for lunch – and don’t want breakfast for lunch – there are six burger options with lots of additional toppings, sandwiches, and more filling choices like fish and chips, chicken in a basket and a couple of salads – nothing fancy, no ideas above its station, but traditional British café fare with a modern twist. I ordered the fish finger sandwich, which came on a bloomer (£5.50), with cheesy bacon chips as a side.
Unfortunately, having been spoiled by the hanger fries (with cheese, onions and burger sauce) at the nearby Diner in Spitalfields, I was expecting a lot. Whereas the Diner fries were covered in melted cheese more akin to a cheese sauce (even if quite yellow and artificial in colour, it was heaven), Polo’s cheesy chips had cheese melted over them which had then cooled and congealed, so it was hard to separate the chips and I ended up peeling cheese off them. When you do eat the chips with the cheese on they are quite dry and rather than adding anything I think the cheese actually detracted from the fries. Which was a shame, as the fish finger sandwich was really good.
After writing this review I also went for drinks that turned into dinner as well; I had 'chicken in a chicken basket' which I thought was a typo, but the chicken pieces came in a wire chicken basket - the kind you store eggs in! It was very crispy and a little too well done for my liking but the chips - sans cheese this time - were fine. It's not somewhere I would make a point of coming for dinner but if you are here for drinks the food is fine.
I’m unlikely to be here at 3am so can’t vouch for what the ambience or service is like in the middle of the night but this is a friendly, low-key place and a nice change from chain cafes up and down the street.