A few weeks ago, the hubby and I stopped by The Black Penny Coffeehouse and Kitchen in Covent Garden for a quick lunch. We try to venture out every once in awhile without the kids to continue to test our theory that London’s food scene is fabulous. It’s a completely unscientific theory and entirely based on our current cravings, but you know what? So far, we haven’t been disappointed.
At first blush, The Black Penny appears to be just your run-of-the-mill modern coffeehouse, with exposed brick walls, bare Edison bulbs dangling from the ceiling, and gleaming Italian-made coffee machine dominating front and center. As with many London restaurants, the restaurant’s space is long and narrow, with bar seating squeezed in just so. One nice feature is that there’s a larger room in the back with several tables for four or more, if you’re lucky enough to snag one.
While the surroundings might seem par for the course, the food is what sets Black Penny apart from other coffeehouses. The menu isn’t extensive, but the offerings are hearty and fresh. A counter space in the front of the restaurant displays several gorgeous salads, and you can order a combination of four for under ten pounds (it’s even cheaper if you do takeaway). We loved the turmeric cauliflower salad and a mint-scented couscous, both of which were specials that day. The turmeric cauliflower was crunchy and vibrant, and I couscous flaked easily and was seasoned well.
I ordered the wild mushroom and crispy polenta hash, one of three different hash dishes on offer at The Black Penny. The hash came with pyramids of polenta that were brown and crisp on the outside yet still creamy on the inside. The mushrooms were earthy and satisfyingly crispy without being too saturated in oil, and I loved the freshness of the salsa verde drizzled over the entire dish. Of course, any dish topped with a poached egg already starts with bonus points in my book.
We didn’t have time to check out the Black Penny’s extensive desserts, but I liked the looks of its dense, syrupy cakes and muffins. The location is also ideal — just off the main drag in Covent Garden, far enough away from the tourist crowds, but not so inconvenient that we couldn’t walk there after a brisk morning walk through the British Museum.
After we ate, the hubby and I agreed that we’d put Black Penny on our list of places that we could stop by for a quick, inexpensive bite, but I’m not sure it’s a place I’d go out of my way for. After all, my very important theory testing on delicious food in London requires that I try even more new places, and I only have so much time (and appetite) in a day. It’s an arduous task, but you know, I think I might be up for it.
The Black Penny Coffeehouse and Kitchen | 24 Great Queen Street | London, England