A serious new Mexican breakfast and lunch kiosk has arrived in the grounds of Hackney’s St John church in east London.
Last month, Max Fishman, owner of the Quarter Store wine shop and provisioner on Mare Street took over the space, which is owned by the church but which hasn’t been operational since the start of the pandemic. Fishman describes the kiosk as “a beloved neighbourhood meeting spot,” whose return locals have craved and which he is trying to bring back to life with “great food, coffee, and a sense of community.”
To help achieve that, Fishman has installed chef Rodrigo Cervantes, originally from Mexico City but who has recently cut his teeth in kitchens across London: His CV includes a raft of London’s hottest restaurants of recent times, including Smoking Goat, Koya, Rita’s, Gezellig, Bad Sports, and, most recently, Dom’s Subs.
It’s early days for Cervantes, who told Eater he actually “had one foot out of the kitchen” before the opportunity with Fishman presented itself via a mutual friend earlier this year. There are plans to introduce a grill, even plans to nixtamalise his own corn and make masa for the tortillas. For now, having tested a number of bought-in masas, Cervantes has opted for Cool Chile’s, which he fashions into fine tortillas for breakfast tacos, thicker versions for lunchtime’s gorditas, and chips for chilaquiles. “We’ll see how it goes!” Cervantes said, knowing there’s a limit to what he can achieve in such a modest kitchen. For sure, he will soon offer Mexican sandwiches made with telera rolls and soups.
But Cervantes’s signature dish-in-waiting is actually a breakfast burrito, which is made with a bought flour tortilla. (The chef is trying to secure the goods from nearby Sonora, which has become well known for its own gossamer-thin exemplars of the form.)
He is basing the wrap on the McDonald’s breakfast burrito which is sold in branches of the fast food restaurant across America. It contains a heavily seasoned mix of scrambled eggs, diced peppers, American cheese, salsa, and a breakfast sausage patty. It’s a winning combination; a fortifying start to the day.
“We wanted to keep it fun in a space that is not a restaurant and it’s not a cafe — that’s mainly the idea,” Cervantes said. He is planning to change things up regularly, with soups and other breakfast items set to make an appearance in the coming weeks. Breakfast tacos right now see a corn tortilla topped with a charred salsa roja, a hash brown, fried egg and four rashers of good smoked bacon glazed with maple syrup and sugar. The ranchero taco (below) comes with black beans, a hash brown, salsa verde, and a fried egg. Tortillas come in twos. Breakfasts like this are rare in London.
Fishman was keen also emphasise Quarter Kitchen’s coffee programme, which is similarly proper. “We have also moved our coffee operation, which we’ve developed a strong reputation for at the shop, over to the kitchen,” he said. House coffee is supplied by Origin, and filters comes from guest roasters like Skylark, Crankhouse, and Process.
For now, Quarter Kitchen is open Tuesday to Sunday, with food Wednesday to Sunday (each day from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m.