I estimate the small Spanish man who does breakfasts at Riccardo’s must have sold close to half a million of them in his 43 years behind the counter. These days he is hunched over a little and can be seen carrying sausages around, peering out and squinting from behind thick-rimmed glasses.
He reminds me of the old bloke from the 2009 Disney film Up, though he’s quite a bit thinner. The last time I watched the animated modern classic was at 3am after a night out and my friend Chris. We got through the opening sequence, cried, and then went to bed. Riccardo’s serves a similar purpose in that it is placating. A method by which to wind down.
The curved and fairly uncomfortable mustard yellow booths are welcoming and the surrounds are warm in an austere sort of way. A café for politicians’ nonsense photo ops this is not — it doesn’t look 'ard enough. It’s fairly dull, actually, which I enjoy. But it doesn't have the draw of an E Pellicci, a Regency.
I must return now to my mathematics. The 500,000 breakfasts figure was established thus: 50 per day, five days a week, 52 weeks of the year, for 43 years. This came to 559,000 and was rounded down. Meticulous enough? Not if I were running the country. Fortunately I write about eggs.
I’ve been to Riccardo’s a few times now because it’s close to the Standard offices. Each time, the old Spanish man is there, mooching about and saying nothing. Breakfasts are set, from £7 or thereabouts, and served all day between 6.30am and 6pm; half an hour later on a Friday. They come with a mug of tea (teabag left in so strength can be decided).
This week, I had two sausages, two eggs and chips because time dictated a meal that was more lunch than breakfast. Riccardo’s serves excellent cheap sausages — not the thin pale ones, but darker numbers with considerable girth. The eggs are super fresh — must be because they sell so many — with golden yolks that invite galumphing dips. Chips? Flat-edged and pub-style, some soft, others crisp.
My covering Riccardo’s in a column published on a Saturday might be a touch injudicious because it is closed at weekends. It’s a Monday to Friday operation. The fact is we released a pub guide this week and it's a stunner, but it also took up a great deal of time. I had to go somewhere nearby.
Nevertheless, Riccardo’s is a solid café and well worth mentioning because it is in Shoreditch, a part of London that might have changed more than any other. Here we have a decades-old place, discreet, well-used and unremarkable. But if you happen to find yourself in that part of town and in need of a cheap meal, it's a fine choice. Because, let's be real, one day a developer will attach a bunch of balloons to its roof and the café will float away.
Set breakfasts from £7. 9 Paul Street, EC2A 4JJ, 020 7628 3141