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This place we found through pure serendipity. We were having a leisurely stroll around Columbia Road flower market one sunny Sunday and found this place. All we have ever heard of this place previously is that it is a ‘wine bar’ based in Bethnal Green and had a rather confusing name ‘Printers and Stationers’.
The sign above the door looks weathered as if it has not been revamped since the last century and as you walk in you have the same sense of a post war home that has not been updated. The front of the ‘bar’ is more of a store selling a random selection of French delicacies and some amazing French wine that is surprisingly low in price for the quality.
On Sunday’s they have a rather precarious table that hosts a multitude of (French) ingredients to make a Bloody Mary to suit your taste and the gentleman behind the till (who is also the waiter) makes this in front of your eyes.
We then walk through the hall to the ‘dining area’. The hall itself is actually used as the kitchen with a large wooden counter and a sink. There is a man who looks rather weathered but clearly knows a thing or two about quality. In the hall there is also a dog basket – yes you did hear correctly but this place is not about being anally clean and hygienic -it is part of the charm. There is also a fire place in the hall-come-kitchen and this is filled with old lampshades. This place has a sense of being old tired and worn but in reality this place only opened 18 months ago and this is the results they desired and trust me they have pulled this off so very well.
The dining room is another small room with just one large table that could sit 12 maximum. The table is covered in a myriad of coloured paint flecks as if it has been used by a painter and decorator to lay his tools – and may very well have been. There is a wild boar stuffed head and a decaying oil painting of a duke looking rather elegant despite the cracks and crumbling paint.
We were then seated on the table with a group of others; customers are carefree and seem happy to be a part of this eccentric place and are not uncomfortable with strangers sitting next to them but are not overly chatty like some diners who use these type of communal areas to chat with the person sitting next to them.
The menu is limited with only a few selections on which include French cheese, bread and meat. If you do not like any of the above well its best to give this one a miss despite the praise we are (almost sickeningly) pouring on this place. We ordered a meat salad, which was not on the menu but as we said they can make up anything that really does involve cheese or meat. Our fellow diners ordered a cheese and meat platter with a glass of Sancerre wine.
The waiter was a trendy east London type and was full of banter, explaining to us that the owner was French, and had a fiery temper when in a mood. When we asked him why he looked so nervous he said that was because he was trying to f**king read him!
Our plates came out; my meat salad was all we wanted and more. It consisted of small leaves of robust salad but the meat really took centre stage with a thick cut of ham and thick slices of some dried French sausage that was out of this world. This was served with a blob of French mustard and gherkins. The meat and cheese platter was similar in style and had a number of French cheeses that were in large wedges alongside the French dried sausage and other cured meat which were served with olives and roasted red peppers in oil. Both meats were served with thick European bread. The cutlery was incredibly small and made out of beautiful dull silver that really suited the feel of the place and were more for spreading the butter as eating with the fingers was positively encouraged.
The only thing we would say is try not to use their toilet as the door is a glass door that folds open to the patio/toilet and doesn’t lock. So not only can you see the shadow of the person (which is emphasised as there is a mirror on the adjacent wall) there is the danger that someone will walk in on you, just like the poor German gentleman who acknowledged ‘had not expected to see a naked lady’ as he closed the door in shock and left the poor lady clearly too embarrassed to come out – she even covered her face with sunglasses and a scarf to hide her shame as she walked past our one and only table who were unconvincingly tucking into our food and chatting idly.
The dog all this time, which has a paper label tied to his neck stating ‘give me money not food’ walks under the table trying subtly to get a stroke from a diner which invariably happens as it knows.
This place is a gem and it took some considering whether to share this review as we believe it can be ruined if there are too many people visiting it. But as we are not exactly competing for readers against the likes of Time Out and Visit London, we think this secret will be pretty safe with you my dear reader.
Printers and Stationers gets from Sex Drugs and Bacon Rolls:
Food Atmosphere Service