The Joker, Croydon

EDIT: Since posting The Joker has become The Store to reflect its Sainsbury’s flagship store background. They have updated their website address accordingly.

I’ve never really got into Valentine’s Day. It isn’t because I don’t believe in it or care about it but rather because my partner and I celebrate our anniversary of getting together two days later (16th February 2010 – talk about feeling increasingly old!). So on that Saturday we made a bit of an effort, I mean I did my hair, makeup AND EVEN put a dress on, and headed out for brunch.

We went for a short walk along South End, Croydon before reaching The Joker. I had spotted it a couple of weeks earlier, looked it up online and decided I wanted to head there for myself. As well as having a bar with a range of interesting twists on classic drinks they are home to Humble Kitchen; situated in The Joker and also at a location in Brighton.

The choice of items, such as the marble table and aged armchairs worked well for the general look of the place. We tried to figure out what used to be on the site before and I remember saying that it gave me the vibes of an old Sainsbury’s on Lower Addiscombe Road where they had recently rediscovered the original tiles hiding away. After coming away and doing some research I was able to be pretty smug, though also concerned that I was able to identify the design after seeing one other example of it, because sure enough it was the site of one of the first ever Sainsbury’s!

What we do know is that the original tiles were on the floor and walls, though clearly at one point hidden, and a sympathetic reveal/rescue has been carried out. This is a rare case of somewhere that has a hip nature actually using original features instead of spending more money to give it that rustic feel. All I wish is that there was a photo or artistic piece that showed what the building looked like through the eras to be able to appreciate the tiles in their original setting but that’s a pretty small niche desire of mine to understand the history of buildings.

As we were treating ourselves that day I decided to go all out and have whiskey on the rocks which came with a lovely infused spray. It would usually come with some orange but apparently they were all out, which we only discovered when it reached the table instead of when it was getting ordered. I would have happily stayed with the drink choice that I had made but wish that it was one that I could have changed if I wanted to based on that information. That was probably the biggest issue that I had during our visit there. The drink itself was good though and came in at a very average £9.

What screams brunch more than eggs benedict? Okay perhaps avocado and smoked salmon on toast but there’s only so many ways I can handle being a twenty-something cliche on one given day. The Humble Kitchen had two different options of eggs benedict, one mushroom and one braised beef cheek, and we both ended up ordering them.

The mushroom one, that I opted for, was delicious. The burnt butter hollandaise sauce was smooth an gentle whilst also being full of gentle flavour that complimented the perfectly cooked runny poached eggs. The fresh chive across the dish added a subtle added level of depth without impacting on the dish in any real noticeable way whilst the mushrooms were well cooked, not at all greasy thanks to them being done confit, and had the woody nutty taste to really help bring the dish together. Even with chatting with eating and there being a large amount of sauce on the plate, especially once the poached eggs were opened, the muffin bases stayed warm and with structural integrity instead of becoming a soggy mess like they sometimes can; it showed that they were gently toasted from fresh and placed onto a warm plate rather than toasted from frozen or placed onto a cold plate and that’s the small detail I hugely appreciate.

My partner pulled a happy face and made some ‘this is tasty’ noises when eating the braised beef cheek and you can only assume he enjoyed it because he didn’t offer me any! The mushroom version came in at £10 whilst the braised beef cheek would set you back £11. Given the quality of the food and that it involved eggs made to order I can handle the delay in the food coming out but it did take about thirty minutes from ordering to the food landing on our table which seemed like quite a long time to wait (the kitchen was in high demand as well though!).

There are also a couple of vegan options on their menu meaning that you can go with any of your friends, between 10am-2pm on a Saturday or 10am-12:30pm on a Sunday, for a catch up over cocktails and brunch. If you miss brunch times, thanks to a heavy session the night before, they also serve a different menu throughout the rest of the day that sounds equally divine and worth the wait.

The lack of information about them lacking a bit for the drink and the food taking a while to come to the table would usually be a deal breaker for me. However, the food was good quality, the staff were friendly and attentive and the atmosphere was pleasant. I wouldn’t run there for an average brunch trip out but I would happily go along for drinks and catch up with a friend or family. Some people were also sitting down working on a collaborative project at a laptop and it certainly gave that friendly chilled vibe for that to be possible.

As well as the food and drink The Joker also hosts an art club and various other social get togethers making it a fantastic mini community hub that gives it a real secure place in the heart of South End.

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