Bacon sandwich for breakfast. Not a good way to start the day of our visit to Mishkin's. Don't get me wrong, I don't regret munching through slivers of salty pig (purists, look away: it was Oscar Mayer). And, I'm not Jewish. I just couldn't face more cured meat, and this 'kind-of Jewish deli', in the heart of Covent Garden, apparently makes a historic salt beef beigel.
I've reviewed most of restaurateur extraordinaire Russell Norman's joints already, so I won't pain you by repeating myself. He's the king of London's unfussy small-plate eating and drinking joints, and has hoards of evangelical devotees who gather as much for the buzzy atmosphere as for the food.
"Keep things simple" is Norman's mantra. Modelled after New York diner-style Jewish delis, Mishkin's serves plain non-Kosher fare, done well: chicken matzo ball soup, steamed burgers, chips, chopped liver, a generous snatch of sandwiches, fried eggs and onion rings, chocolate malt, and cream sodas. Unpretentious comfort food taken to the extreme.
The staff are equally laid back, and were disarmingly welcoming to our 20-month-old boy (Norman doesn't actively welcome small people), who loved every second of our visit.
We went for (good) cauliflower & caraway slaw £5, (exceptional) fried onion rings £4, and...
Duck hash, fried egg & liquor £9. Hangover heaven.
Chickpea, spinach and ricotta balls with tomato sauce £6. This was for baby, and he adored it. 'Nuff said.
Chicken matzo ball soup £5. A bit small for my liking and a little tepid, but it was instantly soothing, the stock rich and flavourful.
OK, we didn't need this. But who needs pudding. Apple and honey blintz £6. Massive, cloyingly sweet, perfect nursery food, bursting with cinnamon and syrup, coddled by thick cream.
Next time, we'll try their famous cod cheek popcorn, and steamed burgers. These have held a nostalgic belly-busting place in our hearts since my grandfather used to take us to his local White Castle in Ohio for their steamed sliders - I'm not joking, foodistas, White Castle rocks.
Our lunch cost £46, including service. Money well spent. The food is never going to be spectacular, just reliably good. It's the atmosphere that makes it the place to go. When given the choice, I'd much rather eat good food in a fun and friendly place, than excellent food in an up-itself humourless restaurant. Norman's nailed it.
What's next in the Norman empire? I wish I knew. He is hot property in the publishing business: after a frantic bidding war, Bloomsbury has bought world rights to The Polpo Cookbook, which is coming out this spring (pre-order on Amazon).
For reservations, call 020 7240 2078 (no online booking facility).