As Donne famously said, 'no man is an island', something that can be extended to most things in this tangled web of a word we're passing through, but when you look at the Shepherdess Cafe, just of the Old Street Roundabout, it's hard not to think of it adrift both architecturally and culturally. A piece of living history, that endures as everything changes around it.
Of course, old isn't always good. There's no point clinging onto the past if it's no longer fit for purpose. I mean, I sometimes get nostalgic about those little pots of pre-grated Parmesan, that smelt like sick yet seemed such a revelation in the late 80's, but I don't want to sprinkle them on my pasta anymore.
Thankfully the Shepherdess is reassuringly nostalgic, while still having a place in the modern world. There's a big all day breakfast menu - the builder's being the most popular, on our first visit we were the only ones not wearing hi-vis for most of it - but also porridge and poached eggs and even a 'Nick the Greek brekkie', with grilled halloumi, olives and chopped salad.
Lunchtime sees comforting classics like pies with peas, liver and bacon, scampi, chops, salads (the tinned sardine option is pleasingly retro, if pretty unappetising) and jacket spuds. And a huge choice of sandwich fillings can be ordered on breads ranging from baps to bagels, brown sliced to baguettes.
Just. Look. At. That. Thick cut bacon, grilled tomato, perfect cheap sausage with it's burnished coat reassuringly paste-like middle; excellent mushrooms (mushrooms seem very tricky to get right) and a chip breakwater stopping the baked beans from escaping (imperative - TE).
While bubble and squeak is my favourite potato application to accompany breakfast, I'm really quite into any kind of fried potato tin the morning, even the controversial chip. Not least because I know it upsets the magical Stealth, and so I always ensure I send her a photo. It's actually almost impossible to avoid a chip here as most plates feature a couple, even if they are not requested, as a kind of garnish.
I asked for a couple of slices of bread alongside, so I could make a cheeky chip butty. Soft white sliced and hot salty chips melting into the the butter, another clear advantage of having fried spuds on the plate.
I'm not sure that a bagel with three poached eggs, no skimping here, hollandaise and smoked salmon (plus half a dozen chips) is the best option on a raging hangover; but what do I know? (yeah, yeah, no one likes a smugkins - TE).
Quite a lot, as it happens, as I watched the Ewing valiantly attempt her breakfast after the shenanigans of the previous night - involving much red wine at The Z in Shoreditch and ending up with her carrying a cup of hot chocolate across the hotel room and into bed in a manoeuvre that would have made Mrs Overall proud. She wasn't enamoured with the packet sauce, but I think too much sauce the evening before had as much to do with that...
In my old age I think I'm becoming a less is more kinda girl (although I'm still not into vanilla ice cream or ready salted crisps), and on my most recent visit I went with a classic cabbie combo, but with #noegg and extra mushrooms. Plenty of salt and vinegar on the steaming hot chips and two rounds of toast, for a toasted bacon sarnie, on the side. As close to an early morning state of transcendence as I'm ever going to get.
When the waitress asked Ewing 'chips or salad?' there was a half second pause, to which she quickly interjected before my wife could reply; 'chips!' Of course it had to be chips, especially when they are freshly cooked, crisp and fluffy like these.
To go with her chips she ordered a cheese and mushroom omelette, a childhood favourite her mum used to make for her. Despite my enduring egg hatred I've kind of got a feeling I'd quite like an omelette if I could get over my distrust. I valiantly tried a mouthful of this, and while it was about fifty per cent cheese, it was really rather good.
While a crazy array of Inception-esque buildings continue to shoot up around it, and you can eat your way around the globe in the restaurants nearby - from Mexican to Scandinavian, to ramen - the Shepherdess remains as a wonderfully isolated, but never alone, example of old school London.