When you’re chucked out of your room at 9 am, and have five hours to kill, you need something to do. For us, this something was brunch. After wandering through Cambridge for about an hour, forgoing such places as Bill’s due to my severe aversion to chain restaurants and another place that had been around since 1999 (and looked like it hadn’t been updated since 1999), we settled on The Old Bicycle Shop. Yes, it looked like a hipster paradise, but it was new and local, and the internet told me about the amazing food and drinks that were on offer. After walking in, you could just imagine the hipster designer thinking that what the place really needed to make it different than other places were the wooden tables, mismatched chairs and bicycle parts hanging from the walls as these things are unique and do not exist in other such hipster heavens like The Old Bicycle Shop.
We were seated at a wooden table for two, and we perused the menus with utmost care. My husband decided that we needed some Bloody Transfusions (Marys) with breakfast, and the description of the drink “By injecting your own spice, our Bloody Mary is tailored to you. It’s wheely good” made me think that someone had come up with an ingenious way of spicing your Bloody Mary by providing a syringe full of spices that you can inject into your drink to make it very spicy if that’s your thing (it’s ours) or not very spicy at all if you prefer it to taste like tomato juice. (Note to self: If I ever own a bar/restaurant and do Bloody Marys, do exactly this with some home-made Bloody Mary spice, because it’s ingenious and it will bring all the hipsters running and will likely land me on some “World’s Best Cocktails” lists.) I also ordered a cappuccino, because it was early, and I needed to have a some uppers with my downers to keep my day in check.
So they arrived. The Bloody Mary was basically vodka, tomato juice and black pepper. No syringe, no spice, no nothing else. It’s like the bartender just didn’t care (the ultimate in hipsterism really). I ordered some Tabasco sauce in order to liven it up, and I thought it was palatable, but there was one Bloody Mary barely touched left on our table when we were finished. My coffee wasn’t much better, as it was served in a 12 oz glass without a handle, so I had to attempt to drink hot drinks out of a basically hot glass. The lack of foam was astounding, and the table next to ours ordered a Flat White, and it was looked exactly the same as my cappuccino, just in the smaller size glass instead of the larger one. I’m pretty sure whoever was making drinks has basically no clue how to froth milk to make espresso drinks (or given his beard and dress sense, was showing the proper hipster ennui toward making it and just served whatever he wanted).
For our main courses we each ordered Croque Madame. I make a mean Croque Madame, and it’s one of our favorite breakfasts: Buttery, toasted bread with salty ham, a ton of Mornay sauce and melted cheese with a fried egg on top. It’s heaven. I also wanted to try the carrot and parsnip hash browns. I mean, potato would always be better, but I was envisioning a thin layer of grated carrots and parsnips with a crunchy, buttery exterior. Our Croque Madames arrived. They looked amazing; unfortunately they tasted like they were made earlier in the week and left in the fridge until someone ordered them. Somehow the melted cheese on top was hard and crunchy, and the lack of mornay sauce made the sandwich really dry. The bread was also mushy and chewy. I actually liked the salad, but it wasn’t really what I expected from a Croque Madame at all.
Sadly, the hash browns weren’t much better. Instead of being thin and crisp, like hashbrowns should be, they were piled up high, so basically you were getting a stack of slightly undercooked parsnips and carrots without much of a crunchy exterior at all. The mushrooms with it were nice, but overall the dish just didn’t work. It was supposed to be served with chive aioli, but the lumpy mess next to it looked more like hummus than mayonnaise.
As we were trying to leave, it took ages for us to pay the bill. It’s like we were forgotten in the corner. Or it was like the waitstaff just didn’t care. But we finally managed to pay and leave just as a giant table came in that seemed to have far too many men with beards and oversized glasses. Our visit to The Old Bicycle Shop was severely disappointing, and I sadly wished we had actually gone to Bill’s as it probably couldn’t have been worse, and my expectations probably would have been lower. I really hope the people working here start caring about the taste of the food and the service instead of just caring about whether everything looks like it passes some sort of hipster quotient. I’m sure there are far better places in Cambridge that this.
Old Bicycle Shop
104 Regent Street
Cambridge, CB2 1DP