Cereal Killer Cafe, Shoreditch
139 Brick Lane
07590 436 055
by Haulin' Oats
I'm stood on Brick Lane, East London. It's 6.45 on a Wednesday morning. It's 2014. And I'm lost in thought.
Was it always like this? There was always posturing. Style everything, substance just for abuse. But wasn't there also creativity, spirit - original, fresh energy? Something more than the mechanical application of formulas for being and doing?
I notice that everyone else has gone in. It's opened. I walk in the door and a thousand fizzing characters, human, animal and indeterminate, gleefully enthusing me to imbibe sugar from their box-source stare down at me. I walk past two girls with undercuts planning yoga, festivals and polo for next summer, and then I see them. The twins. Grey hair, beards, sparky eyes and grins. They're discussing childhood TV.
'But you know The Magic Roundabout was all about drugs?'
'Ah it was GENIUS. They had to be on so many drugs to write amazing stuff like that...'
They notice me.
'Ah! You're the reviewer?!' says one. I nod.
'The reviewer!!' they exclaim in unison, 'we hope you like our cereals'.
'Well I've tried a lot of them already,' I reply. 'You'll answer my questions?'
'Questions? We've been known to answer questions,' says one.
'By all means!' cries the other. 'I'm a veritable question answering expert! I used to play Bamboozle on Teletext every day. Do you remember Bamber Boozler? What a genius! I love Bamber Boozler!'
'Yeah, he was a geeeenius,' says the other.
'What's your favourite cereal?' I ask.
'Marshmallow flavoured Rice Krispies.'
'Vanilla Chex - with strawberry milk! Strawberries and creeeeeeeeeam! Mmmmmmmmm!!!'
'Which celebs, other than Nathan Barley, do you think will come to your cafe?'
'Oh we think lots! All of them!' Pronounces one.
'Ones even more famous than Nathan Butler,' says the other.
A wave of nausea suddenly hits me. I'm staring at my notes and the room feels like it's breathing. Then the rest just pours out.
'Is your cafe ironic? Do you really like ADHD kids' food? Or just jokingly like it? Is there really anything to celebrate here beyond a profound efficiency in the delivery of deadly consumption habit forming food to minors? Or is that the point? Is this an indictment by celebration and submission? Hence Cereal 'Killer' Cafe?'
The one that played Bamboozle every day is perfectly still, looking at me with thunderous eyes. His beard is prickling, rising on end. The other is wiping his hands down his face, turned slightly away, skittering between a high pitched titter and a sort of wet, bubbly whimper.
A pause, a no-man's land. All meaning, the great cultural edifice of our psyches melts away.
His fist flies, I duck, but at the same time plant my hands on the the counter and roll across it, smashing into them amid wet grenades of cereal inspired cake. Bamboozle tries to pull the till down on my head but I'm rolling away. Springing up I head butt him in the neck, sending him flying into the wall of cereals. I spin around bringing up my elbow as I do and sharply crack his twin in the temple. He melts unnaturally into the mass of cereal. Three twitches and still. Bamboozle is charging at me swinging a Tony the Tiger skateboard that he's ripped from the wall. But I'm ready and I plough forward taking the blow in my midriff, my weight crashing onto him and he falls backwards. We land with me straddling him. I've got one hand on his neck, squeezing, the other grabbing handfuls from the multicoloured sea of cereal surrounding us, stuffing it in his mouth.
'It's more than a fucking crap ironic joke. You are the fear and the meaninglessness and submission to The Man, you are his insidious veil of baubles. You are the destruction of truth and beauty. You are the sick infantilisation of our culture. You are adult humans running around in fucking Teletubby costumes slathered in wacky goo goo baby sentimentality. You are the irony stitched Buffalo Bill cloak of kiddy culture skins, masking reality, obscuring the cage we're in. Your cafe is seventh tenths horrifying, and two tenths a really good idea I wish I'd had, and one tenth... one tenth...'
Bamboozle is still.
There's a lot of cereal in his beard.
As I rise up the two girls have overcome their shock and start running for the door. 'Mummy's - Sloane Square,' one shouts. I walk across the Cereal Killer Cafe covered in Lucky Charms, Chocohoops and blood. I step out onto Brick Lane, East London.
I start. I'm stood on Brick Lane. It's 7.15 on a Wednesday morning. It's 2014. I've been lost in thought. Deeply daydreaming.
I walk in to the Cereal Killer Cafe, a place that serves a huge selection of breakfast cereals - over 60 from all around the world. It's £2.50 for a small bowl and £3.20 for a large, with milk on the side included. They have thirty different types of milk. And they have toppings too, such as Mini Oreos, at 20p extra. This all translates into the neat concept of cereal cocktail creations, for example:
Double Rainbow: Trix, Fruity Pebbles and freeze dried marshmallows served with strawberry milk.
Bowloccino: Nesquick and Cocoa Pebbles served with espresso milk and a flake.
Chocopotomus: Coco pops and Krave served with chocolate milk and a Kinder Happy Hippo.
The Cereal Killer Cafe has most definitely captured folks' imagination, kicking up a good old multi-flavoured stir. Buzzfeed love it and have done a list or two on it, Vice have assessed its pop cultural significance and compared visiting it on DMT to visiting it on aspirin (probably), Time Out like it but also allow that you can hate it - because that's cool too. The owners have received marriage proposals and death threats and there's been a mighty furore about one of them cutting an interview short after being asked whether charging £3.20 for a bowl of cereal can be justified in one of the poorest boroughs in the UK, an interview question so preposterous that you'd be horrified to witness it in some kind of deranged daydream, never mind from Channel 4 in so called reality.
I walk past a Tony the Tiger skateboard on the wall and a portrait of TV cereal killer Dexter constructed out of various shades of toasted Cheerios. I'm in a theme cafe. It's like something you'd find in Japan. Or Shoreditch.
I decide to go for the Bowloccino. I enjoy the first two spoonfuls. A lot. But the sugar overwhelms me. It's sickly and samey, a two dimensional dish. Maybe in just the right situation and mood I'd relish the whole bowl, and this maybe would have occurred much more frequently when I was a younger man.
Cereal is a food almost entirely created by entrepreneurs and marketeers, which is why being able to see all the design and paraphernalia is an important part of the visit. A mini, niche, museum-cafe, a fun experience and a fine addition to the hipster theme park that surrounds it (which, as we wind our way towards Spike Jonze's vision of the not so far future presented in Her, may extend indefinitely).
However, as for eating there...Well, if you like a lot of sugar, delivered with blunt happy flavours, or you're in that kind of mood, then, grrrrreat. But on the whole I'd say it's just like with kids' TV shows: you should never go back. You remember them as magical, but try watching them now and you discover that they're mostly terrible. Their poverty was swept away by the transformational imaginative energy of youth. And, unfortunately, I just don't have the energy for fruity pebbles with marshmallows and strawberry milk any more.
The bearded twins seem like nice guys. They wave me goodbye with warm smiles. I pause for a quick final look at the Tony the Tiger skateboard on the wall and step out onto Brick Lane, East London.