The Egg and Soldier is definitely more a place to socialize than a place to pick up a newspaper. It's a cafe where you can also get coffee, desserts, or light meals. The name (and logo) refers to the childhood dish of boiled egg with toast "soldiers" and "The Egg and Soldier" recreates some of that feeling of happy nostalgia.
We visited the first day they were open and things were still a little chaotic, but the staff is very friendly and obviously anxious to make a good impression. The place was warm and full of friendly people. Warned that the kitchen was still getting up to speed, we opted for some of the treats we saw in the case, a lemon meringue pie, and the banana bread. Being a coffee fanatic I also tried their macchiato.
Let me start by saying that the macchiato could use some improvement. The coffee was not as strong and thick as it should have been, but I passed on the feedback and it was well received. They're trying hard and I'm sure they will improve quickly, but this is no Espresso Vivace. Nevertheless they are starting from a good base, using Single Origin beans.
On the other hand both the banana bread and the lemon meringue pie were excellent. The banana bread was moist and flavorful with small distinct bits of banana in it. It was served with good butter and presented with nice fresh strawberry and mulberry.
The lemon meringue pie had great flavor, with intense lemon filling well balanced between sweet and tart. The crust was crisp and the meringue had good loft without going to ridiculous extremes I've seen on some other commercial lemon meringues.
After the two sweets, we were treated to a sort of dessert amuse, two macaroons. I'm not usually a fan of macaroons, not particularly liking dried flaked coconut, but these were great. Slightly crispy and toasty and very sweet, they'd be a great accompaniment to coffee.
We had other errands to run that morning so had to hurry off, which is a shame because Egg and Soldier is a comfortable place to linger and chat, to sit and relax. The space is still new, and the staff is still working things out, but I look forward to seeing what they do with it and how they grow into it. I can easily imagine sitting here for an hour or two.
[Edit to add, October 12, 2009]
We revisited The Egg and Soldier a few days ago, and let me start by saying the espresso is much improved. They've got a new barista who understands what a macciato is, what a picolo latte is, and how to make them. It now matters that the beans are from Single Origin, you can taste the difference in the cup. In fact I'd be happy to go back to The Egg and Soldier for a nice macchiato - but I'm getting ahead of myself.
When we visited this time, we decided we had to try their signature "Egg and Soldiers." This is a traditional UK "comfort food" of toast fingers and soft boiled eggs in egg cups. You dip your toast soldiers into the egg and eat the eggs this way. I thought the eggs were done well, with slightly runny whites and runny yolks, but Debbie would have preferred the whites to be set a little more. In order to do this they would have to cook the eggs longer over a lower heat, and the kitchen is already having trouble keeping up with the pace of the orders.
Along with the eggs and soldiers came some bacon wrapped asparagus, that I thought was a nice touch but maybe a little fancy for comfort food. Regardless, it was delicious.
I should say at this point that I am not a big fan of traditional breakfast foods. I don't much care for eggs on their own, and sweet starchy foods like pancakes, waffles, and french toast are not my first choice. So I tend to struggle at most "breakfast" places, and Egg and Soldier is really a breakfast place. Nevertheless they do have a nice selection of sandwiches and salads on the menu, and I am a big fan of Croque Monsieur, so I decided to try it.
I have some definite ideas about what constitutes a "proper" Croque, the first and formost being that it should be crisp. That's what "croque" means. It should also contain good ham and good cheese - classically a swiss. The croque here is a version I've run into before, a relative of the Monte Cristo from the USA, a soft white bread in egg batter, grilled with ham, cheese, and in this case hollandaise. It's warm and tasty, but it's not crispy, and it's not what I'm thinking of when I think "Croque Monsieur." Ah well.
The coffee on the other hand was excellent. I would be happy to come down here, sit with a cup of coffee and a book, and watch life go by on Glebe Point Road. Egg and Soldier still has a few rough spots - they need to at least double the speed of the kitchen for example - but it's still a warm, charming, friendly spot.