Archive for the ‘London NW5’ Category

Town Cafe, Kentish Town Road

March 3, 2012

First visited Saturday 25th February 2012

Interior: Town Cafe is a cut out and keep standard caff: ‘formica’ tables, laminated menus, tiled floor, Heart on the radio. Nothing wrong with that and the staff were very friendly on my visit. It’s also clearly a popular local hangout as it was busy too.

Food: I had a composed breakfast: beans, mushrooms, tomato on toast with egg and bacon, which was exactly as you might imagine: lots of beans, fresh tomatoes, nicely grilled. The mushrooms were a bit tasteless but I’ve had worse and the egg was just right (for my tastes – I like a runny yolk). The bread was nothing special but worked very well as a recipient for the other things on the plate. It was a small piece of bacon, but I didn’t mind that – it was just enough to add salt, fat and texture to the other ingredients. Because what I had wasn’t a set breakfast, it came to a bit more than it should, but that’ll teach me to order bespoke.


Meadows Cafe, Kentish Town Road

December 24, 2011

First visit: Saturday 26th November 2011

Interior:  This hasn’t changed since it was called Sam Widges: a pleasant enough little caff, a step towards cafe-dom from its plastic-seated neighbours, but not particularly pretentious. The front area is dominated by the sandwich counter and there’s a back bit which you might want to use if, as with today, there’s a bit of a draught coming in from the door. Staff were friendly enough.

Food: I had the vegetarian English, but asked them to leave out the veggie sausage. The waitress did offer me the option of having an extra egg, and I should have taken the opportunity to ask if I could have my tea included instead, but I didn’t and in the end, she charged me the full price for the breakfast (understandably, as it’s probably programmed into the till) and extra for the tea. The breakfast was fine: I missed the amazing herby grilled tomatoes they used to serve, but having it made all made fresh made up for it. The toast was at the foldable end of soggy, which was a shame. I somehow forgot to tell them not to leave out the hash browns and, while I’m sure they went straight from freezer to deep fryer, they were extremely nice indeed.

Le Rustique, Fortess Road, Tufnell Park

December 17, 2011

Last visited: Friday  18th November

Interior: I have fond associations with this place, although I know it’s not everyone’s favourite, largely because I finished reading ‘Lempriere’s Dictionary’ here. It’s all wooden tables, secondhand paperbacks on the shelves, pamphlets advertising literary events on the walls – I’m almost ashamed to say how nice the interior is, because some people really don’t like it here and the staff can sometimes be nice and sometimes be a bit standoffish and useless. But yes, as someone who likes caffs with laminated menus with pictures of baked beans on them A LOT, I also really like the atmosphere in Le Rustique.

Food: I have a bit more sympathy with the detractors here because the food is quite expensive and nothing special. You can pay the same for the same kind of atmosphere and much better food elsewhere –  believe me, I know. In the past I’ve had panini that were the standard tasteless cotton woolly pap. This time I just had a pot of tea, which was lovely, proper strong, three cups out of it, but a fair old price. I had some toast when I got home.

I wouldn’t come here every day but, as a local, it’s worth it for the atmosphere every now and then.

The Wine Cellar, Kentish Town Road

August 16, 2011

First visited Tuesday 16th August 2011

It’s not strictly true to say that I first visited the wine cellar on this date, as I’d been in a few times in the past for spicy sausages, vinho verde and the like. However, this was my first visit to sit indoors and have a hot drink. And yes it is a caff, but it’s also a delicatessen! which makes the interior quite fun and a bit tempting. Staff are friendly (although much friendlier to the cute 3 year old on the table next door than to me) and it’s a pleasant place to spend half an hour, although probably a bit small to expect to read a book there for an afternoon.

The wine cellar does the full range of sandwiches you might expect but I went a bit off course and had a pasteis de bachaulau. Heated up the in the microwave it was yummy! Decaff coffee was really quite nice although I felt a bit embarassed asking for it. The last time I did that in a portugese place (in vauxhall), they let me add the sachet of instant (presumably so I wouldn’t think such foul brown water was anything like their *real* coffee). The two proprietresses had to confer as to whether or not they did it but were quite happy to make it and it did come out of the machine. You can’t get a full breakfast here, but there are some really interesting fishy looking sandwich fillings and they do hot dishes too.

Village Cafe, York Rise, Tufnell Park

July 30, 2011

First visited: Saturday 30th July 2011


Since the repeated failure of the map cafe to be anything other than bitterly disappointing, I’ve decided to venture off my usual beaten track for local caffs. York Rise can’t be that off the beaten track given that it supports a local butcher and continental food shop not much changed since the late 1970s, but I hope it gets enough passing trade to keep this very pleasant cafe open. Wooden floors and tables, plants, irrelevant, or simply strange, nick nacks (a loaf of bread anyone?) add up to the standard middle class local, but it doesn’t feel precious or pretentious and it was being run impressively efficiently by one gentleman on his own (who was also preparing the lunches: of the moussaka and lasagne variety, rather than pie and chips). It wasn’t madly busy, but he managed a fair amount of multi-tasking without seeming hassled and with a smile.


The Village Cafe doesn’t actually do a full English. However, they do various egg, cheese, ham and toast combinations (as well as your standard panini and continental). I had the Croque Madame, which he seemed to have made from scratch and used decent thick-cut ham and two poached eggs. Even the bread seemed to be interestingly seedy and didn’t collapse under the weight of all that protein. The side salad was not a silly garnish, but a nicely dressed portion of tomatoes, leaves and peppers and I didn’t have to ask for fresh ground pepper (only because I didn’t see the peppermill tucked under his arm, I actually did before he had a chance to offer it). My only quibble was the tea. “A large tea” got me a 3/4 filled oversized coffee cup containing hot-ish water and, at least, a decent teabag. I had to have two which bumped up the price a bit. But I suppose that’s what you get with peppermills and wooden tables: for a mug of bright orange liquid of delight, I need to expect laminated menus, plastic chairs and little glass shakers of vaguely peppery powder. It’s a fair swap, and I don’t mind visiting both varieties of caff.

Kent Cafe, Kentish Town Road

June 11, 2011

First visited: Saturday 11th June 2011

Interior: A standard bright, laminated menu, all-day-breakfasts caff. Friendly staff, blokey clientele (on my visit, this produced an immensely detailed exchange about Turkish club football – I think the English customer knew more than the Turkish bloke serving him). My experience was slightly marred by a big screen but they were showing trooping of the colour which is a bit more soothing than many alternatives (I’d had to leave KooKoo across the road without ordering because they had *two* screens showing a Rihanna video and that’s really not breakfast fodder).

Food: I was really impressed with my veg breakfast (although it was more food than I should have had): tasty mushrooms, tomatoes and fried egg, really nice bubble and beans that were firmer and less sweet than you tend to get (because they were a cheap generic brand rather than Heinz?). The tea was overmilked and in one of those dwarf mugs, but that’s better than a cup. But the best thing – the whole thing came to £4.50, including 2 slices of toast and the drink. A bargain!

Map Cafe, Grafton Street, Kentish Town

April 20, 2011

First visited Tuesday 19th April 2011. Last visited Saturday 23rd July


Sadly, although the food and interior of the map cafe are both very pleasant, I don’t think I’ll be returning, as I think they have a serious problem with their service. This time, I knew to go straight and order at the back, then sat at the front of the cafe to wait for my hot drink and breakfast. The telly was really quite loud, but I thought I’d wait until they came with my tea before I asked them to turn it down. After 15 minutes’ waiting, I finally got up to ask if I could possibly have my tea now, even if the breakfast wasn’t ready. I also politely asked if they could turn the telly down, which they did, but only to turn the music on. It wasn’t super-super loud – probably fine for a slighly raised-voice conversation over a beer, but not for reading or work (things I’ve seen people doing in the map cafe before). But to be honest, the real problem is that you order, pay, and then feel completely abandoned. Breakfast arrived after 20 minutes and I was the only customer. There isn’t another cafe in Kentish Town where you wouldn’t get your hot beverage within 5 minutes of ordering and at most of them, you’d pay afterwards.

This is actually my third visit to the map cafe. The last time they completely forgot my order. I want to like it – what’s not to dislike about an innovative, arty, independent local venue serving locally-sourced organic food? but I can’t help feeling that the cafe part of the enterprise is an afterthought for the cool music kids who work there, and who would presumably much rather be promoting gigs or exhibitions in the space upstairs.

Interior: The Map Cafe is a genuine caff, but it’s also sort of an art gallery, venue, recording space so there are no tiles or brightly-coloured  menus with pictures to be found. Of its kind, however, it’s lovely – wooden tables and floors,  big window facing onto a quiet street, music not too intrusive and a very relaxed atmosphere. Be warned that despite the presence of the menus on tables, you should walk to the back of the caff to order (there’s a note on the menu, but a sign would help). You then pay when you order which feels odd for some reason – and certainly encourages people to stay for looooong peri0ds working on their essay / funding proposal / Act of Parliament.

Food: I had the English breakfast which was a bit pricier than many, but then the meat’s organic and the eggs are free range and it’s a really good size (too big actually – I didn’t try and order a smaller bespoke breakfast, but it would have been good if it had been option). I’d have preferred it if the waitress had told me that sausages and mushrooms were off and did I mind her replacing them with more bacon and spinach ? (answer is no – and the spinach was lovely) but I can’t fault the quality of the food.

My main objection would be that when I arrived, there was only one member of staff working, which meant that she had to get the breakfast going before she could bring me – gasping – a mug of tea (and the mug wasn’t filled up either!). Some more staff arrived after a bit, but given that there’s nobody there to welcome you when you come in, and that the caff had been open for more than an hour, it really wasn’t fair on the poor waitress/cook. Whom I tipped when I paid, and would still have tipped had I known I was going to have to wait so long for an undersized mug of tea.

Pedro’s Cafe, Kentish Town Road

April 2, 2011

First visited: Saturday 2nd April 2011

It’s taken me a while to get to Pedros, although it’s actually closer to where I used to live than where I live now (but do we go to our closest caffs when we can get a cuppa at home?) I can’t particularly say that the anticipation was worth much. There’s nothing wrong with Pedro’s. It’s just nothing special.

Interior: In fairness, although Pedros is as standard as standard can be as far as modern shiny caffs go, with their plastic tiles, laminated table menus and plastic menu boards, it is very clean indeed. In fact, it’s so shiny it almost seems to be veering into the fast food outlet category. For my taste the music was a bit loud, but it’s clearly a popular option and not just with gentlemen of a certain age (on my visit there were couples and a Dad and kid combo, among others).

Food: I can’t really say anything bad about my brown toast, grilled tomatoes and mushrooms, but they weren’t especially memorable. The bread wasn’t up to Brassino’s standards, but it didn’t totally collapse into mush (which goes to show that there is a quality range even with the mass-produced supermarket loaf). My tea was a bit milky but they left the teabag in.

Really, I’m not sure why I’m not more enthusiastic about Pedro’s – it was fine. My breakfast came to £4.20 which was more expensive than a standard English, but then that does happen when you go ‘a la carte’, and the loo seemed to be permanently locked (just in case anyone used it), but I wouldn’t warn anyone off it. I just doubt I’ll walk past Brassino’s to get there another day.

Mamma Mia, Kentish Town Road

March 5, 2011

Visited: Saturday 5th March 2011

I’d previously tried to visit this prominently- and conveniently-situated caff last spring. But it was a chilly day and they had the door open and I was just going to be too cold. I also somehow came away with the idea that they were all about panini and the thought of tasteless mozzarella on flaccid, cottony so-called ciabatta was a  little off-putting.

However, I was wrong. Mamma Mia do an excellent breakfast. I had the veggie breakfast, although it was more food than I really should have had, tempted by the fact that, in addition to the things I was going to eat anyway (tomato, mushrooms, toast and egg) they offered bubble and beans.  Tea and really quite decent buttered toast was included and the quality was really pretty good – notably the bubble didn’t have that disappointing stale smell that comes from old mash being fried in stale fat. For £5.50 it was really a bargain.

Mamma Mia’s interior is happy hybrid between sandwich bar and caff. The ‘formica’ tables have shiny red borders and matching chairs, the handwritten specials blackboards are mixed in with bits of mediterranean corporate art. And the walls are a nice pale terracotta. It was also very clean – one staff member was actually employed wiping the vinyl seat cushions to keep them shiny. I only regret I had no opportunity to investigate the loo.

Sam Widges, Kentish Town Road

December 6, 2010

**Under new management – still called Sam Widges as of 15th December 2011 but I’m assured the sign will change in the new year**

Visited: Saturday 4th December 2010

Interior: there’s nothing special about the inside of Sam Widges, but it’s not often I get such a warm and friendly feeling from a caff, both in temperature and staff welcome. I liked the music as well – a Christmas CD, inevitably, but not the usual carols.

Food: Sam Widges does a breakfast buffet, which is not normally my choice (freshly fried eggs please!) but the mushrooms and tomato were both nice and I added some fried red onion which was lovely. The granary bread wasn’t anything special, and I was shamed into taking their advice and not having it buttered (spoilsports). But it was a nice breakfast nevertheless and the tea was proper strong!