Archive for the ‘I Like This One’ Category

Cafe Brassino, Kentish Town Road

February 3, 2010

**Appears closed as of July 2011**

Visited: Tuesday 2nd February 2010, Last visited Saturday 22nd January 2011

Interior: When I was a child, this caff was called ‘Snoopy’s’ and was as blokey as they come (what could be seen from the bus of the smoke-filled interior). Today it is light and airy, green-painted, without being any less of a comfy traditional caff. I may be mistaken, but its occupancy of two shopfronts seems to be an innovation, which adds considerably to the brightness and space – but probably detracts from its original cramped charm.

Food: I had two granary toasts with tomato and mushroom and they were really something special! I whisper it, but they were better than the Double Six. The bread was a really nice seeded loaf, cut thick with just the right amount of butter (ie quite a lot), and both shrooms and toms were crisp, hot and tasty. Tea in a mug, a bit-overmilked but the teabag was left in, which helped.


Luigi’s Snack Bar, Rosebery Avenue, London EC1R 4SP

October 1, 2008

Visited: Tuesday 30th September 2008

Interior: A tiny gem of the vinyl and fake formica variety – wood-effect walls, red plastic formica counter hugging three sides of the wall and high stools. Order as you come in. No tables and chairs but at 3pm it wasn’t difficult to get a stool.

Food: I didn’t eat, but had a very nice mug of tea, which must have come straight from the pot as it was a real caffeine-and-tannin headblower.

Valtaro Snack Bar, Marchmont Street, WC1

September 24, 2008

First Visited: Monday 22nd September 2008, last visited: Saturday 2nd January 2010

Interior: Pared down classic of the formica/leatherette variety – no tables, but literally a bar hugging the walls with stools, but comfortable for all that. There was certainly enough width on the bar to take journal articles and notebooks as well as a plate of food and mug of tea. You order at the counter, paying beforehand, and the welcome was particularly friendly.

Food: Valtaro offer a surprisingly large choice for such a tiny place – perhaps because there is a generous space given to the kitchen. Tempted by the breakfasts (especially as it was 11.30), I opted instead for the vegetarian pasta which was absolutely delicious. The fact that it took more than five minutes and the pasta was amazingly non-soggy makes me wonder if they made it freshly. The mug of tea which arrived instantly was lovely. Everything was very cheap indeed.

Update: Today I had a veggie breakfast of a high quality – really lovely fried bubble, lots of beans and good grilled tomatoes. The mushrooms were tinned and not great, but tasty enough mixed in with the beans. Good value at £3.20 – toast and tea are extra but, to be honest, toast was completely unnecessary and at 50p per mug, tea is a bargain. I had two mugs.

Update for 2010: Another great breakfast, and my companion recommended the bacon, although he did consider that the meat content of the sausage probably qualified it as a vegetarian one.

Chez Monique, Little Turnstile, Holborn, WC1

September 19, 2008

Visited: 18.9.2008

Interior: I last visited Chez Monique in about 1996 and I can honestly say it hasn’t changed a bit since then. I could be wrong but the pale lemon walls, formica tables and classic wall menus seemed exactly as they were, which is comforting given how much most places change. Monique’s has a surprising amount of natural light given the single window looking out onto one of London’s narrower and more intriguing alleys. The welcome was smiley and friendly.

Food: I had an absolutely yummy jacket potato with cheese and coleslaw (a combination they were happy to provide although it was not on the menu). The potato had been microwaved rather than baked but was hot enough for the cheese to melt although the coleslaw was direct from the fridge cabinet. The menu has some nice touches – any caff that does breakfast will do you tomato on toast, egg on toast etc – but Monique’s actually had a section called ‘snacks’ which listed all the ‘on toast’ options. Also present were unusual choices like vegetarian casserole. Oh and tea was strong, orange and in a mug.

Farina’s, Leather Lane, EC1

September 16, 2008

Visited: 16th September 2008

Interior: Farina’s has been described beautifully elsewhere but to add my penny’s worth, the interior seemed to me to be a classic of the late 1960s – dark brown fake wooden panelling, formica tables, green leatherette chairs, all very warm and comforting.

Food: I had the vegetable chow mein, not a typical caff dish, admittedly, but I thought I’d take advantage of the Chinese menu, this being one of the mysterious sub-genres of caffs, the ‘alternative ethnic menu’. It was a generous portion of thin noodles with the customary meagre sprinkling of onions and carrots, somewhat fatty, but tasty and clearly made fresh. A large tea was a fantastic head-blowing orange tannin-fest and came in a mug (which is a good thing). The menu had a really good range of all the caff staples – breakfasts, sandwiches, jackets and a really good range of hot food. I was particularly impressed that in addition to the usual bolognese, napoli and lasagne, there was ham and mushroom tagliatelle.

Bistro Laz, Parliament Hill Fields

January 7, 2008

Laz’s website isn’t working anymore, but Time Out has reviewed it!

First visited: 2nd January 2007, last visited 20th June 2010

Superb quality food in lovely atmosphere

Interior: Was once a basic caff but the acquisition of a drinks licence has given it wooden floors and tables and a few turkish rugs. Not tacky or over-fussy and still feels like a caff not a restaurant. Very nice location next to Hampstead Heath and handy for the buses.

Food: The best I’ve ever had in a caff! I had the ‘light breakfast’ which comprised 2 pieces of unsoggy, buttery brown toast, a poached egg, the best mushrooms ever, a hash brown and plenty of grilled tomato. Presumably the full sized breakfast is somewhat larger. Lovely big mug of earl grey and very reasonably priced.

Andrew’s Restaurant, Grays Inn Road

June 15, 2007

Visited: Thursday 7th June 2007

Popular large caff frequented by workers and locals alike.

Interior: Andrew’s relatively large size does not detract from its friendly atmosphere. There are few ‘heritage’ features in the caff, yet its overall impression is resoundingly and unselfconsciously traditional.

Food: Pretty much what you expect – I had a perfectly decent 2 granary toast (very soggy), grilled tomatoes, fried egg and mushrooms, nothing exceptional, nothing wrong with it – mushrooms at the higher end of the spectrum although not in Perugino’s territory. Tea in a mug.

Piccolo Bar, Gresham Street, City of London

May 18, 2007

Visited: Thursday 17th May 2007, last visited 7th April 2011

Friendly, late-opening haven in the city, much-used by cab drivers.

Interior: I have never been inside the upstairs room, set aside for black cab drivers (although I know of non-cabbies who have and the cabbies often come into the downstairs room). The downstairs room is fine if you’re okay with being in a basement. There’s a smidgen of natural light from glass panels in the ceiling (the sort you walk over in the pavement) and the kind of bare-brick walls one normally sees in upmarket pizzerias. Sky Sports News is *always* on. Still, your dinner will come down in the most fantastic dumbwaiter. Don’t forget to close the door behind it so they can pull it up again.

Food: Generous well-priced portions. Somewhere you can get a hot meal at 9pm should you want to. I had a nice bowl of their ricotta and spinach canelloni and a decaff coffee which really was lovely. I often have it during the break in my choir rehearsals (in the church next door) and not only is it one of the nicest ones I know, but nobody ever makes a fuss about my ordering decaff. My only gripe about the food is that it’s quite difficult to order healthily – they always seem to have run out of veg by 6pm.

In summary: I would always recommend this one for the welcome, the late opening hours and the decent sized portions. A little corner away from the suits in the heart of the city.

City Snacks, Theobalds Road

May 12, 2007

Visited: Thursday 10th May 2007 , last visited Friday 11th February 2011

Update: Today I had a poached egg, grilled mushrooms and tomatoes with two brown toast. The toast came separately, and first, but it was lovely and buttery, so although I had to manipulate the egg, tomato and mushrooms onto it when they arrived, I was grateful for the first slice. Once on the toast the egg was perfect. The mushrooms and tomato were less good – the mushrooms a bit small, wizened and unconvincing as mushrooms, the tomatoes not really tasting of anything, but the whole was satisfying enough and the mug of tea perfect. Staff were friendly as ever and even closed the door on my request (although subsequent customers then kept it open. Groo!)

Lovely friendly Italian-run caff. The people who run it really seem to care and told a couple of female students who’d been whiling away the hours over a single coffee not to rush off but to stay longer if they liked.

Interior: Possibly the most comforting and welcoming caff I’ve ever been in – immaculately clean, jolly red tables, and the counter and shelves filled with inviting food and beverage items.

Food: I didn’t actually eat, but had a very nice mug of earl grey for 70p. Seemed to be a good range of breakfast, pasta and other hot options. Perfect for a rainy day.

Bush & Fields, Museum Street

February 28, 2007

First Visited: Wednesday 28th February 2007, Last visited, Friday 7th January 2011

Lovely food in a friendly atmosphere. Not open late. It doesn’t appear to have anything to do with the take-away counter in the Bush House arcade of the same name. Every now and again I go a bit mushy at memories of Joseph’s melt, banter with Robbie and the assistant that looked like Gabrielle out of Xena, Warrior Princess.

Interior: The tiles behind the counter take this from being standard to being traditional, although in many ways it’s the friendliness of the staff which marks it out rather than any interior details.

Food: I had a spaghetti calabrese which would have been worthy of an Italian restaurant at half again the price. And Earl Grey came in a mug. Shepherds pie on the next table looked delicious. And they didn’t have a problem with my occupying a four-person table although I was on my own (but carrying a huge rucksack) and it was just before the lunch rush.