It seems that you can’t open a magazine nowadays without some jumped-up nutritionist pressing upon you the need to embark on the latest fad diet. It’s all ‘carb-free’ this and ‘five-a-day’ that. Well, if we can’t even trust the Great British free press for dietary advice, then who can we trust? Worry not health-conscious, loyal reader, your answer is: me.
And I say there’s no better way to start your day than with a fried breakfast, followed by a pancake chaser. Of course. So on Saturday morning – OK, midday – I gathered some chums and went in search of local eateries which might satisfy my dietary needs. I present my findings below.
The Kitchen Table
The first stop on our culinary journey was The Kitchen Table, on Mill Lane. As the name suggests, the feel that Thomas – owner and life-long West Hampstead resident – was going for was that of a homey family kitchen. There is a large open kitchen overlooking the bright dining area, which has some cook book-bearing shelves, and a large wall proudly decorated with children’s drawings.
I went for the bacon (and tomato) sandwich (£4), which was sizeable and very tasty. My only criticism would be that the thick-sliced bread meant that the bacon-bread ratio wasn’t ideal. But the juicy bacony core was delicious. My companions all opted for the generously portioned scrambled eggs, which were cooked to perfection and served on toast with some mixed leaves. Optional extras included mushrooms, baked beans, bacon – the usual, basically. The downside this time was the price; though the basic egg dish itself was reasonable (but at £4, not cheap), by the time you added on the extras (£1-£1.50 each), it started getting a tad pricey. People seemed to get around this by ordering one add-on each, and then sharing.
Over all, the food was great, if a little on the expensive side. The service was excellent: friendly, attentive and efficient. And the atmosphere was cosy, though it was very busy; it was full when we arrived (we had to wait ten minutes for a table), and still going strong when we left over an hour later. Next door at The Kitchen Stores you’ll find all sorts of cheeses, spreads and other organic/whole food yummies. I bought myself a pint of chocolate milk, in classic milkman-style glass bottle.
Having guzzled down the chocolate milk and walked off (a fraction of) my bacon sandwich, I was tempted into Love Food on West End Lane. As you enter you step into a deli-cum-coffee bar, again selling all sorts of delicious-looking organic groceries and the like. Stairs lead down into a restaurant, but we opted to sit in the cafe area at the back to eat our crepes.
One of our group was a crepe-obsessive: she used to be an addict, a one-a-day girl. Unfortunately, her classic choice of lemon & sugar didn’t manage to meet her exacting standards. The pancake was drowned in a sickly-sweet syrup, and after a mouthful of crunchy sugar made her feel a little sick, she (uncharacteristically) complained to the staff. To their credit, they took it back in a flash, and brought her a perfectly cooked plain replacement, as requested.
The chocolate and banana crepe, on the other hand, was quite sublime. They did not scrimp on the fillings, and once again the pancake itself was cooked beautifully. Popular opinion would suggest that our lemon & sugar experience was an anomaly rather than the norm, but take statements like “the best crepes in the area” with a pinch of salt, as this is West Hampstead after all, not Paris.
There were plenty of other food options on offer, but the crepes are the real draw for most people and, based on my recent visit, I can’t say with confidence that you are guaranteed to enjoy yours. The atmosphere was warm and comfortable, and the staff, though generally a little disinterested, were very helpful, friendly and accommodating when the complaint was made.
In a head to head, I’d have to give my backing to The Kitchen Table. This might not be entirely fair as I didn’t eat the same thing at each place, but I felt that they were both going for a similar vibe – unassuming neighbourhood healthy-food shop plus cosy cafe – and The Kitchen Table pulls off the whole package with a little more success.