You may think I've been a hermit of late, so few have been my reviews of places to eat. Maybe I'm too picky, but I'm not a professional restaurant reviewer these days. I don't want to waste my time, or yours, so I only write about places I rate highly. I appreciate an exquisite sauce and a starched napkin as much as anyone but what I want most of the time is carefully-sourced ingredients, cooked with passion and served-up with a genuine wish to give pleasure. I expect a decent, but not pricey, glass of wine. A relaxing, friendly atmosphere and knowledgeable staff need to be in the mix too. The opportunity to eat outside on a sunny day is a nice extra, and sitting by a stretch of water is almost over-egging the perfection pudding. So, after several weeks of some disappointments which have sent me scurrying back to old favourites, I offer you "Towpath Café" by the Regent's Canal.
London's Regent's Canal runs from the junction with the Grand Union Canal at Paddington in the west to the river Thames in the east at Limehouse. It passes right through London Zoo in Regent's Park and snakes onwards through Camden, Islington, Bethnal Green and Mile End. Towpath Café is between Whitmore Bridge and Kingsland Road Bridge (N1 5SB) and its steel shutters are thrown open from breakfast till dusk. Opened in April 2010 by Italian/American author and food writer Lori de Mori, it's definitely now on my favourites list. The food, prepared in a tiny lock-up kitchen, is seasonal and very simple. Yesterday Dave was cooking up morcilla, red peppers and broad beans on toasted sourdough; a steak sandwich with caramelised onions; a creamy, olive oil slicked brandade and soft boiled egg served with sourdough toast; runner beans and Berkswell cheese salad. Each was carefully prepared and packed with flavour. Laura's treacle tart was as light and chewy as it ought to be (yet so often isn't). Her olive oil cakes are a must, and there's home-made ice-cream too.
A generous main course and dessert, a glass of chianti and a good espresso came in at around £15 and it's great value. This is the food I want for a relaxed weekday lunch. Most of the seating is outside, so a sunny day helps, but there is a small under cover area too. Outside, chilled-out diners co-exist amicably with locals, walkers, dogs, cyclists and joggers, and with boats and wildfowl coming and going too you have a constantly changing scene. Towpath takes its responsibilities seriously in this residential area of Dalston/Hackney. There is no take-away, so no litter, and staff help cultivate the small local communal garden alongside.
If you're having trouble finding the Cafe, look out for their recent acquisition, "Juiliette" a lovingly restored "little ship". Now all we need is for summer to return to a, presently, soggy London to unwind down on the Towpath.
42 De Beauvoir Crescent, London N1 5SB
(Regent's Canal, between Whitmore Bridge and Kingsland Road Bridge)
Tues-Fri 08.00 to dusk
Sat 09.00 to dusk
Sun 10.00 to dusk
No bookings and no loos.