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by John le Café
I have elaborated previously on my trials, tribulations and near tragedies when it comes to finding a good breakfast spot in and around West Hampstead. Well, fear not regular readers, just before I moved house and started my search anew I finally found somewhere in the vicinity of Finchley Road. It was only a ten-minute walk away and as all serious weekend breakfast eaters will know, any further than this is simply unacceptable.
Not too café and not too caff; seemingly an Italian café but serving a full English: like Goldilocks before me, I had finally found one which was just right. A few people were eating pasta and one even seemed to be having tiramisu but most of my fellow patrons on this early Saturday lunchtime were, like me, indulging in a fry-up.
The staff were friendly and the menu was long, featuring both pasta and fried breakfast variations. I briefly considered copying the man in the corner with the seafood pasta, and though this passed quickly I made a mental note to one day try something new, even if just a bolognese. I doubt this will ever happen but it is nice to daydream.
The fry-up I opted for was £4.50 with tea, or more for coffee, and came with bacon, beans and short, fat and succulent sausages. They were the Danny DeVito of the sausage world, if, in fact, he is succulent, which I rather suspect he is. All the other usual suspects were there: too many mushrooms, a superfluous tomato and a lack of toast (only one slice cut in triangles). Subsequent visits, which I happily squeezed in before leaving the area, have shown that replacing the tomato with extra toast is one of the best decisions of any weekend.
The coffee was excellent. I even pushed the boat out and ordered an orange juice, freshly squeezed by a huge machine which looked like it could pulverise more than just citrus fruit. One sip of the sweet but also slightly sour liquid and I was transported back to my childhood, to family holidays in Italy, to swimming in the Mediterranean, to frolicking in the hills and tasting real oranges for the first time. It’s strange, as we never went to Italy or the Med. We sometimes went to the beach in Hastings but even now I can picture my idyllic childhood spent gallivanting around Italy in a VW camper van stopping in every orange grove to buy from old Italian farmers with a twinkle remaining in their eyes from their mischievous youth. The orange juice really was rather good.
I thought my only complaint was going to be that Magic FM was on. The inane babble of Rick Astley and sugary pop had accompanied my breakfast but as I started to mop up the last of the beans with my toast, ‘Tracks of My Tears’ by the fabulous Smokey Robinson came on and my mind was made up. Not too cafe, not too caff. Just right. This one was a keeper, well until I moved more than ten minutes away.
Pasticcio, South Hampstead