Gill Wing Café, Highbury
Gill Wing Café (also known as Le Café)
300 - 302 St Pauls Road
by H.P. Seuss
In the heyday of the transatlantic cruise-liner (1891-1912), when magnificent international floating palaces strode the seas, it was the convention that the French provided lunch and supper while the English catered for breakfast - which, in those days, would as often involve roast beef and potatoes as your more enduring bacon and blood pudding. Though masters of the dinner table, the French, whose waking repast arrives with the disconcerting qualifier "petit", could not be trusted to prepare the passengers for the rigours of sailing with their sugary morning fluff.
It is with trepidation that your serious breakfaster enters a French establishment. Kitted out like an elegant Parisian brasserie, Le Café looks to be a boon for the croissant-stroking philosophe, but not the sort of place I expected to find a serviceable fry-up.
How wrong our prejudices often prove to be. The full English (seven-piece, £4.50, available until 5pm) truly hit the spot. The meats were of excellent quality - the bacon thick and crispy, the sausage an essay in succulence. The deftly fried egg, a veritable Vesuvius, provided bountiful eruptions of yellow goo, while the mushrooms came with a witty whiff of garlic. Even the grease was of the superior, olive order.
Mabel Syrup enjoyed a decadent Eggs Florentine, though other companions complained of a slight turgidity in the omelette. But one failing truly rankled - a lack of orange juice for which no amount of citron pressé could compensate.
Nevertheless, coupled with capable service - who dealt smilingly with our difficult party of eight - this was a superior breakfast experience, and for the price, outstanding. So good, in fact, that the patriot in me wonders whether the French proprietors didn't ship in an Englishman to shape it.
Post-script: A sign on the door announced that Le Café will be closed through January for refurbishment. We can only implore the owners to concentrate on the rather grubby loos - and leave the breakfast intact.