Dominique's in Hampstead Heath, Hampstead
19 South End Rd
by Poppy Tartt
It's difficult to order breakfast under the gaze of a mad woman. This woman's madness - or at least her complete failure to observe conventional social codes dictating how much you stare, how much you touch your face, how much you shuffle and how close you come to other people's breakfast tables - manifests itself most strongly when she leans over and snaps her hand, 'yap yap yap', at you as you are talking. She seems to be a striking red-haired symbol of the not-so-firm grip you have on your own sanity. Luckily you have a firm grip on the menu, and a nascent hunger.
Dominique's is one of those places that makes Hampstead look like Hampstead - a place populated by vaguely continental-looking cafes with small tables and children spilling out into leafy streets. Whether the mad woman is a regular feature of the café is impossible to say; the breakfast however, which presumably is a regular feature, is large and primarily excellent. The beans, thank god, keep themselves to themselves at the corner of the plate, interfering slightly with the grilled tomato but to no great detriment. The eggs, protected from the red terror by a vast swathe of bacon, glisten suspiciously and are a little slick, but you remain friends. The sausages are the ragged kind, ripped apart to seem more numerous and meaty, but the trick works. Altogether it's enough to distract you temporarily from thoughts of mental health, yours and society's, until you realise that you have eaten everything in a frenzy and now feel sick - surely evidence of madness lurking - and now your friend, who ascetically ordered only raisin toast, who says she has seen that very mad woman waving a broken umbrella on Holloway Road, is eating your leftover bacon rind.