Grove Cafe, Highbury
226 St Pauls Rd
020 7704 8885
by Poppy Tartt
Dear Marmaduke Rosenbaum and I have known The Grove, but not its breakfasts. We were not prepared for our tea, pale as a pretend virgin’s post-nuptial bed sheets. Perhaps the dissembling bride thought she could wing it with the tampon defence, but we felt quite the cheated husbands then, and were having none of it. (Well, actually we were; we were hungover and weak. We drank the tea down disappointedly and pretended we believed it had ridden horses as a child.) Our Mediterranean breakfasts arrived. There were eggs, a garlic sausage, halloumi and salad. All entirely enjoyable, apart from Marmy’s eggs, which were a bit jismy. He ate them with his eyes closed. Toast was served in a basket lined with gingham. “How rustic!” we cried. We sat in the window. Many people walked past who amused and delighted us. On the windowsill close by my elbow, a bronze plate balanced on a vase filled with layers of multi-coloured lentils, offering its last croissant to passers-by. It was unusual. On a dado rail further unusual things were balanced; perhaps it had something to do with fashion. Retro condiments spell hip! Sometimes. Up there were three packets of Fortt’s Original Bath Oliver Biscuits. Their white packaging had yellowed like a smoker’s ceiling. “I like that this place is a little bit scummy,” Marmaduke said reassuringly.
At the meal’s end we looked more closely at the bread basket. It had one missing handle, as if it had been rescued from a skip. Its jaunty lining was covered with a plastic film that reminded one unromantically of a nappy cover. The film was greasy and sandy with breadcrumbs and other matter far exceeding the waste our own toast could have produced. The basket was disgusting. ‘Don’t look,’ urged Marmy.
Weak tea and poor hygiene spells no tip.