The London Review of Breakfasts

"Hope is a good breakfast, but it is a bad supper." (Francis Bacon)

Friday, September 21, 2007

Café Crescent, Camden Town

Café Crescent
40 Camden High St
Camden Town
020 7839 2823

by Nelson Griddle


Café Crescent is a mixed bag. Its yellow-painted walls announce as much with their odd jumble of theatrical posters: Dirty Dancing shares space with The Cherry Orchard and Tony Hadley in Chicago jostles with Hamlet.

The theatricality continues with the sweetly-spoken, Beatnik-themed waitress. Meanwhile, swooning classical music plays from a tape recorder, and we chomp away to the theme from The Onedin Line. Such sweeping lyricism does little to cheer my fellow punters, though, as they stare over their mugs of tea, ruminating bleakly on the iniquities of the smoking ban and the trials of life in general. The tea here is hot and strong and made in a proper steel pot

For solid sustenance, I opt for egg, bacon, sausage, fried bread, mushrooms and grilled tomatoes. They say that frying an egg is the ultimate test of a chef and on that basis the man who wields the Crescent’s spatula is a genius of the first rank. The white of my egg is beautifully firm and the yolk a perfect orb of creamy liquid which glugs satisfyingly out onto the fried bread. The bacon, too, is done to the turn, and the sausage and mushrooms both put in a performance on the right side of acceptable.

All this good work is undone, however, by the presence of tinned tomatoes. I might as well confess now to LRB readers that I cannot stand tinned tomatoes. Fresh tomatoes, I love. Grilled tomatoes, I dote on. But tinned tomatoes have, from earliest childhood, turned my stomach. There’s something unnatural – almost Lovecraftian – about these sludgy things, in their primordial confusion of solid and liquid, with a taste so weirdly overpowering as to kill any other flavour stone dead. Ordering grilled tomatoes and being given the tinned variety is like…well, a bit like wanting to see The Cherry Orchard and ending up with Tony Hadley.

Café Crescent, take note. Ah well, at least the tea’s alright.


Blogger Mrs Fashion said...

Being "Beatnik-themed": How delightfully retro.

Sounds like it's certainly worth a visit - but I do wish you and the other charming contributors would pick more omlettes when you dine as I believe crafting an omlette to be the mark of a chef's skill.

Mrs Fashion x

6:16 PM, October 16, 2007  
Blogger rimbaud said...

This wonderful, wonderful cafe has closed without any notice to be reborn as the blandly styled Cafe Grill.

I have been visiting it for at least six years and the sudden loss is hard to take. Mornington Crescent seems to be a graveyard for caffs at the moment, with several closing down in the last year (including the Bean'n'Cup).

There is hope that the old chef will still be there, although he wasn't when I visited last Sunday

4:22 PM, July 04, 2008  
Blogger London Review of Breakfasts said...

In an eery turn of events, Rimbaud, your comment arrived mere seconds after Nelson Griddle had also broken this sad news. He also filed a review of the new place.

1:07 PM, July 09, 2008  
Blogger rimbaud said...

I have inside information from an ex employee as to what happened: simply the very eccentric lady (Brenda) who ran the place "decided to go back to America".

Thus, the situation is not quite as depressing as one might think (if the information is true).

Do you have any idea why there are so many closing down on Camden High Street? Increasing rents? Competition from Starbucks etc? Four places I visited this year already!

6:20 PM, July 10, 2008  
Anonymous Aaron said...

I think the saddest thing is the loss to the community. Cafe Crescent was a place where you were served like a prince, even if you were a pauper, and lets face it, many regulars were! I recently saw the man with the horrendous, bulging eyes sipping coffee alone in Costa, looking a shadow of his former self... and that ridiculously fat man is nowhere to be seen - and that's saying something.

The competition on Camden high street is getting more visceral, and there is now a Pret about to open next to Sainsburys. That said, I think Cafe Crescent did very well, and Brenda just wanted to do something new - she had been there for ten years.

Cafe Grill is utter shit - I asked them for a Chicago burger and they looked at me like I was mad. Sad times. The menu has become more generic now, what a shame!

Does anyone else remember the chess tournaments that used to take place after hours here between old men in tweed jackets?

7:54 AM, July 29, 2008  
Blogger rimbaud said...

I have to disagree with Aaron a little here. The service wasn't always fantastic in Cafe Crescent and it is very good in the new place.

Most importantly the chef is the same excellent one who worked for Brensa for many years. HIGHLY recommended

2:55 AM, September 26, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I miss Cafe Crescent and Brenda is absolutely awesome!!!!!!!!!

3:04 AM, April 08, 2015  

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