Café Crescent, Camden Town
40 Camden High St
020 7839 2823
by Nelson Griddle
****CAFÉ CRESCENT HAS NOW CLOSED. IT HAS BEEN REPLACED BY CAFÉ GRILL****
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.