Towpath, De Beauvoir Town
Regent's Canal Towpath by DeBeauvoir Bridge
42 De Beauvoir Crescent
De Beauvoir Town
Open from 8am, Mon - Fri; 10am Sat; 11am Sun
by Joyce Carol Oats
Porridge: at once the most hated of breakfast foods and one of the most beloved. Porridge done well is amazing, while porridge done badly (the default of too many chefs) can result in a culinary ennui that might put one off eating breakfast for ever. With a name like Oats (of the Dumfries Oatses), you’ll not be surprised to learn that I take my porridge with salt, with honey or maple syrup, and very seriously. Such is the passion of my love affair with porridge that I'll rarely relinquish control over my morning grains to anyone.
But there was just something promising about the porridge at the Towpath, a little cafe tucked into a former canalboat house on the Regent’s Canal towpath (surprise!), now serving breakfast and lunch and cake and coffee to hipsters of a certain age under a modicum of shelter. The seats face outwards, in the manner of the best French cafes, perfect for watching people and dogs and birds go by. The service at the Towpath is shambolic, but this is suited to the shabby-chic (burlap sacks, mismatched cutlery) aesthetic: the staff are friendly and cute and seem capable, but ill-equipped to handle volume. They get testy behind their small counter and you begin to feel a bit nervous that one of them might chuck another one into the canal. This would also be suited to the shabby-chic aesthetic.
The breakfast menu is brief, perhaps because of the limitations of a tiny kitchen, but the porridge stands out: not unreasonably priced (£3), topped with poached pears, something that even this self-described porridge professional had never encountered. And it was pure poetry. Served in twee, chintzy porcelain, the oats themselves were substantial, with just a touch of chewiness, cooked in milk but not too creamy, and with the essential touch of salt that my people (the Scottish ones, anyway) insist upon. The poaching of the pears was perfect: like the oats, they were soft but firm, not mushy, and they had been steeped in – wait for it – rosemary. I know! With a touch of brown sugar, which was supplied separately, this was only slightly short of orgasm-by-porridge. Did you not previously associate porridge with sex, dear reader? You will.