The Village Cafe, Ladywell
251 Algernon Rd
020 8690 1252
by Billie Hollandaise
These balmy summer evenings lend themselves to what I like to call a little drinky-poos. If one can organise for a curry to complement the ale, all the better. As another pint is always the best option - and the cycle can repeat itself a very many times - one can easily find oneself, upon arrival back home, in all sorts of trouble. Yes, I am thinking of a recent night.
The following morning, having violently ejected those materials which my body deemed surplus to requirements - an impressive and quite surprising rainbow of rogan josh particles - my thoughts turned towards breakfast. As luck would have it, not a hundred yards from my front door sits The Village Cafe, an honest greasy spoon nestled in the heart of what an estate agent would call Ladywell Village. My wife, showing a level of sympathy which quite put me on edge, told me that in my current state the best thing I could do was get myself down there and get myself outside of a fry-up. This sort of gesture comes, on average, about once every five years. I never miss my chance.
The cafe offers dishes for all times of the day but the main event is its numbered, bullet-pointed, ten-strong breakfast menu. There is nothing clever on offer here, nothing 'modern'. You know the list. From 1 to 10, every breakfast carries the air of a guaranteed winner. That said, the plate (number 2, £4.40) I ordered - eggs, bacon, chips and beans - forced me to go slightly off-piste, replacing sausages with bacon. Offered a choice between tea and coffee, I opted for tea and was delighted to witness the process which ensued, a sort of riot of hissing and splashing. From the giant urn came what must have been a kind of tea concentrate, as the mug was only half filled. Then a whistling, spitting gush of boiling hot water was directed towards the concentrate. Unfortunately, in her struggles the lady rather overdid this dilution stage and the tea emerged slightly weak, although wonderfully hot.
I took a place by the window and awaited my food. A couple of tables away, men in hi-vis were discussing football, and in particular Tottenham Hotspur, and in particular Gareth Bale. I longed to join in, for I have views on these subjects, but I've never in my whole life been able to easily converse with working men of this type, and after so many awkward moments in my own home with plumbers, builders etc. I have learned, finally, to give up trying. So I remained mute and on the fringes. Thankfully, though, my breakfast came very soon – a handsome, symmetrical breakfast. Chips up top, beans in the centre, an egg either side and two rashers shoring things up across the base. In fact, so beautiful did the ensemble look that I instinctively pulled out my iPhone and took a photo: it was that kind of a moment. And once I'd been through the little ritual whereby I empty one egg over the chips and the other over the bacon, the meal did not fail to deliver. It was perfect. I gobbled it up in an ecstatic blur, climaxing on a little bacon and egg piece which I had constructed early in the procedure and saved for the end. I do this every time, despite a bitter childhood memory in which my sister stole the trophy from the plate and, right in front of my eyes, slammed it into her fat mouth. I have never forgotten that.
I had arrived at the Village Cafe broken and twenty minutes later had emerged into the sunlight fully restored. In these circumstances, I can afford the place no less than a full ten out of ten.