The London Review of Breakfasts

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

Friday, November 04, 2005

Rustique, Tufnell Park

142 Fortess Road
Tufnell Park
020 7692 559

by Blake Pudding

Weary of the £3.50 full English joints of Kentish Town, I headed towards Tufnell Park, to a café called Rustique. I was accompanied by publicist extraordinaire Nicolette Praca. Nicci has worked with the great Jeffrey Steingarten, so she knows a thing or two about food.

I should have been wary of this place billing itself as a 'literary cafe'. The whole place so reeked of pretension, right down to the Edith Piaf on the stereo, it would not have seemed out of place in Greenwich Village. I ordered pancakes with maple syrup and a cafe latté. The pancakes were obviously microwaved from frozen and were accompanied by aerosol cream. Nicci ordered the continental breakfast, which consisted of two small croissants, a tiny amount of jam, portion-controlled butter and three pieces of cheese. The croissants, by the way, were excellent - mainly, I imagine, because the staff had had nothing to do with them.

I hated this place. I hated the smug assumption behind it that because of the faux-bohemian atmosphere and the fact that some of the clientele look a bit like Salman Rushdie that they can get away with atrocious, over-priced food and gormless service. What I hated about it the most was that most of customers seemed content with it. If they noticed how they were being ripped-off then they did not seem to mind. We are often told that this country has undergone a culinary revolution in the last twenty years. The existence of Rustique suggests otherwise.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm also baffled by the success of the cafe rustique. Why didn't you call in at the cookshop a few doors down? - at least you'd get a decent coffee and pastry plus a pot of lentils to take home.

2:55 PM, January 07, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know, it's self important schmucks like you, that are wiping out what's left of independent shops on the high street. The Literary Cafe, is run by honest, harding working people who need to push up their prices because of the shark of a landlord that owns the whole street (note all the shops that are empty - they can't stay open due to rent being so high.)

So what if the food isn't great?! Want a bargain? go to fucking ASDA then. The truth is, what bugged you the most is that you had to pull a note out of your wallet instead of coins. Greed, in all it's forms, is indeed very ugly.

5:50 PM, July 13, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't mind paying money for good food as Angry of NW 5 would be aware if he read my review of Medcalf. I do, however, mind paying money for obviously shoddy food.

There is a problem in London with greedy landlords who overcharge but it is not our fault. In fact, at the LRB we like to think that we are, to use one of those awful londON phrases, celebrating the diversity of London's breakfast establishments.
Unfortunately I don't think that Rustique is worth celebrating.

Blake Pudding

1:55 PM, July 17, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


9:47 PM, November 03, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rustica is my local cafe, it's on my street, sometimes the food is good, sometimes not, but for some reason the place depresses me so I rarely go in, prefer the Fortess Cafe, a plain mid-period caff, the owners are full of smiles, food nothing special but I like it. Tufnell Park is in dire need of a really good and relaxed cafe.


12:42 PM, January 29, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i seriously dont see the problem with the cafe, the food or the staff. i think its a cool place.

1:23 AM, March 05, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Coffee is hotter than the face of the sun. How do they do it?

10:44 AM, July 27, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ha ha! yeah i totally agree about the somewhat awkvard atmosphere. i started working there cause i thought it seemed nice... but the vibes are for sure not the best. far from relaxed and friendly. the owners' stiff tries for being friendly to customers are hillarious and just come out smile from the heart there.but a lot of complaining about customers behaviour... And the ignorance of rinsing the apples before making juices and total lack of recycling (might be a british thing though...)among other things made me disappointed. but i got the deposit money back so i was more lucky than the other two girls...

8:44 AM, July 31, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i agree. this is terrible place.i was working there as well. owners didn't pay me back my deposit.they are friendly only to customers.if u looking for job never enter that place which seems to be perfect at the first glance.

8:00 PM, October 23, 2007  
Blogger doctorwhy said...

wow...I can't believe how divided the opinions are on this cafe. I'm almost scared to add my own. OK I'll admit it - I love it. I come all the time and spend hours there reading and working, as do a lot of people, and the staff don't mind. I agree that the food is not amazing, but I love the pancakes (could it really be the same ones that you hated??) topped with cream cheese and cooked apples. I also find that the staff are friendly without being intrusive; for instance, I once came in soaked to the bone and they installed a heater right by my table to dry me off. I could go on about countless episodes like that, but they're probably irrelevant. It does sound like there is some mistreatment of staff going on, though it's hard for me to imagine. If it's true then it's a real shame.

3:41 AM, April 28, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the place is shit, the food is expensive and actually not that good. The staff, moreover, the owners are fake and the last time I went in the lady serving us seemed to have a hearing problem. I had to say everything twice, but it could have been a language thing. I was getting so angry and put it aside as I was working in there with a colleague. They also need to sort out that hovel of a lavatory, good lord! Sorry to be so base, but sometimes it's pertinent to spit the poison, especially when they are ripping folk off.

2:02 PM, July 24, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you got to know them they are awsome people, Tosted sandwiches and a hot chocolate, oh and there home made chocolate cake is a must!
Ive been to most the food places round here and they all kinda suck, the cafe after sainsburys sells doggie sausage sandwiches that made me throw up :S

12:08 PM, July 28, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


10:41 PM, September 09, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I quite like this place. The cakes are really good. The staff's ok. The only problem is the price : a whole cake costs around 40£ ?!
They really have to change something.

11:32 AM, October 20, 2008  
Blogger Darling Doe said...

I happen to have had one of my most stimulating breakfasts ever in the Rustique. The American pancakes with creamcheese, apple, cinnamon and maple suryp was as comforting an experience as a mother´s cool hand on my forehead. Each mouthful was accompanied by a string ocrhestra of nude cherubs looking like young Paul Newmans produced by my tintilated mind...

Of course I too could sense the pretention surrounding me with the majority of the guests slowly making marks in their moleskins, but I actually don´t mind that at all, in fact I think it´s quite cute. I even like the badly painted sign of an open book surrounded by autumn leaves...

As a matter of fact I will bring my Dostoievsky and my fake glasses next time!

9:42 PM, November 12, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm going back this weekend, I'm going to order what you had, Cecilia, and if I don't get pretty smiling Paul Newman-esque cupids then I am going to consider you a breakfast naif.

9:57 AM, November 13, 2008  
Blogger Futures in the Making said...

hey, funny! I love that place! whenever I have a deadline and simply cannot bring myself to shed one bit of activity in my brain the atmosphere in there is so welcome-ing and friendly that I leave only hours later (with sufficient work produced) and usually good conversation as one or the other friend will join me on one of the adjacent tables. the food IS expensive but not that bad for what it is. i would like more variety for instance but I only go there when I want to work. When I want great food, i'll go somewhere else. i like the fact that they'll never chase me for another order.... that's pretty rare in london!!!

9:21 PM, December 12, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To the disillusioned reviewers - this cafe's a real gem. I'm there almost every saturday or sunday morning for my coffee and pain au chocolat. If you think the rest of the menu is overpriced and not great, you're absolutely right. So go elsewhere for your lunch (like Spaghetti House down the street). The place is good for the (i) coffee (ii) croissants (iii) pancakes with apple & cream cheese, and (iv) cookies. You wouldn't expect the wines at an old man's pub to be particularly magnificent, so you'd just order a beer. For the same reason, just order the stuff that the cafe do best if you don't want to leave disappointed. The point is, how many non-chainy cafes can you find in London nowadays which don't rudely try to kick you out after an hour if they don't think you've ordered enough? Rustique is laid back, the crowd is local and unpretentious, the staff are friendly and wireless internet is free. And if the quiet ambience and Oxford library furniture make you feel like you should be walking in clutching a book on greek mythology rather than a vogue magazine, certainly doesn't bother me.

6:46 PM, January 11, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't used to go to Rustique because it was such a smoke den, I'm an ex-smoker and just didn't want to stink of fags anymore (the missus may have thought I'd started again too!).

Recently, I have been going here as we're having our kitchen done. I've had the pancakes twice, they are no american farmhouse fluffy pancakes but they are comforting enough. I thought the coffee was pretty good though, and the atmosphere pretty relaxed. I also had a med vegetable jacket potato for lunch and a quiche with salad on a separate occasion, was about £8 which is a lot but it was nice.

The couple that run it are always nice and accommodating, especially of the pretentious sloppy beany wearing hippies that sit and nurse a coffee over a 4 hour period. I'm a big believer in local shops, but not if they're shit, and I think the initial review of this place is unfair and reeking of pretension itself. The reviewer seems to have a bit of an agenda, and made their mind up before sitting down. i can see how it could seem pretentious, but its not really, the literary side of its a bit naff, bringing its own charm. It is however, quite a relaxing place to be while having some good if slightly too expensive food. can't comment on staff problems.

3:02 PM, February 05, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

is it legal to share a "deposit" from their staff?

1:48 PM, April 05, 2009  
Blogger Unknown said...

Somewhat taken aback by the negative comments here! I've been coming to this place for 18 months or so, and it's one of my favourite places to sit down to get some early morning work done, or to have a relaxed lunch. I really like the laid-back feel, and the fact that I can read as long as I like, or use the free wifi. It's pretty comfortable, and I've never felt the clientele to be pretentious. The staff have always been friendly too.

I'm upset by the evidence which suggests that staff are not well treated, and a little shocked/sickened if it's really true that they don't wash fruit, or recycle, but maybe that's improved. It's certainly expensive, but the huge fruit salad and yogurt creation that I like to have for breakfast is comforting and healthy at the same time - a super combination.

In sum, I'd definitely say this place is worth a visit, and that the original review is somewhat unfair.

7:39 AM, June 18, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't get it. Why are staff being made to pay a deposit to work there or anywhere?

10:42 AM, June 21, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

when you start working there, the first week you have to work for free, and if you quit, you get this 'deposit' money back. but you're most likely to get fired after a very short period of time, 3-4 weeks, so that they don't have to pay your deposit and can hire another naive girl. And the owners do boss the staff around in a military style and treat them like shit.

10:07 AM, July 07, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shame on all the people who leave harsh and nasty comments! I've been coming to this place for many years. Staff and owners are lovely and the atmosphere is cozy.

1:28 PM, September 19, 2009  
Anonymous Mark said...

Unfortunately same thing applied to my friend who worked there. They fired her after 2-3 weeks and did not pay her saying they need to keep her salary as a "work deposit". This most definitely is not legal.

Because at first I thought it was only my friend who was conned I did not bother helping her by going through the courts. However, if more people come up I will gladly consider making a case against these scrupulous people and their work practices.

Please leave a message here if you are interested and I will post my email address.

1:03 AM, October 21, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love rustique, I go there all the time and they are lovely! I love the owners and the pancakes, the chai tea and the ciabattas, the customers reading books and working and the quirky atmosphere. I'm sorry you got fired though.

11:38 PM, October 30, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the prices of rustique are to much,
but the owners,wow sanella is two faces which really I belive that she is some kinde of a which,and her partner is her cat!

11:53 AM, June 27, 2010  
Anonymous Lawyers for Fair Play said...

Well, Blake Pudding, we think you should seriously consider moderating the posts on your blog.

It appears that 'Mark' left a comment offering to give his email address to anyone who wanted to take legal action against the owners of Rustique in the event that they had been committing a crime in their treatment of their staff.

Mark made his offer in October 2009 - it is now 13 months later, and NO-ONE has taken him up on his generous offer.

We have no idea if the accusations you have published are true. But we do have a reputation for fairness in this country - and in this case, what can be fairer than a lawyer being prepared to provide his services to test the accusations?

We suggest Mr. Pudding, that if you had allowed such accusations to be published on your blog in say a review of Rick Stein, or lets say in your comments on a review of one of Gordon Ramsay's restaurants - you would have been sued from one end of the country to the other.

So we suggest, Mr. Pudding, you mend your ways, and moderate this and your other blogs immediately - or you may come to regret not doing so.

12:54 PM, November 07, 2010  
Anonymous righi said...

I don't know if these lawyers i totally agree. I've been going to the cafe for 3 years and I've always loved it. I won't argue personal taste and i agree that food could be cheaper but people working there are nice. In the past 3 years i've seen always the same persons working with the owners so all this unpaid-russian is bullsh*t.
I think mr Blake is the typical w*nker who feels cool and huge writing negative reviews about things he barely understand.
Have you been bullied a lot at school?

10:32 AM, March 27, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it legal to make staff pay a deposit? I'm going to mention it to dept of trade and whatsit to find out. Doesn't sound right to me.

P.s. I am a writer and would never enter an establishment called a Literary cafe. Anyone who writes in public is either pretentious or a 'look at me, I'm a writer' wannabe.

10:27 AM, March 14, 2012  
Blogger gee said...

lets forget it

8:37 AM, October 01, 2012  

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