The London Review of Breakfasts

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

Friday, August 18, 2006

Camden Kitchen, Camden Town

Camden Kitchen
102 Camden High St
Camden Town
020 7485 2744

by Malcolm Eggs

The litmus test of a breakfast-serving restaurant is exactly the same as it is in secondary school chemistry. Ask any crawling rag man lost in the desert and he'll confirm: it's the tap water, old chap - water is our right, not just as customers, but as life forms. In the Camden Bar & Kitchen they eschew the two most common options, here listed in order of frequency, of (a) not bringing the water or (b) bringing the water. Instead, they inform you of the existence of a jug on the bar from which you are welcome to help yourself. They are tap water Blairites, the Daily Mail would say.

Having imbibed a sizeable quantity of red wine, lager and champagne the previous night I downed my first tumbler of water in a single gluckgluck and spent much of my stay in some sort of transit between table and jug. The 'Kitchen Breakfast' (£6.95) was a classic spread (with tomato instead of beans) but for the introduction of what they call a 'potato cake'. It was a tumultuous affair. The sausage was great, all hot and herbed-up, but the garlic mushrooms were cold. The ciabatta toast had an arty crunch, but the potato cake was surreal. The fried eggs were impossible to fault ("I felt they were my eggs" said my dining companion), but the bacon was cold.

Asked to testify about this breakfast whilst under oath, I would remark that the positives outweighed the negatives, that I have even been back for lunch since (it was halloumi salad and it was excellent), and that I still think about it with a residual fondness, the specific source of which proves elusive.


Blogger Tim F said...

Maybe you were still pissed, and your critical sensibilities were thus bollixed.

3:05 AM, August 19, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This place was good two years ago, but since then when I stopped in the lady told me I couldn't have a cheese and onion omelette with chips. What the hell is the point of impersonating a European style restaurant if the paying over the odds (that's right it's overpriced) customers can't order a simple omelette? She said she had a whole al a carte menu with a choice of two omelettes- one of them had goats cheese in. GOATS CHEESE? IN THE MORNING? This ain't Greece, and I ain't no peasant!
I was the only person there, the "chef" was just sitting behind the counter thing picking his nose. I thought I would take a chance to see if a smile and a wink plus the promise of what would've come to more than a tenner from the only possible customer around would convince this over-ripe lady to do right by said customer. Nope. She only had those tabloid papers that aren't red tops, the ones that masquerade as news, rather than propaganda.
Still, I like this website, and I like breakfasts, so I'll come up with a silly name and enter the frey.

2:29 PM, May 09, 2007  
Blogger Unknown said...

What a brilliant idea for a site. I just got back from living in New York, so frankly, I count myself as a bit of an aficianado in terms of breakfast appreciations.

My issue with a fully cooked breakfast is the consumption politik. I get confused, there are too many potential combinations (beans, sausage / bacon and mustard with a smudge of tomato / sourdough bread mopping up yolk - but with or without salt and pepper?) I nominate instead making a more targeted choice. I'm seeking out a creative breakfast salad - something verging on a nicoise but with a creative twist, like posh chop't ketchup or something.... that way, I'd have the fresh floor of a salad to inspire confidence, whilst not feeling the clock pressure to chow down before stone cold sausage syndrome sets in.

8:01 AM, June 30, 2007  
Blogger London Review of Breakfasts said...

Cher E. Jamm, whose recent review of the News Cafe in Miami has won the ringing endorsement of our Florida-based readership, paid a new visit to the Camden Kitchen recently.

Here's her account:

I'd heard a rumour that the Camden Kitchen had changed hands, and now, at last, it is good again. A place we could all go and fill ourselves with a breakfast for under a tenner. A place you could leave with a spring in your step and a song in your heart.

Allow me to fill you in, dear reader. I used to frequent the Camden Kitchen circa 2002, whilst in the first flushes of love. We'd gaze longingly at one another and share lingering glances over cups of tea and breakfast delights. He'd steal my chips and I'd mock outrage and we'd laugh and eat and leave feeling like we were walking on clouds made of blueberry muffins. Then, the Camden Kitchen's management changed. Quality was compromised. The staff were unhappy, and the food, frankly, sucked. I started to resent the place. We stopped going. I'd huff and puff whenever it was mentioned. My love and I parted ways, and I guess a small part of me still blames the Camden Kitchen for the role it played in the End of the Affair.

Cut to six years down the line. The heart has mended and it is time. Saturday morning. The weather is swings between splendid sunshine and glittering snowdrops. We sit at the bay window with its soft furnishings and brushed silver table, and a glorious view of Woolworths and Snappy Snaps. A waiter with bleached hair and a turquoise moustache tersely asks us to leave the table while he cleans it. His nostrils flare with indignation. We rise and stand by the door like school children waiting outside the Headmistress's office until my companion observes that 'Tache Boy has finished and walked off without telling us. We go and sit down and wait for someone, anyone, to bring over menus. Two people are seated at the table behind us and are handed menus and asked for their drinks order. I stand up and walk over to the bar to ask for menus. 'Tache Boy tells me to sit down and he'll bring them over. Something tells me this is going to be a regressive experience.

Menus come and the drinks order is taken. Freshly squeezed orange juice and a cup of tea each. And how lovely they both are. My companion goes for the eggs benedict, and I opt for the spinach and goats cheese omlette.

A metal bucket filled with condiments and cutlery arrives; ketchup, brown sauce, mayo and two kinds of mustard along with other bits and bobs. ‘Tache Boy simpers over with our plates and a huge smile on his dial. Oh me, oh my! Things are looking up. It all looks divine. The omelette, crisp and golden on the outside, and fluffy on the inside, is beyond any omelette I have had for some time. The spinach has been expertly mixed in with the eggs before cooking and lends its flavour neatly to the melted goats cheese that glistens and crumbles all at once. This protein dream comes with a side of chips that know what they’re talking about. They don’t need description – you all know what a good chip is. These are chips with integrity.

My companion eats in silence. Doesn’t look up from his plate until every last morsel is gone. Doesn’t ask if I want a bite. When he eventually does glance over – he eyes up what I’m still working through on my plate. I shoot him a glare that lets him know that if he dares touch anything, I’ll be forced to fork him through the palm. It’s amazing how things can change.

12:49 PM, April 01, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I live in Camden and have eaten the breakfast at Camden Kitchen since when the place was called something else! It has picked itself up and is back on top recently after a real downward slide, and really needs to have more staff on hand at busy times

12:17 PM, April 12, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Had breakfast at the Camden Kitchen last weekend after reading the reviews and comments. It was great! I love their chips and they know how to poach an egg. The only thing I was sad about was that there was no sign of the turquoise tache. Breakfast ain't no breakfast without the presence of a turquoise tache!

1:13 PM, September 10, 2008  
Anonymous Poppy Tartt said...

I breakfasted here recently and was served by a whispery mouse-like waitress. Two of us wanted the American breakfast which on the menu was offered with the choice of bacon or veggie sausages. Obviously we wanted real sausages instead. We took it for granted that our request would be granted with humility and good humour. This is a democracy after all. But no. At the mere mention of 'substitution' the waitress appeared to shrivel and become half her already small size. She shook her head faintly as if battling with inner demons. 'They...don' change things...' she whispered, glancing over her shoulder as if something terrible had been set in motion. My fellow sausage fancier shrugged goodnaturedly and accepted our fate. I was not so sanguine. But when I exclaimed jovially What, really?! And, That's ridiculous! the waitress stood firm. She was like one of those outwardly submissive wives of great men who are secretly running the show with their powerful talent for manipulation. I bet if you get into the kitchens at the Camden (now Bar and) Kitchen you will find the broken sweating chefs chained to the oven, doomed to forever fry up unalterable meal combinations until eternity while she whispers 'The customers won't have it any other way' to them repeatedly.

NB. The unaltered breakfast was delicious.

2:20 PM, March 21, 2010  

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