'The fabulous A La Mesa cafe Highgate success story'
Russell Bentley, actor and writer, Belsize Park
- Credit: Russell Bentley
End of term means scurrying around finding fun and exciting events for one inquisitive little four year old boy who you would no doubt have heard me mention previously in my monthly column.
The newly revamped and re-energised Jacksons Lane provided us with much enjoyment last week after attending a production of Oh No George, a stage show based on the children’s book by Chris Haughton and now entering its 10-year anniversary.
Walking into the venue was like being greeted by an old friend, or perhaps an old friend with a wonderful make-over. This place holds many memories with its shabby chic, and not a coffee machine (sadly) in sight.
I rather quickly gravitated towards the fabulous cafe A La Mesa and a children’s menu displaying an array of popular choices, pasta, chicken nuggets and some fantastic adult selections including a slow cooked chicken, a five pound vegan meal deal, three cheese toasted sandwiches with onions and a homemade soup.
When I learnt from the welcoming staff member Jodie who served us, that A La Mesa was the brainchild of local talent Victoria Grove, (a local actress and yoga teacher) I lit up as she’s an old pal. Along with her partner Joe, a Kentish town native and renowned chef, they have created a cafe that caters for a thriving local community who are passionate about food.
It is an area close to Victoria’s heart she told me over a gorgeous cup of coffee (care of local roasters Fireheart in Muswell Hill). She grew up a stone’s throw from Jacksons Lane and attended school locally.
A La Mesa, which translates in the Latin world as "to the table", was a phrase commonly used by Victoria’s Argentinian grandmother and evokes the memory of family and warmth, a quality that the pair are recreating here in this wonderful open space.
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A La Mesa started just before the birth of their five-year-old as a seedling, catering for 30 people for a friend's mother’s 70th birthday to catering for a dozen events within three months – all from word of mouth – to pop-ups, secret garden parties to pub residencies. They were on the cusp of world domination before Covid hit but have managed to regain their foothold and find a home at Jacksons Lane which opened just over a month ago.
Joe would describe his and Victoria’s culinary union as an equal split between his placing the onus on the food tasting great and Victoria making everything look and sound wonderful. That’s perhaps the success of their partnership, both playing to their strengths.
I was also impressed that that the food is locally sourced. Bread and pastries comes from Sourdough Sofia in Crouch End, the vegetables from Crouch End Greens, Fireheart Coffee from Muswell Hill and even homemade teas – Tuuli Teas from Victoria’s friend and fellow yoga teacher/model Tuuli Shipster.
Covid has seen so much career diversification and personal changes for many of us and here are two individuals who really care about food and people, and as Joe said: "If people wave back at you and say thank you - we will be back, then you’ve absolutely nailed hospitality."
Watch this space as I know we will all be smiling and waving….
Russell Bentley is an actor and writer from Belsize Park whose documentary on England’s Lane's Launderette was released in 2019.