Every day of the week is a red letter day at Kalendar, Highgate
by Victoria Prever Sunday has become a day of freestyle eating. Breakfast can be taken at whatever hour you choose, from dawn until late afternoon. Grumpy and I visited Café Kalendar for a late breakfast or brunch as it becomes as the day wears on. The popular café on High
Sunday has become a day of freestyle eating. Breakfast can be taken at whatever hour you choose, from dawn until late afternoon. Grumpy and I visited Café Kalendar for a late breakfast or brunch as it becomes as the day wears on.
The popular café on Highgate's lower slopes serves breakfast (as well as a full menu which includes sandwiches, salads, grills, pastas and quiches) all day, every day. There's a slightly neglected looking deli counter - in which some sad olives and lonely looking cheese wait for some mates to make up the numbers. There's also a good line in artisan-baked bread, most of which, for some reason, you can only take away. You have the choice of white, rye or granary but everything else must be eaten off-site. Next to the unloved deli counter is a display of cakes from Konditor and Cook, purveyor of sexy sponges and other gorgeous baked goods.
Décor is functional. Sturdy wooden tables are in two sizes - "big enough for your broadsheet" or "more suited to a magazine". We perched at a magazine appropriate table, watching - vulture-like - for a space big enough for our Sunday rags. When it did, the friendly Eastern European waitresses were happy enough to help us move to what they could have argued was a table for four.
Grumpy started his break-fest with a dairy banana smoothie, a honeyed, homogenised hug. My English Breakfast tea arrived in a metal pot big enough for two cups that poured without flooding the table.
There are various set breakfasts choices (full English, veggie version, eggs Benedict/Florentine) as well as the chance to get creative and DIY. It's a veritable porky pic 'n' mix from which you choose your favourites to build your own brekkie plate.
I ignored sophisticated options such as smoked salmon and sautéed spinach, or the greedy pig options including hand-cut chips and went for some old friends. You literally get one of each item you opt for. One smallish but perfectly formed (and well seasoned) sausage, a couple of firm, dark but watery (undercooked) mushrooms and a nicely poached but vinegary tasting (free range) egg arrived in a flood of baked beans.
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A generous portion of (organic) granary toast arrived (a little cool) in a basket with some foil wrapped butter pats.
Grumpy's Kalendar vegetarian breakfast was two free-range eggs (scrambled at his request) which were short in the seasoning department, a vegetarian sausage (bready in texture but nicely seasoned with rosemary), grilled tomatoes, more of those watery mushrooms, baked beans and toast. The generous portion (and the Sunday Times Review section) kept him quiet for a good 10 minutes.
By now a queue had formed - a line of hungry hopefuls who should have got up earlier. Not ready to rush off from our comfy table into the grey and rainy Sunday afternoon, we ordered one of the organic, home-made flapjacks that sat piled on a plate on top of the counter in front of us. Close-up it was huge, a vast baked brick. They might have used to it stop that Skoda cake car rolling away. It was also disappointingly floury - like eating sweet, sticky, vanilla flavoured and raisin flecked mortar. It made me want to rush home to my electric toothbrush and a bucket of Listerine.
Our waitress - high on efficiency but short on charm, finally brought us our bill, which was - at just short of £25 excluding service - not bad.
Almost too full to move, we gave up our table to one of the waiting masses.
Kalendar is a well-run and (usually) friendly place to take, what I think is, the finest meal of the day. If it's lunch or dinner you're after, the food is good, basic gastropub-style fare. It's not top-notch gourmet but it doesn't claim to be - it does what it says on the tin.
o Somewhere that didn't do the Ronseal thing was The Duke of York in St John's Wood. It's a perfectly reasonable gastropub and our meal was fine, even quite good.
Food was reasonable tasting, rustically presented and served with charm, but it was memorable for the increasingly wide menu detours. The menu promised asparagus wrapped in bacon - delicate and sophisticated sounding - but what arrived were thick piggy rashers (unlikely to ever become pliable enough even to wrap around a lamp post) plonked on a green tepee of asparagus spears, propped up on a small hillock of rocket leaves.
Most astounding was the dessert, described as a white chocolate torte with chocolate sauce. What arrived was a white earthenware dish of (still partially unset) chocolate mousse garnished with strawberries. After digging a while in search of the torte, which perhaps had sunk Glastonbury-style into the depths of the dish, we summoned our lovely waitress over. The kitchen had elected to send a chocolate mousse up instead of the listed torte. We weren't told why. Did they think we wouldn't guess? Who knows?
I continue to be amazed by restaurants that treat customers with such little respect. Rule number is one is, 'Tell me what you can offer', then deliver whatever I choose, not whatever chef can rustle up.
Café Kalendar, 15A Swains Lane, N6 6QX.
Telephone: 020-8348 8300.
Food: Three star rating
Service: Four star rating
Opening hours: Mondays to Fridays 8am-10pm, Saturdays and Sundays 9am-10pm.
Cost: Breakfast about £12 per head plus service.