Head to the Towpath Cafe for al fresco excellence.
Daffodils, the dawn chorus, and cherry blossom mania: there are many sure signs of the impending arrival of spring. Go ahead and add the Towpath Cafe to the spring portents, because when this charming little caff throws open their doors, the sun is here to stay. And so they did, back in March 2020, before closing their doors – along with the majority of the hospitality industry – a couple of weeks later, as the coronavirus pandemic took hold. Happily, however, the Towpath Cafe is making a little late season resurgence, with this lovely spot open once more.
Just as nature doesn’t follow a set schedule for spring arrival, neither does Towpath Cafe – there’s no grand announcement, just a quiet opening of the doors and firing up of the grills. Indeed, the place flies neatly under the radar; located in a series of unassuming shutters along the so-called ‘Haggerston Riviera’. Since there’s only a small space to work with, tables spill out on to the towpath, which is just terrible when the sun shines. Look, isn’t it simply awful?
With no website to preach the gospel, there’s a danger of it being overlooked in favour of another hype-worthy neighbour: Barge House, home of the iconic breakfast in bread dish – but they’ve got a not-so-secret weapon up their sleeve. Towpath Cafe relies on a legion of fans (Keira Knightley amongst them) and Instagrammers to get the message out, and they’re spreading a message of deliciousness. You’ll know its open when a wave of delectable dishes, artfully posed on green tabletops, arrive on your feed.
Menus change too often to recommend a particular dish, but they do a great range of breakfasts and brunch options. Heartier meals come highly recommended, with a strong focus on seasonal cooking. A sausage and lentil dish is led the hype train last year, but there’s somewhere here to suits everyone’s taste – grilled mackerel was the Towpath Cafe’s plate du jour in 2018. For this upcoming autumn season, they’re also planning a dinner service at 7:30pm on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, which will be a delightful treat before the shutters come down for winter.
Opting for a scrumptious main meal is a strong choice, but the Towpath Cafe has one dish that brings the punters back time and again. The holiest of marriages (bread and cheese, natch) gives life to the cafe’s cheese toastie, a much-loved sandwich that routinely ranks amongst the capital’s best. Nab one of those, and a spot in the sunshine, and you’ll be the toasted one soon enough!
Location: 42 De Beauvoir Crescent, Haggerston, N1 5SB. Nearest station is Haggerston. See it on Google Maps.
Opening hours: as a result of the shortened season, they’re only open from 10am-4pm on Thursdays and Fridays, and 9am-5pm on weekends.
Price: depends on the dish, but they’re usually between £5-£8 each.
More information: keep an eye on Instagram for dishes.
Featured image: @friendsof_towpathcafe
Also published on Medium.