The croissantification of north London continues apace. This process all started with the rebirth of St Pancras station and the concomitant redevelopment of King’s Cross over the last 10 years: the Eurostar, The Guardian and Google brought with them great restaurants making King’s Cross a gastro-destination in itself. Then Camden got a Waitrose in 2014. And now the Kentish Town Road, hitherto known only for its fish and chip shops, kebab joints and ramshackle newsagents, is now giving way to decent gastropubs, specialist cafés like Arancini Factory, and, of course, Crepes à la Carte. By this time next year, we’ll be heading to Hendon for our saganaki and plantain chips.
But back to Kentish Town and the present. The newsagents and kebaberies are still there, of course, but amongst these, almost hiding in plain sight, is Crepes à la Carte: a little island of Brittany in Brexit Britain.
Holy crepe it’s good!
It’s about the size of a coffee shop, and looks like one. But don’t let the ground floor deceive you – there is also a basement, which is more homely and cosy. Newspapers drape over the banister like tea towels on a washing line. A large blackboard displays the only menu: galettes (savoury pancakes) and crepes (sweet pancakes) with all their various fillings to play around with, as well as an array of salads, vegan options, snacks to have with an after-work ‘apero’, coffees and other café-like things on offer to suit all tastes.
They offer a very reasonable set lunch for £11 (the “formule” is such a French idea, and a great one). This comprises one galette, one sweet crepe and a soft drink. But don’t worry too much about having to stick to that rule: as I discovered, the staff have some flexibility (e.g. substituting a sweet crepe for a coffee), which is how hospitality should be. All of the crepes/galettes are apparently gluten-free and bio-friendly. My favourite, the galette complete, is a thing of simplistic beauty: an egg, barely fried, saddling free-range ham and melted cheese, all sitting upon – and framed within – a buckwheat pancake. Holy crepe it’s good! It’s essentially a posh breakfast (arguably healthier too, with plenty of fibre, a small handful of dressed rocket on the side and none of the cloying, artery-clogging fat of a full fry-up). The buckwheat, incidentally, is imported from Brittany. The staff too, it would seem. Traditional Breton cider is available, though the wine list is rather limited. If they expanded their wine offering beyond the pedestrian I would be very happy indeed.
As for dessert crepes there are the traditional options available: lemon and sugar, plain butter, Nutella and of course the classique Crepes Suzette (without any theatrics). If you have a sweeter tooth or simply looking for a tea-time snack, you could just as easily have one of these bad boys on their own.
Of course nowhere is perfect and if I’m going to whinge about anything it would be general comfort. The benches would benefit from cushions: not only to make things more comfortable for one’s posterior but also because the tables are too high – the ideal table height is about level with your diaphragm when sitting, not near your collar bone. Also, the background music can irritate and the air con needs fixing (one of my visits was during the recent heat wave and I almost couldn’t handle it, my melting point being 26 degrees).
Fortunately though, the good service balances out the comfort issues a little: the whole place is run by one guy who cooks the crepes and manages front of house, aided only by two faithful assistants. I’ve met the same trio each time I’ve popped in. Friendly, prompt and efficient, what more can you ask for (apart from a cushion)?
For years I’ve wanted somewhere like this to open. Maybe somewhere like this already existed – I just wasn’t expecting to stumble upon it in Kentish Town (but then life is full of surprises at the moment). I’m in danger of becoming a regular.
112 Kentish Town Road
by J A Smith