After ten minutes sandwiched between all of London and her tourists in Camden Market, I realized that in at least one way, living in the Midwest is a luxury. Space. We spent an afternoon getting caught in the current of foot traffic, wandering the stalls without stopping to look closely at anything designed to attract our attention along the way. To stop would mean to be run over, or to lose a member of our party. We’d gone to Camden to meet up with Sarah, Ben’s childhood friend, and we’d brought Elen, our London hostess along with us. With only a cup of coffee as our nourishment for the day, we were starving. While the food stalls in the market were tempting, we let Sarah talk us into visiting her favorite nearby pizza place. (The crowds helped persuade us, as did the underlying fear that any food near a tourist site was likely to be crap.)
In what was to become a tradition in our London dining experience, our initial goal (in this case, pizza) was just out of reach. (This happened several times during the trip; we’d get to a bistro that a friend recommended and find that the kitchen had closed seconds prior to our arrival, or we’d arrive at our destination restaurant to learn that they could only seat us at their second location, thirty minutes away.) Camden Bar and Kitchen had changed menus and its beloved stone-baked pizzas weren’t available for brunch on Sundays. Our server—who did not approve of this very recent change in operations—tried to talk the kitchen into serving us pizzas, to no avail. Brunch it would be.
And it was good. Had Sarah not talked up the pizza, there would have been no disappointment. First up: Elen’s savory goat cheese souffle. Topped with pesto and arugula (or, as the Brits call it, rocket), it was light and tangy with a fluffy texture. A perfectly-balanced dish.
Ben and I both ordered variations of eggs benedict: mine, with ham; his, with salmon. I have an aversion to smoked salmon paired with eggs, and declined an opportunity to taste his dish. Mine, however, was spot-on version of the classic brunch selection. It was the first time that I noticed the English egg yolk. It seems to be smaller and perkier than those I see stateside, which are wider and more shallow. I tried to bring this up various times throughout the trip, but my companions did not notice a difference. As it stands, I’m alone on this observation.
Sarah’s falafel burger rivals any non-vegetarian burger I’ve encountered. If given an opportunity to brunch again at Camden Bar and Kitchen, this would be my choice.
Not satiated with the goat cheese souffle (perhaps because I ate half of it), Elen chose a second course of spinach sauteed with garlic and chili. A simple side that allows the ingredients to stand alone without any embellishments, the trio demonstrates the chef’s willingness to let produce take the spotlight.
The busy restaurant cleared out as we enjoyed our leisurely brunch, providing the antithesis of Camden Market: elbowroom and pause.
We followed brunch with a walk in the quiet and spacious Regent’s Park, which provided the best dessert of all: the opportunity to see our friends become friends. Sometimes these things just need a little room to grow.
Camden Bar and Kitchen
102 Camden High Street,
London, NW1 0LU