Queens Park in north west London is a slap bang in the middle of the Green Tea belt. Though the haunt of many a trendy, media type - it appears to be the base for every homeopath, osteopath and accupuncturist whose number I have ever scribbled on Post It note, and lost. It would seem like the natural home for an establishment like the Organic Cafe - a little Mecca for all those who dont want to fill their body with nasty chemicals - or, at least not until after dinner. Its an noble idea - good food cooked using only organic ingredients. Anthony Worral Thompson tried the same thing a few years ago on the mug-me streets of North Kensington (which, geographically, is like referring to Birmingham as North London), but eventually had to throw in the tea towel due to the impossibility of obtaining sufficient supplies of quality organic produce. The Organic Cafe, though a more modest affair, has been around for long enough to produce three cook-books and seems to have no such problems. Theres a daily changing blackboard menu, with a solid core of breakfasty-brunch-style staples and everything from the wine to the ketchup is organic.
The place is hidden half-way down one of those part-gentrified streets that so-called Bohemian areas of London specialise in: a minimalist gallery cum architects office next to a jobbing garage, complete with the cannabalised carcass of a Ford Sierra and a semi-overalled mechanic smoking a fag with his head inside a running engine. In the cafe, the walls are painted a brilliant blue and decorated in early student bedsit with fairy lights, twigs and lots of pot plants. The tables are pine, surrounded with mismatched chairs and benches, and strewn with newspapers whose usefulness soon becomes apparent. The menu proudly proclaims that they specialise in Slow Food and indeed, they do not exaggerate. I urge you, take a book. Take a sleeping bag. Take cigarettes, even - because, oddly, for a place that prides itself on wholesomeness, you can actually smoke within allotted areas. Equally surprising given the nature of the cafe, apart from a tomato and mozzarella sandwich, the only true vegetarian option chalked up on the board was a stir fry or penne with black olives. Everything else contained meat, fish or fowl.
I got right through the Guardian with supplements and we still hadnt ordered. But okay, a leisurely lunch - surely thats no bad thing? Perhaps not, if youre dining with the Walton's, but en masse we are more like the Borgias - Lucretia and Cesares big day out. Is it only our offspring who kick and wriggle and quarrel and go to the loo with the frequency of drunks on diuretics? We could market our collective offspring as a safe form of birth control - forget barrier method and think deterrent. The Chinese could use them as poster children.
The cafe had emptied out by the time we arrived, but still it took three requests to get a plate of (very good) bread and a saucer of olive oil, though when our food arrived it was difficult to see what had taken so long. The all-day meat breakfast (a veggie one is also available) consisted of a few rashers of bacon, a sausage (singular not plural as advertised in the menu), a fried egg on a piece of toast, some mushrooms and half a grilled tomato which is fast food however pure our ingredients. The tortilla wrap with spicy chicken, sour cream and salsa chosen by Cesare junior was served cold. Little Lucretia had a BLT in a burnt wholemeal bun containing possibly the most meagre layer of bacon lettuce and tomato I have had the pleasure of watching her pick out and pretend to eat. Husband had a salmon fishcake which looked like a childs science project representing a bit of space debris after a meteorite storm which was poised atop three chunks of buttered lemony swede and some spinach. Appearances apart it tasted properly moist, albeit with only the merest suggestion of salmon flaked through the mostly potato filling. The smoked haddock with mash, spinach and a poached egg was excellent, the fish perfectly cooked, and without any of that nasty artificial nicotine colouring usually found in smoked haddock. I had a stir fry in which the chicken, noodles, and shreds of pepper, carrot and red cabbage were held together in an appetising clump by a peanut sauce. The noodles had that nasty cloying peanut buttery texture which made every bite a trial by stodge and necessitating the consumption of copious amounts of liquid.
Jugs of water were offered at £2 a jug which seems a lot for basic London tap passed through a filter. All in all, the people are lovely, the aim honourable, but the food is more suitable for the person who cares about is in the dishes they are eating, rather than how it tastes.
Still, only one cousin was harmed in the writing of this article and husband No 2 lives to pay another day, which is always a bonus. But brotherly love, in my filial experience, is vastly over-rated.