Sunday 13 June 2010

Towpath - canal side cafe in Shoreditch(ish)

I'm so glad there's not a camera positioned on my handle bars, filming my facial expressions as I ride around London.

I'm not a natural born cyclist. I'm a foot on solid ground girl. (Don't even get me started on swimming. Although I like floating - especially on the salty Mediterranean where it's easy, and preferably with a cocktail waiting for me on a nearby banana lounge. But I digress). Although exploring London's hidden depths with the wind blowing through my helmet brings me much joy, I know my brow is furrowed like a maniac every time I hear a car advancing at the rear, my teeth clench over every grate and pot hole, my knuckles white with fear every time I whizz past a row of parked cars, just waiting for the day a door will open and 2 hard years of metal braces and bad school photos will come to nothing. 

I have a lot of sympathy for my friend who can't make right turns on a bike so gets around entire cities by always spiralling left. 

So any chance I get to cruise off the main drag in the name of "exploration" is always a secret relief. 

Today, it brought me to a sunny strip of Regent's Canal off Kingsland Road where The Peanut Gallery and I discovered Towpath - an open cafe right on the edge of the canal path.

It serves coffee and simple breakfast and brunch items (toast, porridge, granola, quiches, toasties, olive oil cake). The coffee's not a world beater - it's a bit watery and lacks depth and kick. But still enjoyable if it's not a Monday morning coffee on which your life depends. The toast was nice and came with some home made (slightly runny) marmalade and rhubarb jam.  

Its foodie creators - Lori De Mori (food writer) and Jason Lowe (food photographer) - suggest there might be more here to delight the palate than we discovered, as does the enticing smell of grilled cheese sandwiches wafting over to our table. But it's such a fun and friendly spot to sit outdoors in the sunshine, read the papers and watch cyclists crash into runners against a backdrop of graffiti clad warehouses and passing boats. There's also a bit of cover with a long communal table for those not so summery London moments.

Worth a look if you're cycling by, and need an excuse to rest your clenched jaw. 

Towpath, 42 De Beauvoir Cresent, (Hoxton, Shoreditch, Hackney or one of those places, London, N1 5SB

Tow Path on Urbanspoon


  1. I won't even make excuses for my lack of excitement about cycling, and refusal to cycle around London. I am in the lowest of the low as a preferred walker. I love walking along his part of the canal and I have strolled past this small place on many an occasion on my way to Broadway Market, although I have just discovered a bus that stops outside my house, that can drop me off in the market. Sorry waffling here.
    I've never felt like stopping here, but it always seems to be really busy, so it must be doing something right. Maybe one day.

  2. I like the sound of this place, a refuge when walking/cycling the canal becomes too hot/cold (delete as appropriate). I'm a big believer in context when it comes to a good eating experience, and this is a great setting for a toastie. One I will be looking out for on my next summer canalside stroll from Islington to Limehouse.

  3. Anonymous14 June, 2010

    Carly,this place is just round the corner from my house! I pass by on my bicycle all the time. You must give me a shout the next time you're in my neck of the woods :)

  4. Gosh! I don't even recognise the Towpatch Cafe that I know and love from your review! Admittedly, I'm so besotted with it that my opinion should be taken with a pinch of salt but perhaps somewhere between my take on it and your rather 'meh' one, the truth lies...
    I've been going there since the week it opened and have watched the menus change with the season from cavolo nero bruschette, rhubarb fool and blood orange posset back in February to the broad bean and mint salad that I had yesterday. I can't think of anywhere at this price point in London that responds as immediately and as imaginatively to the seasons. It's such a joy to go somewhere with just a tenner or so in your pocket and know that you're not going to have to have dreary panini or overcooked quiche. The Montgomery cheddar grilled cheese sandwich is a thing of wonder.
    I have never been for breakfast and must admit i'm not desperately keen to do so as toast and granola don't thrill me that much so I'd urge you to give it another go for lunch!
    As for the coffee, it's perhaps not the best in East London I'd agree with that, but I'm still rather charmed by the fact that Lori loves Caffe Piansa so much that she has gone to the trouble of introducing it to London. Towpath for me is an eccentric gaff and one that London's all the richer for. One thing I will say, however, is that the service (lovely and friendly as it is) can be truly flaky. I've heard of hour long waits at the weekend!
    I'm embarrassed at myself for gushing so much and caring so much but I worry from the comments so far posted that people will read your review and think 'nah, i won't bother'.

  5. Dave & The Grubworm - Definitely worth checking out if you are in the area I think - perhaps try lunch time when the menu sounds more exciting on the strength of Hilary's comments.

    Ms Winesleuth - I had no idea you were so nearby. Will definitely give you a shout next time - too fun!

    Hilary - Wow, I love how much you love Towpath! (And I too can't resist commenting when others are not so enraptured with the places I hold close to my heart!) I copped a whiff of the Montgomery cheddar toastie after my breakfast, and that alone made me think that there might be more exciting things on offer - so I hoped to leave that possibility open to my readers, and seems you're confirming it. I wouldn't go out of my way to go there for coffee or breakfast again(although I liked it enough to go again if I was local and it was a sunny day), but sounds like definitely worth checking out the seasonal lunch dishes - the things you describe are usually just my cup of tea. Thanks!

  6. It sounds like a nice place to have locally, though perhaps not worth a travel to...?

  7. There is also a Cycle puncture repair shop next door, so, so useful when you are cycling along the canal!


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