A trio of south London cafes serving delicious, innovative food show that it’s not all happening in Hackney and Shoreditch…
Rude Health Café
Handily placed at the end of the New King’s Road, just opposite the walkway where weary workers spill off the tube at Putney Bridge, the Rude Health café adds zing to a drab bit of highway. Simple blocks of colour, minimal seating arrangements and shelves laden with multi-coloured packets bring to mind a CBeebies television set, but the food is much more sophisticated – based on the RH products (‘nutrient-dense natural food’ majoring in cereals, oats, muesli etc) you can buy in the supermarket, but given a stylish, café-standard spin. As you might imagine, breakfast is their forte; this autumn you’ll be able to have sprouted porridge, bircher muesli, brunch frittata and avocado toast. But they also do a pretty good seasonal salad lunch, lentils with aubergine, tahini and yogurt, raw salad and a health-boosting pea, bean and kale soup. Altogether light and cheery, not too noisy, just round the corner from the Boat Race Middlesex Station and within easy reach of a tube. Hard not to like.
Rude Health Café, 212 New King’s Road London SW6, 8am-5pm tel 0845 465 7833, rudehealth.com/cafe/
The Loughborough Café
Like rosebay willowherb growing over of the ruins of bombed out London in the Forties, a once destitute street in south London is beginning to show signs of vibrant life. Loughborough Road, a sullen thoroughfare between Brixton Road and Coldharbour Lane is now home to the wonderful Loughborough Café which occupies a corner site carved out of a much larger building housing a gallery and work spaces, as well as the Baked Salt pottery.
The Café is run by Janie Fraser who trained at the Clerkenwell Kitchen, Arnold & Henderson and Anna Hansen’s Modern Pantry and is thus the distilled product of a mentoring dream team and that shows in the food on offer here. With a strong Mediterranean and Middle Eastern influence, it’s terrifically good, far better than you’d expect to find down an unpromising side road in SW9. Homemade frittata, spanakopita, spiced roasted aubergine, salads and toasted sandwiches, chocolate brownies, tarts and pastries. The coffee is great, tea comes in a proper pot and the shelves are decorated with calming and curvaceous ceramic mugs, plates, jugs and bowls made by the Baked Salt pottery
The Loughborough Café, 39 Loughborough Road London SW9, tel 0207 733 4420, http://bakedsalt.co.uk/loughborough-cafe/668
Down a side street leading into a square of early Victorian houses that could have been designed and drawn by Shirley Hughes for her Alfie children’s books, you’ll find the Italo Café. Occupying a corner site, opposite the entrance to the square gardens which is bizarrely surmounted by an enormous plaster hand, Italo has a collection of outdoor tables, an awning and a positive attitude to dogs. Inside, the café doubles as an Italian deli with makeshift shelves crammed with produce – tins, bottles, prosciutto, cheeses, biscuits and chocolate. Sunday lunch this week was a kind of Italian pulled pork with roast spuds or a wonderful dish of papardelle with mushrooms and pine nuts. Astonishingly for London, you can sit outside and eat this delicious (inexpensive) food in dappled sunshine beneath a tree, unbothered by the noise of traffic, and only five minutes walk from either Vauxhall or Oval tubes. It’s idyllic. The charm of Italo is not a complete accident, of course; it’s owned by Charlie Boxer, son of revered food writer Arabella Boxer and father of Jackson, who runs the award-winning Brunswick House, the restaurant that occupies space in the grand, solitary, 17th century house, contemporaneous to Apsley House on Hyde Park Corner, on Vauxhall roundabout. From Italo, stuffed with excellent food, you can either retrace your steps to Vauxhall and pause for a reviving aperol spritz at the Brunswick House Bar (www.brunswickhouse.co.uk) or carry on past Italo into Bonnington Community Gardens, a rescued oasis of green that backs on to the Oval.
Italo Café, 13 Bonnington Square London SW8, 9.30am-5.30pm (7pm wed-fri), tel 0207 450 3773, italodeli.co.uk