Che-Men Café – 490 Kingsland Road

Before you start reading, I need to come clean; we forgot to take any pictures of our meal. Luckily the owners have possibly the best ever Facebook cover art, which I’ve re-appropriated in the spirit of community bonding the carnival is supposed to embody. And we had some lovely camera phone snaps from Notting Hill that will have to serve as illustration to what we ate.

I’ve never understood the point of Notting Hill Carnival. I get that listening to loud music outside can be fun. When it’s in the sunshine. And you are genuinely passionate about the people performing. But Notting Hill Carnival has always seemed a rather unlovely event; way too many people in too small a space, all desperately trying to prove to themselves that they’re having loads of fun when all they are really thinking about is how long it’s going to take them to get home on the tube and where they’re going to be able to pee (and the usual answer is in a doorway while the police are trying to get on YouTube by dancing like a dad at a wedding). Which is why, in the decade I’ve been lived in London, I’ve avoided all of west London for the whole of the August Bank Holiday.  Better to be safe, than be sorry when some douche in a novelty hat is sick on me after drinking too many Red Stripes while listening to Norman Jay or DJ Derek or someone else that they would never in a million years normally dance to.

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Instead of an exterior shot of the cafe, here’s a happy speaker enjoying Carnival

But this year, people I like spending time with wanted to go. And I couldn’t be bothered being a pariah  and waiting in the Palm Tree on my own for them to get back and tell me how much fun they had had.

To help prepare, we decide brunch on Kingsland Road was a necessity before we embarked on the dangerous trek west. We picked Che-Men; a strange Turkish café that appeared a couple of months back, emerging fully formed in a blink of an eye from the shuttered fronts of a couple of derelict shops and now seemingly frequented solely by leather-jacketed men who look like they helped defend Dalston during the riots. Hopefully they were the sort of people who liked a decent eggs Benedict as much as they liked smoking really strong cigarettes while looking vaguely menacing, we thought as we sat down.

They didn’t.

Instead of grumpy Turkish men, here's Scott wearing a headband and dancing

Instead of grumpy Turkish men, here’s Scott wearing a headband and dancing

Apparently what these people like are all-you-can-eat breakfast buffets of the sort that you get on all-inclusive holidays in Antalya (I imagine – the last time I went to Turkey, we stayed in an eco-resort where high-rise buildings weren’t permitted in order to protect the endangered turtles that lay their eggs on the beach – true story).

There were a lot of different milky cheeses, some unripe tomatoes, much unidentified but strangely satisfying processed meat, and bread that tasted like it would mysteriously remain “fresh” for months; the sort you buy from Dalston corner shops at 3am and find three months later still in perfect condition.

But there was also lots of very strong Turkish coffee and fresh fruit juice. And there were eggs. In fact, the owner was mad keen on us eating eggs; continually bypassing the buffet and bringing us more plates of those odd eggs that you get on holiday that sit uneasily between scrambled, fried and an omelet.

Instead of food shots, here's a photo where it looks a little bit like Nat is trying to catch falling jerk chicken

Instead of food shots, here’s a photo where it looks a little bit like Nat is trying to catch falling jerk chicken

Strangely, it was all rather satisfying. Staff were uniformly friendly and the food did its job of filling us up. In fact it kept us going until the obligatory and deeply disappointing jerk chicken we had 10 hours later after an averagely fun time at Carnival.

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Instead of a nice final shot of our empty plates, here’s what happened to me after too much Carnival rum

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