Café Also

©Rob Greig
North West London

The Book of Leviticus – the third book of the Hebrew bible – is very particular about what the followers of Yahweh may and may not eat. Making sense of the kosher food laws has led theologians and anthropologists a merry dance for more than two millennia, but the result in contemporary London is that many people of Jewish heritage still observe the most basic rules: no pork, and no mixing of dairy and meat at the same meals.

Temple Fortune, north of Golders Green station, is a centre for both the Orthodox Jewish minority and a wider liberal community. Joseph’s caters for the latter with both an excellent bookstore, and this new next-door restaurant. Both have a casual heimishe (homely) vibe, while the restaurant serves fish and dairy dishes of surprising sophistication.

Chef Ali Al-Sersy used to be chef-patron of Mims in Barnet. Before that, he trained under the Rouxs at Le Gavroche; Al-Sersy’s techniques and dish presentation are informed by French cooking from the 1890s to the 1980s.

Ingredients are simple, the skill considerable. Home-smoked mackerel is served as a timbale-like tower of fish topped with pea shoots, with a drizzle of horseradish cream and a smear of mackerel pâté. Drizzles, blobs and leaf garnishes decorated every dish, including a quinoa and mushroom ‘pudding’ topped with long roots of roasted salsify and a sauce of parsnip cream. Sometimes the artistry is taken a little too far: a dish of roasted cauliflower had a charred floret as the centrepiece, but the accompanying cauliflower kofte – like spherical canapes on cocktail sticks – made the dish.

Café Also’s cooking and welcome are pitched just right for the neighbourhood, but it’s worth the schlep even for goyim (non-Jewish people) up Finchley Road from the tube station.

Venue name: Café Also
Contact:
Address: 1 Ashbourne Parade
London
NW11 0AD
Cross street: 1255 Finchley Rd
Opening hours: Meals served 8.30am-5pm Mon-Fri; 9.30am-5pm Sat, Sun. Dinner served from 6.30pm Tue-Sat
Transport: Tube: Golders Green tube or bus 82,102 or 460
Price: Main courses £7.50-£14. Set dinner £18 2 courses, £22.50 3 courses. Meal for two with drinks and service: around £70.

Average User Rating

4.5 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:1
  • 4 star:1
  • 3 star:0
  • 2 star:0
  • 1 star:0
LiveReviews|2
1 person listening
Lee Robinson

I was introduced to this charming North London cafe-restaurant by a good friend who suggested it would be the perfect place to celebrate my birthday - and she was right! It's so rare nowadays to find somewhere where you know you can sit, relax and enjoy good conversation (mercifully minus the customary din of muzak and surrounding talk that rebounds off the hard surfaces of most contemporary nosheries) - and then tuck into the most delicious food, one glorious course after another. All of the dishes were beautifully presented, but even better still, they tasted as good as they looked, featuring a host of interesting flavours and textures. That all of this was so reasonably priced was the proverbial frosting on the cake (though in our case, we shared a mouth-wateringly tangy and caramelly Tarte Tatin between all three of us). Needless to say, we left the premises satisfyingly full....and full of bonhomie. Highly recommended!

Debbie

I've eaten here both at lunch and dinner a number of times and I'm never disappointed. This restaurant caters beautifully for the growing bunch of us who are now pescatarians ( or perhaps lapsed former vegetarians who still don't want to eat things with legs or wings). Its so good to have somewhere where nothing on the menu is out of bounds. Everything we've eaten whether vegetarian or fish has a modern twist - some unexpected take that makes it not just tasty but intriguing in a good way - fresh and layered with flavour. So we keep coming back and have noticed that others do too. There's also a great wine list and nothing is overpriced.