Kalendar wins on all counts - location, atmosphere and food are just as they should be.
Just at the bottom of Highgate Hill at the entrance to Parliament Fields is a clutch of similar cafe cum restaurants of the rolling breakfast, brunch, lunch, tea and dinner variety. Kalendar sits alongside Cafe Mozart and their respective outside seating has a habit of blending into one another, creating the expansive pavement dining feel of small town Europe. The inside decor is an exercise in dark hues and streaming sunlight from the full-length windows of the shopfront. A glass counter displays pastries, salads and delicacies alongside a large wall mounted black board on which are written an ever changing selection of specials.
The general feel is one of self-assured relaxation. Clientele from Highgate, Hampstead and Camden tend to sit outside, even in winter due to the bristle of outdoor heaters. Expensive dogs lap up attention from the young families and couples who happily mill about waiting for an available pavement table. Smart, irritated waitresses stride about confident that diners will happily wait for to be attended to. It is the sort of place one can happily sit for a few hours browsing the weekend papers over a few coffees.
The menu is not small, catering as previously mentioned for everything from early breakfast to dinner. Brunches are best. Eggs come as Benedict, Florentine or Royale. Each dish is completed with a rich pale Hollandaise made richer by the lava flow of yolk that oozes from the pair of poached eggs that sits atop whichever base you have chosen. All are good, the ham obviously carefully selected, spinach fresh and alive with accurate seasoning and smoked salmon draped like a soft, salty pink blanket over the muffins. It is damn near essential to order some fries with these dishes because all that sauce won’t mop itself up, plus they are a perfect example of their kind, golden brown, crispy outer, fluffy inner and a sprinkling of salt.
The Kalendar burger is complete with sweet gherkin, salad, and those delicious fries. The meat, while tasty and succulent, is ground slightly on the fine side and doesn’t tend to crumble as some might like, that said it is well seasoned and well sourced. For vegetarians there is a great deal of choice and a greek salad is a meal on its own. Chunks of fresh red and green peppers, tomato, and cucumber meld with the crumbly, salty feta and black olives thanks to a tangy dressing – a festival of colour for the eyes as well as a feast of flavour for the palate.
A good selection of smoothies will always assist those suffering from a hangover. A pleasing sharpness edges the sweetness of the fruit, especially on those made with berries. Juices are varied and Cappuccinos are lethal in that it is easy to make your way through one before food arrives, leaving you in need of another at the end of the meal, which is no great shame. Sugar sits on the on the foam for just the right amount of time, before giving up its struggle to remain granular and sinking into the milk below.
The Last Word
There might be cheaper places for breakfast, but none are as enjoyable to sit outside of for a bit of weekend late morning relief. While there is nothing particularly original about the place sometimes that’s just what’s needed. Those chips and with that hollandaise… just the sight of it is better than a whole truck load of Alka-Seltzer.