A quick lunch is all most of us can afford when time is of the essence. A tired sarnie may be the easy way out but if you’re bored with the usual fillings and you can get to Covent Garden during the day, Kastner and Ovens will spice up your lunch break.
Floral Street is just behind the Royal Opera House and Kastner and Ovens is a tiny shop near the Bow Street end. It’s packed with good hot and cold food, including sandwiches, specials of the day, cakes and drinks, but all with a difference. The menu changes every day and the food is as mind-blowing as you could possibly imagine. The brainchild of Anne-Marie Kastner and Sue Ovens, it has firmly entrenched itself as the best fast food around and attracts customers from the Opera House, the Magistrates Court and the shops and offices in the Covent Garden area, as well as visitors looking for fine, homemade fare at a reasonable price. Basically it is two long counters of quiches, tarts, pies, pasties, salads, vegetables and hot and cold dishes, and a window display of cakes. At the far end of the shop is a single table, made for sharing by customers wishing to eat in.
Since there is usually a queue down the road, especially at lunchtime, the general ambience is one of hungry customers happily looking forward to their special lunch. It’s the kind of place where you will strike up a conversation with your neighbour in the queue or at that single table. Good food inspires people to feel good and that transfers to the clientele at Kastner and Ovens. And, if you do manage to grab the single table, you will invariably have to share it with others. There again, it’s easy to break the ice and start chatting to your fellow diners. The enthusiasm for the food offered by Sue and Anne-Marie is catching indeed – they are just crazy about providing excellence and their ravenous public enjoys every bite. Note: other caterers please copy.
Apart from the sandwiches which could include such fillings as smoked chicken and sundried tomato, mozzarella and pesto, tuna mayonnaise and gherkins, Stilton and melon, and Brie and apricot and ginger chutney, there are the various quiches and tarts. These change on a daily basis and could be roasted vegetable, or spinach and goat’s cheese, or ham, mustard and Gruyere, aubergine and spring onion or mushroom, tarragon and Dijon mustard among others. There are leek and Stilton tartlets, smoked chicken and thyme pies, Cornish pasties and spinach and feta filos among others, priced from £2.50 to £3.25. The range of salads is enormous: tomato and basil, little gem, bacon and avocado, honey and paprika roasted potato, green bean, mushroom and spinach pesto, sausage and rocket pasta, cabbage and apple, cannellini beans, tuna and rocket and more. Prices are £3.25 or £5 for a large portion and all are made from the best and freshest ingredients.
There are always two or three soups of the day such as spinach and nutmeg, cauliflower, mustard and Cheddar, parsnip and apple, tomato and basil, sweet potato and ginger or mushroom and parsley. These are £2.50 or £3.25, depending on the portion size. The two or three daily hot dishes could be beef lasagne, or ratatouille and rice, or chicken and mushroom curry and rice, Swedish mince and cabbage, broccoli pesto pasta, cottage pie or aubergine and tomato pasta – there’s always something different every day. The beef and mushroom stew with mash is a delicious and freshly made casserole of tender meat and succulent mushrooms steeped in a rich and meaty gravy and served with the best creamy mashed potato. Potato and sweet potato pie with cheese is a lovely and very wholesome - far from boring vegetarian dish. It’s packed with the flavours of the vegetables and makes good use of unusual ingredients. Everything is cooked on the premises in the basement kitchen and, because it is all so appetising, it really is good for the system. Fresh but simple ingredients are used in an imaginative way that is truly unbeatable.
From an enormous range of cakes and desserts, it’s difficult picking out the best from such delights as banana, carrot and walnut loaf, treacle tart, carrot cake, Bakewell tart, chocolate fridge cake, mango and orange cheesecake, almond fruit tart – the list seems endless. However, the Curly Wurly cake, a sort of marbled chocolate and vanilla concoction, and Lucy’s luscious lemon slices are top of the list of delicious desserts: light, fresh-flavoured and obviously made with love. Cakes, biscuits and pastries don’t come any better than this.
The food is the main attraction here and, as most customers will be taking their soups, sandwiches, hot meals, salads or lunchboxes back to the office, alcoholic drinks are not really essential. However, there’s a wide selection of fruit juices, smoothies, mineral waters and other organic drinks including a fine shandy. Really good coffee is also on tap, as well as a variety of teas and infusions.
The Last Word
In an ideal world all lunchtime takeaways should be as good as the fare served at Kastner and Ovens. The denizens of Covent Garden are really lucky to have this place on their doorstep.