I’ve often walked past Cafe Provencal in Herne Hill on the way to Brockwell Park and always assumed it was a tapas restaurant, so when a friend suggested meeting there for breakfast one Sunday morning I was surprised, but the lure of chorizo tempted me. Imagine my surprise when I discovered it isn’t a tapas restaurant at all but a lovely bright cafe serving a variety of breakfast and brunch dishes alongside Sunday lunch.
I really liked the retro style decor with Formica tables like my granny had, also noting that they had a good mix of sizes for tables from those to sit big groups comfortably to smaller tables for one or two people and lots of room for buggies and scooters and other kid associated paraphenalia. It feels like a good place to visit before or after the park as it doesn’t stand too much on ceremony.
The menu offers all the favourites from a Full English (veggie or non) to granola or eggs Benedict for breakfast alongside a range of burgers, sandwiches and salads for brunch. There are several vegetarian options in each section and all main dietary requirements are clearly labelled. I didn’t notice a preponderence of chorizo either…
Unfortunately I did notice that the service was a bit hit or miss. I was about 10 minutes early to meet my friend and it took all of that time plus a bit longer to order a pot of tea. The same waitress demanded to take our order within 30 seconds of my friend sitting down despite us only having one menu. When we asked for more time, she disappeared for about 20 minutes. We finally managed to order eggs Benedict for me and a veggie breakfast with no egg for my friend. They were happy to substitute extra veggie sausages instead.
The food arrived suspiciously quickly after ordering and wasn’t terribly warm, but it didn’t seem worth complaining when I’m not sure piping hot eggs are that desirable anyway. My meal was fine with the Hollandaise obviously being homemade and not too generously applied. The bit that let it down was the ham which was clearly out of a packet and plumped up with water.
My friend’s veggie breakfast was a lot less enjoyable. The homemade baked beans had aggressively large chunks of vegetables and not much flavour or sauce. The sausages looked dry and out of a catering pack and the bread was a carelessly hacked off lump lightly toasted and served without butter which had to be asked for twice. The whole plate lacked care and gave the sense of the veggie option being second best. She didn’t eat that much of it.
Despite these niggles, I rather liked Cafe Provencal. The laid back vibe that allowed us to sit for ages over big pots of tea and a suprisingly small bill added just enough charm to make me happy to go back to try the Sunday lunch next.