What: Quite frankly, something completely different to your average breakfast or brunch indulgence. Ever craved some shakshuka in the morning? Well, I hadn’t either, but I think I might in future after this taste-test. The word is actually synonymous with breakfast in the Middle East and, after sampling, I can’t say I’m half surprised.
The Setting: After Northern line troubles, a subsequent Uber and then a fumble through Stables Market in Camden on a bank-holiday, I was very happy when I finally discovered the ever-so-cosy Café Loren. Located at the main entrance of the market, the restaurant still feels nestled away amongst the hustle and bustle – I adored it.
The Look: The restaurant embraces raw materials, with a hint of the rustic and exposed brickwork. It’s a small space, but that adds to the intricacy and you can hear the chatter of market-musings just outside the door. I liked the ability to watch the food prep in action too, with everything taking place at the exposed bar area.
The Menu: A range of shakshuka, which is a traditional eastern Mediterranean dish of poached eggs braised in fresh, homemade tomato-based sauce, slow roasted using a blend of vegetables and spices. Other options included a Mediterranean or hummus plate, and Jerusalem salad.
What We Ate: Not overly familiar with shakshuka, we didn’t really know what to pick. However, a stickler for tradition, my partner opted for the Homeshuka, or ‘granny’s recipe’, as it is more fondly labelled. He shared how impressed he was with the dish with a series of head nods and ‘mmm’s’, too busy enjoying the flavours to talk, I later discovered. The homeshuka was quite spicy, but then I suppose that depends on your palette. For someone relatively good with spice, I thought it was just the right amount. Not a fan of eggs, I selected the vegan shakshuka which was so delicious. A tofu dish if done not up to par can run the risk of tasting a bit bland. However, this dish was so tasteful, with the tofu complimented by freshly prepared roasted bell peppers, onions, garlic and granny’s Harissa and tomatoes. The tomato taste really comes through, but not overwhelmingly so. On the side, we were given pita bread with the homeshuka and a vegan bun with mine. The highlight actually had to be the tahini though, which we both thought was some of the best we’d ever tasted. The after taste was quirky. Whilst the dishes don’t look overwhelming in size, we both felt fed and in a slight food-coma post munch.
What We Drank: My partner indulged in a tropical crush smoothie, one of four fruity offerings available. It was freshly made and refreshing, perhaps made slightly better due to its cooling nature on an incredibly warm day. Planning to spend the remainder of the day enjoying a drink or two in Camden, I decided to go for something healthy, opting for a raspberry and lemonade kombucha. I can’t say I’d have it again, as it wasn’t filled with flavour that I normally crave. There were other flavours available however.
Go With: Anyone who isn’t a fussy eater, and who likes to try something a little out of the ordinary.
Where: Café Loren,5-6, The Stables Market, Chalk Farm Road, Camden Town, NW1 8AH, www.cafeloren.co.uk
Final Word: I have discovered that shakshuka is delicious, however it’s not something I would opt for all the time. Café Loren is a perfect place to stumble upon to sample something different, and you can also capture that insta-worthy picture here too, what with the quirky presentation of the dishes.