Mrs Kentishtowner does like to leave the postcode now and again, especially with the Christmas party season in full swing.
But the one place that ruffles her feathers is Belsize Park. Maybe it’s a bit like England and France – you know, too close for comfort. Or maybe it feels caught, like middle age, between sprightly Camden and hoary old Hampstead.
Yet the other day we found ourselves on England’s Lane, a perfectly pleasant backwater, where, in one of its post-war cafes, you might see Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard sharing a pot of tea and some unspoken attraction. Or, more likely, the odd pensioner commuting up and down in a buggy.
Into this sedate backdrop has sashayed Lantern, its windows unblushingly large, its interior moodily lit, its 1930s tables rakishly salvaged. By day it’ll do you a dressed-down sarnie, some laidback coffee, and a cake or two if you’re naughty (so far, so Ottolenghi), but come nightfall, it chucks on its heels and rustles up an inspired menu of tasting plates.
Things we enjoyed? Marshmallow-light scallops with cauliflower and capers; duck wth red cabbage, tender and fruity; the salty-crunch of purple sprouting broccoli and anchovies (although a soft-poached rather than scrambled egg would have really made it sing). Our only quibble was with the sliced rare steak – itself faultless, yet Mrs Kentishtowner swore she would never have served it with a cumin-flavoured puree.
But overall it was the vibe – the je ne sais quoi – that will keep us coming back. ‘Thank God it’s too s’phisticated for Jeremy Edwards and co,’ slurred Mrs Kentishtowner as we left, before she slipped on an icy curb trying to hail a cab back to the ghetto.