With the artisan coffee scene well and truly percolating in Kentish Town – we’re keeping a watchful eye on the imminent arrival of Doppio Café (next to Pizza Express) – grand old dame Tolli faces stiff competition.
Luckily the dame’s coffee is unquestionably fantastic. We sheltered from the driving April rain in an unfairly empty cafe for a double espresso and Americano which in fact came very similarly proportioned – and they delivered in every way. Indeed, so ferocious were they that vague feelings of angst filtered through our brains until a glass of wine finally took the edge off things at 6pm.
Made on a statesmanlike old timer of a machine using Busonero beans specially imported from Italy, and sporting a rich crema, this dark stuff is the real deal. The sandwiches and other bites are of similar quality, but it’s a real shame the place isn’t open more regular hours in the evening too for a decent Italian dinner option.
However, a recent sprucing up of the frontage can’t mask the fact that the interior still feels tired. While Pret next door positively bristled with young things grabbing an inferior caffeine fix en route to the office, only a couple of tables at Tolli were occupied, a vaguely forlorn air tangible.
As decent High Street options continue to multiply, Tolli needs to rethink its offering – and do its great produce justice (start with a reconsideration of the frescoes, a refresh of the furniture?) Then we’re sure locals in search of a serious kick start to the day, let alone some of the finest sandwiches in the vicinity, would find this a more enticing option.
Words & Pics: Tom Kihl