Cheeky Coffee: Guanabana Cafe

A trip to Kentish Town Road’s Caribbean/Latin fusion specialists Guanabana has been a truly unique Kentish Town dining option for …

Guanabana Cafe Outdoor

A trip to Kentish Town Road’s Caribbean/Latin fusion specialists Guanabana has been a truly unique Kentish Town dining option for years, but what of their recent expansion next door, opening a new cafe/deli?

Late last year we chanced upon some dramatic changes afoot at the neighbouring one-time Somali social club, slightly notorious back in its day as a hotspot for chewing khat leaves, an activity which produces a curiously amphetamine-like high, followed by the predictably grim set of lows to boot.

Suddenly the place was all stripped back woodwork, nice cakes in the window and coffee as the most stimulating natural high on offer. A passage was knocked through from Guanabana’s lovely back garden, revealing an equally large, bright and airy conservatory area for the café. Yet despite its instant quirky charms, the venture got off to a slightly faltering start.

Guanabana Cafe

Passing trade had to enter via the main restaurant, before navigating the new route through the big hole in the wall, which was frankly a little confusing. This has all been sorted out now and the roughly hewn décor, plus fast-growing cake selection is starting to look like a very promising addition to the lower parts of the High St.

The coffee ticks all the organic and Fairtrade boxes. On the day we dropped by, there was a particularly rich and dark, 100% Peruvian Arabica being served. It was punchy and flavoursome, proving a real taste alternative to the blends found at the other coffee specialists like Arancini, Doppio and the Wine Cellar on the way up to the tube.

With the Columbian breakfasts also carving a bit of a reputation, we can see ourselves spending many more caffeinated mornings in the Guanabana Café’s bohemian surrounds.

Words: Tom Kihl
Pics: Stephen Emms

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  • Show Comments

  • Elsie

    Well, I’ll have to pay a return visit at some point. I vowed not to return after a disappointing visit at the start of February: the service was really, really slow; the waitress got my order wrong twice; the coffee was bland; and the carrot cake tasted like something from a supermarket “bakery” (of course, I don’t claim to know its provenance). My favourite bit was when the waitress came to clear up, looked at the unfinished coffee, the unfinished cake and the empty glass of juice. “How was the juice?” Not much you can do to spoil juice from a carton.

    I’m a believer in giving small businesses a second chance, but I had thought this a lost cause — I hope to be proved wrong.

  • Helena

    I completely agree with Elsie – my first visit was extremely disappointing. The service was very slow and the cake we have ordered, was actually worse than the one you can get in the shop! While we were still drinking out tea, the waitress came and gave us the bill. We just ignore it, but she soon came with the machine to process the payment even we have not asked for it. She clearly wanted us to leave as there were large group of people waiting to be seated! I though that was very rude!.
    I have visited them again, as Elise says to give them another chance, and to be honest the service was even worse.The waitress could not make a difference between cakes and had no idea what they are like.
    I am sure I will not go there there again.

  • Annabel Staff (@annabelstaff)

    We went a couple of weeks ago and the service was slow and the lady who works there wasn’t, shall we say, particularly forthcoming. This was all forgotten when we ordered two breakfasts, one Colombian and one English, and I ordered an extra BEEF sausage (this is important..) which was rich and tasty and importantly, made of beef. It was a red, slightly spicy beef sausage. I know a beef sausage when I see one. Anyway, it was all delicious and very happy, plus great coffee as well.
    Went back yesterday excited, service was better in terms of speed, but then it all fell apart. Firstly asked for our eggs to be flipped – y’know, sealed on all sides so you don’t get the deplorable egg snot all over your plate. We ordered the delicious Pinto beans instead of regular baked beans, and, I ordered another delicious beef sausage. All good says the waitress.

    Breakfast arrives. The egg had indeed been flipped as requested, I happily dug in…wait…hang on, there’s egg snot all on the underside and all over the bacon…Oh my, ok they LITERALLY flipped the egg on the plate. I am not kidding. They took the fried egg out of the pan, and flipped it upside down on the plate. I am in Fawlty Towers. Ok…will have to get that sorted out, anyway the rest looks goo…oh, no those are baked beans – excuse me, we asked for Pinto beans? Yes she says, those are pinto beans! No…no I’m pretty certain those are baked beans. They’re pinto! Nope. Definitely baked. Ok she says, and comes back with a separate bowl of the very lovely pinto beans. Double beans – bonus!

    Right, so can we get the egg sealed? Yep…comes back, same egg that has been fried to death and is now hard inside. Sigh. Oh well better than egg goo everywhere. Now to tuck into my BEEF sausage. Wait, hang on…that looks suspiciously like one of those huge, grey entrails and eyeballs sausages you get at a dirty caff, you know – like Pedros. Take one bite – yup, it’s one of those cheapo sausages. Asked waitress what happened to the beef sausages, like the nice, rich, red clearly-beef-beef sausage I had last week? That is a beef sausage! No, it’s not. It is! nope…

    Few minutes later and a very surly angry chef comes up telling me this is a beef sausage and “Do you want to see the BOX? hmm?!” No – I just…last week I came and I had a lovely beef sausage, this is not beef. I’m not stupid – perhaps you ran out? THAT IS A BEEF SAUSAGE! Ok…so you’re telling me this cheap ass eyeball log is a beef sausage? Well, I don’t want it thanks.

    Storms off. Lesson learned is to double check your waitress has got your order right. And to never EVER think about questioning or complaining. You are not allowed. You will sit and you will deal with it. I was so polite and understood that possibly the waitress was a little flustered or confused and she was very lovely, but the surly chef. He can do one.

    Won’t be going back.

  • Jake Whiting

    This is a comment about the journalism.
    The likening of khat to an amphetamine-like high is uncalled for and I please ask that you edit this out. Khat is more like a really common drug that most people drug them selves up with everyday; coffee. But due to draconian views, because khat is not english and is a foreign tradition there is something wrong with it. There is not. The khat leaf chewed is as potent as chewing roasted coffee beans. It is society that has conditioned you to ‘fear’ the khat practice and there are no side effects greater than those from alcohol or caffine.