North London Food & Culture

La Cage Imaginaire

So you’ve never been to….La Cage Imaginaire, Hampstead

In which we finally eat at the highly recognizable NW3 set-menu institution

Where exactly is it? Just where Back Lane tumbles down to meet Flask Walk, this most romantic corner of Hampstead is like being on holiday: the cobbled pedestrianized street, boutiques, the musty second-hand bookshop with maze-like corridors. Then there are the vintage shops, ice cream parlours and cafes, all with outside seating and giving The-Lanes-in-Brighton vibes – just half an hour’s mooch up the hill in NW3.

La Cage Imaginaire
La Cage Imaginaire. Photo SE

So what goes on there? La Cage Imaginaire – which always brings to mind pioneering LGBTQ 1970s romp La Cage Aux Folles – has been in situ as long as I can remember. It dates back to the 1970s, although current owners Constantin Tofan and Antonia Macone took over in 2006, having met there both working there at the turn of the millennium.

The interior: discuss. White tablecloths, wooden floors, high-backed chairs and light streaming in through the appealing windows. Three tables offer alfresco seating – where we found ourselves on a sleepy bank holiday mid-afternoon.


La Cage Imaginaire
Starters at La Cage Imaginaire. Photo: SE

What should I eat? The set menu has always been a bargain – and today it’s only £19.95 for two or £22.95 for three courses. Do not expect fine dining – but as home-cooking it’s tasty enough. We followed starters of deep fried squid with tartar sauce and stuffed ravioli with ricotta, baby spinach, sun dried tomatoes with rather petite fillets of seared red mullet and new potatoes (with, admittedly, a rather watery beurre blanc, see below). Much tastier was duck leg confit with summer fruits, mash and beans.

And what do I drink? This is where the restaurant feels great value – very decent French Provence rose is £21 a bottle, with a 250ml glass just £7.50.

La Cage Imaginaire
La Cage Imaginaire. Photo: SE

What’s the vibe like? We lingered in the sun on the cobbles as a stream of couples and groups of friends went in and out.

Final thoughts? If you’re in a retro kinda mood, it’s quite fun – and it won’t break the bank. File alongside the similarly trad NW3 dining institutions Chez Nous in Belsize Park and Ravel’s Bistro.

La Cage Imaginaire, open daily, 16 Flask Walk, London NW3 1HE

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