Mario’s Cafe, NW1
It really is shocking that, given the extensive period time that yours truly has dwelled in Camden and its boroughs, the establishment that forms the bedrock of this North London haven has gone unreviewed on this pitiful excuse for a website. Finally, however, after umpteen visits, that can change.
For those on the Scene -yes, I am now referring to breakfast loving as a “scene” (if they can do it for music, it can be done to breakfast. I’m also, as of now, crowning myself King of the Scene)- Mario’s Cafe scarcely needs introducing. However, for the benefit of the less-breakfast aware of you out there, Eggsley’s here and feeling uncharacteristically verbose.
I wasn’t lying when I said it forms the bedrock of cafe culture in North London. A quick search on the ever-more-ubiquitous Internet yields glowing reviews and eulogies to the eponymous Mario and his character-filled, cosy breakfast haven on colourful Kelly Street. It has its own website, and even a film (do watch it). Consequently, when I first visited, expectations were, as you can imagine, sky high.
…and I’m glad they were; Mario has never left Eggsley disappointed.
This visit, I came accompanied by two once again brand new Partners-in-Grime. For the sake of it, let’s name them Corporal Sausage and Mr. Hash. They came upon my promise of a superb fry-up - not something I promise lightly, mind - as you can imagine, my reputation hangs in the balance of such promises.
Upon arriving, Corporal Sausage was taken aback at the popularity of the place. Mario’s is a small place, you see. I’d call it cosy, others might say pokey. Every table seemed occupied, bar one - with space for three grease hounds. It was as though it was meant to be.
“It’s really busy here,” remarked Corporal Sausage.
“It’s better if you come at like 3pm on a Monday.”
“You really are unemployed, aren’t you?”
Whilst Corporal Sausage and Mr. Hash stared, doe-eyed at the extensive menu hanging on the back wall, I began to lick my slobbering chops and salivate uncontrollably at the prospect of my order. Mario doesn’t simply offer a “Full English” (though I’m sure you’d get one if you asked), instead he offers “Sausage, Egg, Bacon, Tomato” which you are then welcome to adorn with a wide range of extras for additional money. The extras are where Mario shines: hash browns, mushrooms, black pudding (oh my God, black pudding!), chips, toast, beans (lovingly written “beanz”)…the list is extensive, and sinfully inviting.
I stroll up to the counter and greet Mario. He recognises me, which always makes me smile. I order “S.E.B.T.” plus hash browns (God yes), mushrooms (Hell yeah), black pudding (oh, I wish I wasn’t writing this at lunch time) and “beanz”.
“And to drink?”
Ah yes, the drink.
Coffee. Sumptuous, rich, aromatic black coffee. I’ve not visited another cafe that does coffee as good as Mario’s.
The drink arrives moments after I have sat down. It tastes as good as it looks.
I guzzle at the coffee like some kind of fiend whilst Mr. Hash and Corporal Sausage place their orders. Mr. Hash is staggeringly hungover and ordered everything on the menu. I try to warn him about the size of the meal he has committed himself to tackle, but he is hearing none of it, instead threatening to vomit all over me if I don’t shut up.
My breakfast arrives. Please, dear readers, behold thy master:
My God, ‘tis a thing of beauty.
I hold off eating until the others’ food arrives. Manners Maketh Man, after all. To save some time and satiate a little of my greed, I pick at a mushroom and grind pepper onto my egg. Mr. Hash is unimpressed by Mario’s “posh” pepper mills. I myself am partial to high quality pepper and loathe to the bizarre, off-white sneezing powder that is usually to be found in London’s Greasy Spoons.
Their food arrives, and I tuck in.
An explosion of sumptuous delight follows. My brain is positively drenched in endorphins as I dip the black pudding into the egg yolk. Jesus, I think to myself, our fine and mighty nation really knew how to feed itself. Mario’s sausages are the shining star in this consortium of delicious ingredients. They are high quality, well seasoned sausages with a wonderful crisp to their outer skin. I dunk them in brown sauce and cover them in beanz. Marvellous.
The sheer ferocity of my appetite for breakfast is troubling Corporal Sausage and Mr. Hash. At least, it’s either that or my repulsive face.
I’m not sure where the mushrooms went during my assault on the plate lying before me, but my tongue is informing me that they were probably tasty as I move onto the hash brown… As regular readers are more than aware, hash browns are an Eggsley favourite, and Mario’s really do cut the mustard. They are excellent hash browns: crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside - just like my own romantic, beating heart.
Everything about Mario’s breakfast is divine. The egg is beautifully fried and, as you may have gathered, everything else is pretty top-notch, too. I greedily order another coffee and prepare to pay the bill.
It’s then that I remembered my only criticism of Mario’s: it’s a little on the pricey side. The sum total of my delightful breakfast and two coffees was a hair under £8. Not Earth-shatteringly wallet-busting I must say, but noticeably more expensive than Café A’Thai’s perfectly-priced fry up. It’s a tough one to call, really: Mario’s quality is superb, and the atmosphere of his cafe is, I imagine, the envy of many a Greasy Spoon. As such, I am willing time and time again to pay the higher-than-average price for a breakfast at Mario’s, and I encourage you to do the same. It is, after all, over half the price of the repulsive disaster that is Simpsons-in-the-Strand.
And thus concludes a breakfast at Mario’s. Mr. Hash is stuffed and beginning to recover from his crippling hangover. Corporal Sausage is moaning about the price. It’s a sunny day, and we retire to a park to continue our discussions about what a bizarre social melting-pot Camden is.
Until next time, dear readers.