4a-5a Perrin’s Court, Hampstead, London
The best cheese toastie in London
On a sunny April morning I took myself off for a wander around north London, with one destination on my mind: Ginger & White. I wouldn’t be aware of Ginger & White had my Mum not bought their recently released cookbook for myself and my boyfriend (The Ginger & White Cookbook, Octopus Books, £18.99). It’s packed with brilliant brunch, lunch and baking recipes from the café, from favourites such as carrot cake and macaroni cheese to quirkier recipes including cauliflower soup with blue cheese and chutney and homemade roasted peanut butter. I really can’t recommend the book enough, I’ve made many, many of the recipes already and not a single one has failed to deliver. The gluten-free almond and pistachio cake is a particular favourite of mine, although I should say that I add my own secret twist to make it more lemon-y.
Hidden down a cobbled side-street, the smaller of their two branches (the other is in Belsize Park) has a basic and stark interior, yet manages to be cosy and atmospheric despite this. This was especially welcoming in north London, where these kinds of places can often be overly stiff and decorated in a falsely-chic fashion. The staff were immediately friendly and inviting, and the sit-down service was speedy. The brunch menu ranges from light and healthy options to fuller meals, and the counter serves baked snacks including cakes and savoury muffins. I opted for a guilty menu option, the grilled cheese and chilli jam sandwich, and then proceeded to drool over my neighbour’s choice of toasted banana bread with ricotta and figs.
The toastie was delicious; according to their website, they use Quickes cheddar and it had a subtle smokey and mature flavour which was an ideal match for the piquant warmth of the jam. The cheese melted in my mouth, yet wasn’t too greasy or heavy (I suspect they don’t add butter). Cheese and chilli jam is a fairly straight-forward combination, but somehow managed to taste anything but ordinary, and I really think this is what sets Ginger & White apart, these basic recipe foundations with an extra layer of flavour. There’s nothing unusual about a toastie, or banana bread, or poached eggs, but they manage to serve all of these up with their own unique twist, whether that’s because they use high-quality ingredients or pay painstaking attention to their recipes, I’m not sure and I think it’s a little of both.
I took away a gluten-free chocolate brownie for an afternoon treat. It was perfectly chocolate-y, and not too sweet; neither was it too cloying or grainy in the way that gluten-free cakes often are. My one criticism of the café is that the gluten-free items were displayed extremely close to the non-gluten free items on the counter, and certainly close enough for cross-contamination. I’m not a coeliac myself, but have baked for enough friends with the condition to know that this should be avoided (and according to the cookbook the founders have a daughter who is a Coeliac, so I’m sure they’re aware of this, too).
I love nothing more than a good brunch, and will definitely be making another trip to Ginger & White soon to try their other menu options, and lunch, too, if I can make it. I’d highly recommend a visit if you happen to be in the area, and definitely purchase their cookbook in the meantime!