Towpath, Hackney

Cheese toastie and meatballs, Towpath, canalside cafe, Hackney

I’m a little afraid of canals because of how little there is to stop everybody falling into them. This very British phobia must be a combination of frequent childhood warnings and the fact that they always chuck bodies in the canal in ‘EastEnders’. But if there were any venue that could tempt me back not-quite-into the water it’s Towpath, with its winning combination of delicious food, low prices and sixties pop songs jangling from the service hatch.

Their chalkboard menu is filled each day with whatever the kitchen fancies cooking, which I have invariably found to be magically similar to whatever I fancy eating. The bowl of lamb meatballs on couscous with rose harissa and yoghurt sounded a bit stodgy for such an afternoon so sunny I actually wore shorts, but the juicy, herby balls balanced beautifully with the sharp, fresh flavours in their sauces. And even with the mint garnish, in what must be one of only a handful successful inclusions of fresh mint in a savoury dish from a London kitchen.

Lamb meatballs from Towpath, Hackney

Lamb meatballs (£9 I think)

Their cheese toastie deserves all the accolades one could lay on a cheese toastie. Most oozy. Cheesiest cheese. Best stealth spring onions. Most crisp edges. Most original accompaniment. Actually, the accompaniment has been different on the two occasions I’ve visited, and I preferred the quince jam to the runny honey. But both were glorious, and the ritual of trying to spread a liquid onto the edge of your mouthful before the cheese escapes using only a knife is remarkably soothing.

Cheese toastie, Towpath

Cheese toastie (£6)

My only complaint about the place is that they don’t serve Diet Coke (or any other normal soft drinks), and the middle-class alternatives (elderflower or rhubarb cordial) are not especially good, very small and very expensive. Next time I’ll just have to drink booze instead. But not so much that I fall in that damn canal.

Towpath
★★★★★ £££
36 De Beauvoir Crescent, Hackney, 020 7254 7606

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