The Regent's Canal from Angel down through Hackney to Victoria Park can be a pretty stressful route if you're not on the water. Cyclists, joggers and pedestrians whizz/run/waddle along the narrow towpath in both directions navigating each other in an uneasy cease-fire marked by the constant ringing of bike bells and the nervous roulette of when to dart down the even narrower paths under the bridges. I'm surprised I've never seen anyone fall/dive/get pushed into the canal itself, especially on sunny weekends, but if you find yourself between the Kingsland Road and Whitmore Road bridges and about to become part of a cyclist/jogger sandwich instead of diving into the canal or the nettles you can dive into a lovely little cafe nestling on the canal towpath called, erm, Towpath.
It really is pretty tiny, set in a couple of shallow recesses in the wall of an old warehouse one of which is the kitchen/service counter, the other with seating and a big communal table. Importantly, given the recent weather, it also has a couple of decent space heaters in the ceiling and it's set back and sheltered enough from the canal to avoid the chill wind that's been blowing down it the last few weeks. Defiant optimism in the appearance of summer sun means there's some tables and chairs outside too.
Given the lack of kitchen space the menu isn't a huge one but there's a breakfast and a lunch menu that both change each day, although I'm happy to report that their grilled cheese sandwich appears to be a permanent fixture on both menus. Breakfast is up until 11.30 with the likes of porridge with poached fruit, granola, the grilled cheese sandwich, cakes and toast. Lunch consists of salads, soups, rillettes, bruschettas, grilled cheese sandwich (ahem) and more cakes and sweet things.
There's obviously a lot of care and attention that goes into everything they make here that tells in the details, the grilled cheese sandwich is made with great bread and small slivers of spring onion nestling in the melted cheese. It comes with a homemade quince jam on the side (the last of their batch from the autumn, have to see what they replace it with) and the tasty rillettes are accompanied by a very nice crunchy homemade picalilli, the coffee and hot chocolate are well made and in amongst the cakes there are little bite-sized chocolate truffles and meringues (3 for a £1) for a quick sweet snack.
It's pretty much at the mercy of the weather, I've been there when it's been cold and rainy and had the whole cafe to myself but at the hint of any sunshine it's a popular place and fills out quickly. They've just been granted their wine licence so plans are afoot to start staying open later into the evenings for dinner. It's only going to get more popular as the summer approaches, and deservedly so.
Between the cafe and the Kingsland Road bridge is an art installation called Canal Wall by Yuko Shiraishi, an artist who's had a studio by the canal for the last 20 years. That's the 70 metre long wall painted in different colours, not the car.