I’ve long been coming to Cafe Tamra for brunch. It is hands down the best brunch in the Clapham Junction area. And there are definitely lots of options in the area, but none of them inspiring:
- The gastropub that’s as soulless in atmosphere as it is mediocre on the plate, like only a pub chain could be;
- The cramped Aussie spot where I was stunned by the high prices compared to lack of quality;
- The popular hipster, American-style breakfast place that is ‘ok’ but the cacophony of loud music, screaming children and queue which wraps around the corner in the summer months is entirely uninviting;
- One of the biggest local favourites on St. Johns Hill when I had some of the worst service ever (including a dish that was wrongly brought to a customer who had a poke and a taste, then when the customer flagged it was the wrong dish, it was served – as it was – directly to the customer that had originally ordered it).
And so, Cafe Tamra is an oasis in the dessert of mediocre brunch options for the Clapham Junction resident. But it’s not because the others are so disappointing: Cafe Tamra can stand on its own and hold up against any highly regarded brunch in the city, and how.
Upon arriving at this small cafe on Northcote Road, Cafe Tamra makes you feel right at home. Perhaps because of it’s warm, friendly and modern decor with cheery, bright, orange highlights (it’s been renovated in the last couple of years), it almost feels like you’re in a friend’s kitchen rather than a cold restaurant. The blackboard of specials takes up most of one of the main walls, offering new temptations on top of the mouth-watering suggestions on the menu.
As a local favourite, it’s typical to find a bit of a queue on the weekends, but it’s not nearly as bad of a wait as some other brunch options in the area; it often moves quite quickly and frankly, it’s worth the wait. The table turnover rate is fairly good: it’s usually filled with thirty-something couples, friends and flatmates with much to do on their busy weekends.
Part of the specialness of Cafe Tamra is surely the management of the cafe: the brother-and-sister owners and staff know and care about their regulars, which gives that feeling of coming home for a meal that is so special. When I come in they already know what I’m likely to order; with that kind of consideration it’s no wonder this place is a local favourite.
Even the friendliest establishments can’t thrive unless the food is great; especially in such a competitive area like Clapham Junction. Fortunately, Cafe Tamra never disappoints. Their menu has a selection of breakfast and lunch options; delicious artisanal coffees with specialty milks (so good that the place could thrive as a coffee shop alone); teas, smoothies and juices; freshly baked goods and pastries. They are always experimenting with new specials to keep things interesting for their customers (photo above: an autumn special of poached egg, roasted butternut squash and pesto on a hummus-covered slice of sourdough). And the dishes are interesting: sure, you have some classics like scrambled eggs or Eggs Benedict, but most of their dishes have a Middle Eastern twist that means their offerings are entirely unique.
I’ve eaten at least half their menu and there is no item whatsoever that I wouldn’t recommend. Their signature dish (photo above) of sourdough bread topped with smashed avocado, eggs and chorizo with a sprinkling of seeds and served with a lemon wedge is such a decadent brunch treat. The perfect ‘brunch’ dish, it’s filling enough to count for both breakfast AND lunch. The chorizo quantity is by no means stingy, and neither is the creamy, delicious avocado on the sourdough. The egg yolks are perfectly runny and it’s both a satisfying and exciting feeling to ‘pop’ them and mop up their deliciousness with the bread.
Their breakfast quesadilla is unexpectedly filling as well, and very delicious: avocado, coriander, lime, egg, bacon and cheddar all do a delightful dance in your mouth with each bite. Their Egyptian Eggs (photo above) served with feta and pistachio was featured on their menu in the summer and I am hopeful it returns: it was not only unique, tasty and pretty on the plate, but it was lovely to have another brunch option that comes in at less than 500 calories. Although, on those cold winter mornings, their Shakshuka (baked eggs, tomato, feta) is heavenly and just as light on the calories (photo below) – although you can add to your calories by supplementing the dish with some protein options like chorizo or chicken for example.
When I’ve been virtuous and ordered a dish that I’ve estimated at less than 500 calories, I might treat myself to something sweet. One of my favourites is their banana bread. Initially ordered as a virtuous choice among their cakes, I quickly learned how mistaken I was! This is a real sweet treat: served deliciously warm, it’s been topped with honey and some powdered sugar that dissolves because it’s warm. There are also a few walnuts in there from when the banana bread was topped with them prior to baking. It’s a proper dessert, no two ways about it.
The interior is, admittedly, a little cramped for my liking, but they make the most of the space that they have fairly well. That space, by the way, also include outdoor seating which is gorgeous in the summer, and heated in the winter (blankets are provided too). Also, the sourdough bread is not easy or pleasant to cut through with a regular knife; I got around this by asking for a steak knife, but once they’ve gotten to know me I don’t even have to ask anymore. They just know, like when you go home to the parents and your mom knows just how you like your food.
These couple of points aside, the experience is fantastic and – on the weekends I can make it here – it is usually the highlight of my weekend. I expect it will be the same for you, but please don’t beat me there for a table!
Oh, and for those of you that appreciate loyalty rewards? Cafe Tamra (and their sister restaurant called Bean and Hop) offer a loyalty app called “Simply Brunch”. It’s easily identifiable as it shares the same logo of Cafe Tamra, which looks like an orange chihuahua. I’ve downloaded the app and registered, and the user experience is surprisingly better than most apps on the market. You can even save your ‘usual’ drink as well: how thoughtful and well considered.
*Calories: Tricky to calculate, but I’ve estimated their signature dish comes in at about 700 calories. I’ve estimated the Shakshouka (without additional protein) at about 372, not including the toast.
Food taste: 4 / 5 (Delicious)
Food/table presentation: 4 / 5 (Looks as good as it tastes)
Service: 4 / 5 (friendly and speedy)
Atmosphere/decor: 4 / 5 (Warm and cozy)
Value for money: 4 / 5 (in line with the competition in the area)
Overall rating: 4 / 5