The Independent London Newspaper



EATING OUT: Rustique is not just a Literary Café

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Bekim Visoka presides over Rustique’s relaxing interior

Published: 8 April, 2016

FORTESS Road epitomises the changing face of Kentish Town and Tufnell Park. Its long-established restaurant culture has been added to by trendy cafés, bakeries, butchers and greengrocers, creating a street that would make the average estate agent combust under the weight of the clichéd spiel they could conjure up to describe it.

New arrivals include the Spence Bakery and Bear and Wolf. Spence, which brings in bread from its Bethnal Green headquarters each morning, offers breakfast rolls of egg and bacon. Bear and Wolf, a haven for parents with toddlers in tow, offers the trendy staples of poached eggs perched on top of sourdough toast.

But such fresh-faced cafés are new pretenders compared to well-established places to eat.

The old favourite the Spaghetti House is still thriving, serving up bowls of pasta and offering huge salads since the new managers took over from the much-missed Enzo Scocchia a year ago. But they no longer open for breakfast – a shame as Enzo created the near-perfect fry-ups.

Further up the road is Rustique, which has been in situ for nearly 15 years. Proprietor Bekim Visoka doesn’t only run one of the street’s most popular cafés, he is a patron of the arts. Rustique is known as a conducive place to ponder over notebooks and laptops. At least 10 published novels have been penned at his motley collection of tables, while hundreds of articles, screenplays and scripts have also been created as Bekim serves up coffees.

“We have seen lots of changes in Fortess Road, and recently our landlord said we would have a rent review,” he says. “It will make things a bit harder for us, as we like to let people stay here and work. It means we don’t have a high turnover on each table.”

He adds that making the place comfortable for the scribes is of paramount importance.

The interior – with its posters of poems by Bertolt Brecht, its shelves of books, and table lamps to shine light on fresh prose – is super comfortable. As Bekim says, it’s a place where you are encouraged to linger. 

“People feel relaxed,” he says. “We have tried not to change over the years – if we have to replace furniture, we look for something as similar as possible. People have their favourite corners and their favourite tables. My customers say it’s like being at home, but much better in terms of being able to get on with their work.”

As well as the atmosphere, the menu holds people’s loyalties.

Simple breakfasts are brilliantly done – scrambled eggs with smoked salmon or bacon on a baguette, pancakes or Continental breakfast are popular. Greek yoghurt comes with a variety of mueslis and fruits. At lunchtime, Bekim, who is originally from Kosovo and has previously worked in French and Italian restaurants, will create a special. On the day of our visit, it was a warming chicken casserole. Other popular items are goats cheese salad, soups and a quiche of the day.

Rustique is a landmark in a street with plenty of choice. It rightly retains the loyalty of its patrons, offering lovely, unpretentious surroundings with good food at good prices. 

Long may it thrive.

142 Fortess Road, NW5
Breakfasts and lunches from around £5
020 7692 5590


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