The Alice House, Queens Park
The sister branch to the West Hampstead hot spot, ‘The Alice House‘ Queen’s Park keeps it simple with exposed brick work, filament light bulbs, leather sofas and wooden tables. There’s no reinventing the (fixie bike) wheel here; The Alice House provides a familiar decor to the media-type locals who rely on a diet of well made flat whites and sourdough bread from the comprehensive brunch menu. There are two places to sit; either in the mezzanine area which offers a cosy nook to get to know one another without distraction (more on that in a moment), or at the table in the far left corner between the large glass windows and the bar. Again, you’ll have an area that offers a bit more privacy, but you also have the cold light of day on your side, so your call.
We reviewed brunch but the friendly waitress mentioned that when the sun goes down, this laid back joint becomes a more lively spot with a resident DJ spinning house and soul music into the wee hours. This makes it a welcome addition to the slightly pub heavy NW6 Saturday night scene (it tends to be the pub or Paradise in my experience), and with a ‘can’t go wrong’ cocktail list, and a friendly crowd they’ve got the local feel-good factor nailed.
The folk here make it easy for you; familiar favourites with quality ingredients. There’s Eggs Ben as standard (not referred to as such on the menu but it’s what the locals call it so do try to fit in); there are ‘spiced peaches with cobnuts and organic cream and brioche’ which sounds bloody magical; salmon on soda bread, cullen skink omelette or potato cakes with what may otherwise be a Full English all suggesting a Celtic mastermind is at play, and there are some solid vegetarian options which go above and beyond avo on toast.
I opted for the stacked buckwheat pancakes served with Dorset blueberries, crème fraiche and London Honey (#local #savethebees), while my date couldn’t resist the aforementioned potato cakes with Speldhurst sausage, a guilty pleasure in the form of black pudding, topped off with a deliciously rich fried duck egg. While the pancakes served my mildly hungover sugar craving and look pretty on Instagram, I had my eye on my date’s sausage (not for the first time), and he was gentlemanly enough to share it with me, along with half a perfectly savoury potato cake, two mouthfuls of black pudding and most of the egg. If there’s any danger here it’s the very real threat of food envy, enough to test any blossoming relationship, especially if you discover you’re sat with a non-sharer. Also notable are the juices; yellow pepper, lemon and carrot packs a Vitamin C punch, so order if you’re the healthy sort. For everyone else the coffee is a must.
You’ve suggested a ‘brunch date’ so you must a) have been out together since last night or b) actually quite like them and both happen to live in NW6, or you may in fact, c) be married to them with at least one child and potentially a dog. Because that is the overriding flavour of The Alice House on an early Saturday afternoon. And that’s cool right, because ‘marrieds’ more than anyone deserve the comforting, lazy glow that a good brunch cooked by someone else gives you, while also feeling nice and couple-ly regardless of their new house guests, 8 month old Arlo and 1 year old Pongo (you decide which one is the child/ dog). They’ve done their time in the wild ghettos of Singletown. They’ve met, they’ve fallen in love – probably at one of The Alice House’s Saturday night soul shindigs to be honest- and made it work, so get to grips with the fact you are surrounded by actual grown ups and pick a spot so you can concentrate on your own easy breezy conversation and make sure you don’t order something on a hangover whim. All going well, take a post brunch walk-and-talk stroll through nearby Queens Park. You probably live in the area so you can judge whether you’re walking them to the well connected Queens Park station or continuing things elsewhere nearby.
Ever the optimist, I like to think of things positively, and will say that, at some point in the dating process you kind of-maybe-perhaps-sort of-but not really want to-in a way be sure that you’re not going out with someone who has no soul, and The Alice House is the place for you to discover this.
In the duration of our time there, I counted six buggies, four full sized children under the age of eight, and a media dad reading a copy of The Guardian to a new baby. Some (normal) people might not be bothered by this, and even if your date is a little bit unsure about why you’ve brought them to somewhere that on this occasion could offer a crèche service (The Alice House team, if you’re still reading, I was thinking you could convert the adjacent Library room into such crèche), this is an openly dog friendly venue, so they may spot a puggle, French boxer or bulldog to swoon over instead. And if they don’t like dogs/ are a ‘cat person’, the in-built buggy ramp is handIly situated by the front door and doubles as a slide for your speedy get away.
4 for brunch; 5 for Saturday nights.
*Use protection to avoid unwanted pregnancies.