If you want to experience first hand a complete cross-section of London’s population, head to the canals. There, along the narrow towpaths that criss-cross the city like crow’s feet on a tired old man’s face, you’ll see the capital’s demographic in all its multifarious glory. Running, walking, shouting, gibbering and sleeping alongside the rancid waterways are every kind of Londoner imaginable. Hogarthian drunks and junkies loiter by the bridges like strung-out trolls; parents push buggies that cost more than my monthly salary from park to park; joggers pound grit to a mush in that relentless quest for ever scrawnier muscles. One of the best things about London is its accidental patchwork design of completely disparate areas stuck cheek by jowl, and – much like the way the underground allows you to burrow in one area only to emerge, blinking, in another completely alien location – so do these canals run through and connect the rich and the poor, the desirable and the detestable. I won’t name names; I learnt that lesson already. Suffice to say you’re in a separate dimension on the canals. The clientele at new eaterie Towpath (a venture from Italian-American food writer Lori De Mori and her husband, food photographer Jason Lowe) epitomises canal syndrome. We stopped by at 11am last Sunday and the customers included: two sprawling, well-scrubbed families, a few Americans, some Germans, a couple with a dog who were goading the scrawny mongrel into leaping in the canal to chase ducks, and a hipster with his trousers half down who’d been up all night and was fortifying himself from The Fear with a glass of red wine and the Observer.
A huge circular barbecue was warming up next to a small vegetable plot. We found two wooden chairs whose better days were sighted some time ago and plonked ourselves down. Food was still a long way off so we settled for coffees and one of the best goats cheese and cherry tomato tarts I’ve ever had. Constructed on untold layers of crispy, crackly pastry it came smothered in caramelised onion and rocket and was only let down by its dimensions. Less amuse bouche than tourmente bouche. Coffee, apparently imported from Piansa, a boutique roastery in Florence, was the same – too small but a warm, tasty buffer against the cold Dalston winds. You’ll have to try the main menu yourselves but I think it’s safe to say it will be worth the trip. While the view leaves plenty to be desired the people-watching more than makes up for it, and it suddenly seems ludicrous that a few months ago you could walk from Broadway Market to Camden without being troubled by a single café. Towpath then – snacks to watch joggers and drunks by.
Price per head: £3.25
Soundtrack: The unnerving sound of East London waking up
Clientele: Anything goes
Read more about, you know, the food here