Twitter Facebook RSS Feed
No Sacred Cows  
Toby Young
Friday 24th February 2006

Cafe Konstam

As Gypsy Rose Lee sings in the Stephen Sondheim musical named after her, "You gotta get a gimmick." She's offering advise to would-be strippers on how to stand out from the crowd, but she might just as well be talking to restaurateurs. These days, it's not enough to have a great chef, a fabulous interior decorator and a hip location--you gotta get a gimmick.

Oliver Rowe, the owner of Café Konstam in King's Cross, knows this better than most. He started out as a chef at Moro, the restaurant in Exmouth Market which made its name by serving up an unusual combination of Spanish and North African food. Rowe's second posting, as the head chef at Maquis on Hammersmith Grove, was less successful. Maquis offered a fairly traditional menu of Franco-Spanish fare--much like countless other restaurants--and closed within 18 months. Rowe isn't about to make the same mistake again. Next month, he's opening a restaurant called Konstam at the Prince Albert--also in King's Cross--and this time round he's come up with an absolute humdinger of a gimmick: he's only going to serve food sourced in London. That's right, everything on the menu, from the bass caught in the Thames to potatoes grown on Rowe's allotment in Barnet, is going to be from London. He's even managed to track down a sparkling white wine made from grapes grown in Cobham.

So successful is this gimmick, that when I arrive at Café Konstam in the hope of getting an early preview of these locally-sourced ingredients, Rowe is huddled with a five-strong team of press agents. It turns out they're from Source, the restaurant PR company, and Rowe isn't even having to pay for this gaggle of courtiers. An independent television production company is picking up the tab because, wouldn't you know it, BBC2 has commissioned a multi-part series about Rowe's new venture. Thanks to Rowe's ingenious marketing ploy, Konstam at the Prince Albert is destined to be one of the most talked-about restaurants of 2006.

Alas, the only thing on the menu at Café Konstam that will reappear when the converted pub opens in a fortnight's time are the mushrooms. They may taste exactly like all the other mushrooms I've ever eaten, but there's no disputing their local provenance--they're grown in polytunnels beneath the North Circular in East Ham. Still, I'm not complaining. They form part of a large breakfast that consists of two rashers of bacon, two poached eggs and several spoonfuls of bubble--and they're all cooked to perfection. If the food at the new restaurant is as good as this, its undoubted success will be well-deserved.

Café Konstam, it must be said, is a truly delightful place on almost every level. It's tiny--scarcely any bigger than my bathroom in Shepherd's Bush--but it's so well designed, with one entire wall taken up by a smoked-glass mirror, it feels quite spacious. Customers sit on long, wooden benches and eat from wooden trestle-tables resting on a slate floor. The other wall consists of a giant corkboard and, apart from a few postcards, the only decoration is a picture of a stag made from different coloured drawing pins. The overall atmosphere is informal and relaxed--yet somehow smart and upmarket at the same time. It's an unbeatable combination.

According to Oliver Rowe, who manages to squeeze me in between photo calls, his best customers are the girls who work in Harmony, the massage parlour next door, though he also gets a regular influx from the Gagosian gallery down the road, as well as the British Library. King's Cross is currently in the throws of being gentrified and Rowe is very much part of that process. When the new EuroStar terminal at St Pancras opens next year, the whole area will be transformed.

Harmony probably won't be around for much longer, but something tells me that Café Konstan is here to stay.

[ FIXED LINK ] Bookmark and Share

Twitter In this week’s ⁦@calling_podcast⁩ ⁦@JamesDelingpole⁩ and I discuss the looming Coronavirus pandemic, whether there’… link  (3 hours ago)


Why the left keeps losing by John Gray -
The closing of the conservative mind: Politics and the art of war by John Gray -
Cambridge and the exclusion of Jordan Peterson by Nigel Biggar -
The shocking truth about Jordan Peterson by Wesley Yang -
The intellectual dark web by Bari Weiss -
How identity politics is harming the sciences by Heather Mac Donald -
The fall of the German Empire by Ross Douthat -
How Tom Wolfe became Tom Wolfe by Michael Lewis - Vanity Fair
The neuro-diversity case for free speech by Geoffrey Miller -
The Age of Outrage by Jonathan Haidt -
The Warlock Hunt by Claire Berlinski -
Is classical liberalism conservative? by Yarom Hazony -
The Implosion of Western Liberalism by Patrick Lee Miller -
The Eton of the East End - Daily Mail
The reactionary temptation by Andrew Sullivan -
The book that scandalised New York intellectuals by Louis Menand -
To understand Britain today, look to the 17th Century by Adrian Wooldridge -
The crisis in France by Christopher Caldwell -
A Visit to Michaela School by Patrick Alexander -
Why parenting may not matter by Brian Boutwell -
Trump Establishment's Cultural Significance Explained by Michael Wolff -
Branching histories of the 2016 referendum by Dominic Cummings -
Putin's Real Long Game by Molly K McKew -
The Flight 93 Election by Publius Decius Mus -
How the education gap is tearing politics apart by David Runciman -
What's wrong with identity politics by Graeme Archer -
Grammars and the grain of truth by Jonathan Porter
Anti-Brexit: Britain's new class war by John O'Sullivan -
The English Revolt by Robert Tombs -
Democracies end when they are too democratic by Andrew Sullivan -
Human beings really are making progress by Steven Pinker -
What ISIS really wants by Graeme Wood -
A society ripe for Submission by Douglas Murray -
Why I'm a Conservative Teacher by Jonathan Porter -
Corbyn's Inconvenient Truth – He wanted the IRA to win -
Why I've become Tory scum by Tony Parsons -
Inside Westminster's free school -
Robert Conquest obit -
Jeremy Corbyn is not an anti-Semite – it's so much worse than that -


Andrew Lilico
Andrew Sullivan
Arts and Letters Daily
Bagehot's Notebook
BBC News
BBC Sport
Benedict Brogan
Brendan O'Neill
Bruce Anderson
Coffee House
Conservative Home
Damian McBride
Damian Thompson
Dan Hodges
Daniel Hannon
Ed West
Frank Furedi
Guido Fawkes
Harry Phibbs
Iain Dale
Iain Martin
James Delingpole
James Wolcott
Joe Murphy
John Rentoul
Labour List
Mark Steyn
Matt Drudge
Mehdi Hasan
Melanie Phillips
Michael Wolff
Nick Cohen
Nick Robinson
Nikki Finke
Paul Waugh
Peter Hitchens
Political Betting
Right Minds
Rob Long
Rod Liddle
Sophy Ridge
Stephen Pollard
The Arts Desk
The Corner
The Daily Beast
The First Post
The Omnivore
The Onion
Tim Shipman
Tim Stanley
Tom Shone


AA Gill
Aidan Hartley
Allison Pearson
Allister Heath
AO Scott
Boris Johnson
Charles Moore
Cosmo Landesman
Daniel Finkelstein
David Brooks
Fraser Nelson
George Monbiot
Giles Coren
Henry Winter
James Delingpole
Jan Moir
Janan Ganesh
Jeremy Clarkson
Jeremy Warner
Jim White
Jonathan Freedland
Lloyd Evans
Manohla Dargis
Martin Samuel
Mary Ann Sieghart
Matthew d'Ancona
Matthew Norman
Maureen Dowd
Michiko Kakutani
Owen Jones
Patrick O'Flynn
Paul Krugman
Peter Bradshaw
Peter Oborne
Philip Collins
Polly Toynbee
Quentin Letts
Rachel Johnson
Rod Liddle
Roy Greenslade
Tim Montgomerie
Trevor Kavanagh
UK Book Cover

  • Buy the book on

  • Buy the book on

  • UK Book Cover

  • Buy the book on

  • Buy the book on

  • Audio Book Cover

  • Buy the audio book from
    Whole Story Audio
  • DVD Cover

  • Buy the DVD from

  • Buy the DVD from

  • IMdb Page on the film