It takes a certain type of person to be able to handle Camden on a sunny Saturday. I am without question, not that person.
All credit to them, tourists and slightly grubby teenagers seem to take it in their stride. Most will - for some reason - have Camden on their London itinerary. They’ll jaunt up the Northern Line, funnel-neck out of that tiny station in their hordes, swell into Camden High Street and progress along it at the speed and density of poured molasses.
I’m not great with crowds (see my rant about Oxford Street). The last time I was in Camden was the day I packed up and moved out of my student halls on Camden Road, in no great hurry to return. But in these pockets of intolerable people-density, there is often salvation in the form of somewhere to get away from everyone else, sit a while, and have something good to eat.
In this neck of the woods, push on through the throng and continue along the high street until it becomes Chalk Farm Road. Rejoice at the exponential reduction of headcount with every few metres you advance, and find respite in Q Grill for some brunch.
The man behind the enterprise is Des McDonald who opened it in March this year, having already landed a big hit in Islington with The Fish & Chip Shop. In the kitchen is Phil Eagle who was previously Head Chef at Hix; both men have a CV that includes Le Caprice. The concept is locally sourced meat and fish, cooked via a charcoal pit grill and in-house smoker, and in September they introduced a brunch menu.
I’ve heard people grumble about brunches recently, saying they actively avoid them or don’t see their point; I couldn’t disagree more. It’s a lazy man’s breakfast. A meal that encourages you to both have a lie-in, eat bacon into the late afternoon and accompany it with a hair-of-the-dog tipple and good coffee, is nothing but a friend of mine.
On the note of alcohol, they’ve set up a DIY bloody mary bar, creaking under its own weight of rainbow-coloured tomatoes, celery, chillies, sauces, lemons, limes and every other bloody mary paraphernalia you might think of. You can concoct a pitcher to your own specification and with your own fair hands for £20.
The food options include meat butties, grilled broccoli with wild mushrooms and a duck egg, eggs on muffins or toast, waffles with sweet cured bacon and maple syrup, and beans and egg on toast.
But forget all of that, because what you want is the Josper Fry-up. A josper is an elegant combination of a grill and an oven in a single machine - combine that cooking method with some gorgeous meats, and you’ve got yourself a plate of something very good indeed.
Bacon so crisp it was like crackling, a slice of sourdough, slightly sweet (but not overly) BBQ beans that worked with the saltiness of the pork wonderfully, a sausage, a portobello mushroom, an egg.. and ¼ rack of ribs. Oh yes.
I cleared the lot (as well as a few other things), and felt fabulous. None of the self-loathing associated with finishing plates of greasy meat and carbs that poor fry-ups often are. This was the best I’ve had in a long time. I would travel from where I live in SW London all the way up the Northern Line and happily endure the weekend masses to eat it again.
Now guess the price of it. In the tourist hotspot that is Camden. With quality locally sourced meat. And that ¼ rack of tender, gorgeous, bone-sucking ribs that no other fry-ups have. Go on, guess.
You’re right, they could easily charge over a tenner for it, and folk wouldn’t bat an eyelid. But it is in fact only £7.75. I know.
My companion had the eggs royale, with great generous hunks of cooked salmon rather than smoked. The large is £11.50, translating to two eggs and muffin halves rather than one in the small, we assumed. A great hit of protein and good it was too. But compare it to the fry-up, in terms of value and volume, and I know what I’d order.
There’s also the option for a continental breakfast at £12.50. You can help yourself to an unlimited amount of fresh pastries, fruit, muffins, granola, quality bread and parma ham from the counter.
I ordered a kale, avocado and apple smoothie to balance out the sin from my pork-heavy plate (£4.50). It was good, but needed more blitzing to eliminate ice chunks clogging up the straw. Even the coffee was good, really leaving me with little to grumble about.
Q Grill is a double fronted, large space. Around the corner of its L-shape interiors, there’s more seating and a mezzanine level, but it’s a lot darker back there and a bit smokey from the grilling. My suggestion is take the bright and sunny window seating with comfortable swivel chairs. You can indulge in a spot of people watching as you enjoy a coffee and a paper, and you can crack the window open for some fresh air. All these elements one looks for on a relaxing weekend morning came together during my visit, and I have to say, I really enjoyed it.
I’ve already told the in-laws to stop by Q Grill during their upcoming Camden visit (they're a great example of ‘domestic tourists’) and to get that fry-up. I think I might have to join them.
Liked less: I think sitting up front in the bright and breezy part of the restaurant helped the experience - I'm less sure about the rear; pricing of some of the other brunch items seem a little dear for what they are in comparison to the fry-up
Good for: wiling away a lazy weekend morning
My rating: 3.5/5
Find the menu on Zomato.
Note: I was invited as a guest to this restaurant.