Hampstead. As place names go, it's pretty evocative: money, culture, the Heath, swimming ponds, miscreant ministers, European fishermen.
Yet this money and culture does not buy good food. Jin Kichi does fairly good sushi and The Horseshoe is a solid gastropub. But the majority of the restaurants in 'the village' are chains, ditto for the cafes.
I can't help but feel ever so slightly embarrassed eating in Hampstead. It's like farting at a dinner party. Whilst the act itself might make you feel a bit better, you feel dirty and sullied and frankly you've darkened an otherwise enjoyable occasion. Restaurants are Hampstead's festering, suppurating wart that lie hidden beneath the Hermes scarf.
It was with a high degree of certainty therefore that I was able to argue with Gemma at BouTea (very good tea by the way, in Covent Garden, not Hampstead) that no, there wasn't a really good new coffee shop in Perrin's Walk that sold handmade cakes and Square Mile Coffee. I pointed out that she was confusing a rather non-descript greasy spoon on Perrin's Walk and Gail's, the very commercial purveyor-of-excellent-chelsea-buns on Hampstead High Street.
Turns out Gemma was spot-on. It's not often I'm so catastraphocially wrong and it's rather depressing when I am. But she was right.
Ginger & White is, it has to be said, an almost perfect, relaxing, if rather self-consciously trendy cafe on Perrin's Walk. And they serve Square Mile coffee and Montezuma chocolate.
Writing this I'm suddenly struck by a mixture of guilt and reticence. I realise I've only had toast and coffee there - lots of both, but still that's it - and a bit of yoghurt and fruit. Can I give the place a fair outing? Maybe the cakes taste like poo. The home-smoked baked beans might just be Heinz a la fag.
But the coffee was very good and the toast was pretty fine as toast goes. And there's the peanut butter. It's homemade. They add some honey. And kids turn away now, it's FUCKING AMAZING. Seriously good. There is no bread on this earth that can't be improved with lashings of the stuff. Actually, sod the toast and ignore anyone watching you, just use your pinkie.
I imagine making peanut butter is not tricky, but how many people go to the effort? It says a lot that the Ginger & White bods do, almost enough to allow me to stop here and ignore the fact I haven't worked my way through the menu.
At last, there is somewhere in Hampstead that is not an embarrassment. Sir Arthur would have approved.Google maps
Ginger & White, 4a Perrins Court, London, NW3 1QS, UK
Tel: +44 (0)20 7431 9098