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The Giraffe Cafe (Bar, Restaurant)

Picture of The Giraffe Cafe in Hampstead, London

46 Rosslyn Hill, Hampstead, London, NW3 1NH
Cuisine: International
Tel: 020 7435 0343 | Email to The Giraffe Cafe | Transport: Hampstead | Write review

The Giraffe Cafe Review

Best for: Appetisers.

Great: When wandering around North London with nothing much else to do.

The giraffe is one of my favourite animals. It has the elegance of a Modigliani painting and the eyelashes of Marilyn Monroe. You can only marvel at an animal that boasts a blue tongue, brown skin spots and a very, very long, neck. These creatures are like cubist experiments: the perfection of art in nature, amazing. Plus, they never cease to remind me of the sun, the heat, the savannah, and the large Acacia trees of Africa.

London’s Hampstead High Street has a couple of pubs, some interesting shoes shops, and a restaurant, but nothing by way of African wildlife. Upon emerging from Hampstead’s underground station, there’s a modicum of wilderness, but definitely not a savannah.

The restaurant is quite empty as we sit at a table in a small room that, we soon realise, is the entire restaurant. A menacing multi lamp “chandelier” hangs from the ceiling, its lamps like those that come to life in a short animated Pixar movie. The walls are covered in half cut trees trunks and there is a huge map of Canada on one side. What is this all about? I guess there has been some kind of miscommunication between the interior decorator and the franchiser.

The waitress arrives and we ask for a bottle of wine. The bottle is served in a wine cool box, filled with ice (it is white wine, of course) and accompanied by a serviette. Great! I am warming to this strange concept.

It’s time to order and I’m baffled again. I understand that the name of the restaurant has nothing to do with the food and the ambience; but why call a restaurant “Giraffe” if the food is mainly Mediterranean? Are we, the customers, giraffes, aiming for the delicious tall tree leaves in a metaphor about high levels of taste and delight? Perhaps, as longneck giraffes, we can see far into the distance, to Lebanon and beyond, thus providing us with Middle Eastern cuisine as well? That doesn’t explain the map of Canada though.

We’re served hummus, sweet potatoes, falafel and a strange mix of tomatoes and chutney. The taste is fantastic and all is accompanied by great bread sprinkled with olive oil, a reminder of Italy (which is part of the Mediterranean). Once again I’m thinking: are we eating vegetables because we are herbivorous giraffes (from Canada?) or are the starters vegetarian because vegetarians congregate specifically in this corner of London? I am trying to understand, as best a Canadian giraffe can do.

The mains arrive and this time we are half way to Egypt, the USA and Japan, pulled in many geographic directions, thanks to salmon and miso, and burger with sweet potato falafel. Maybe I’m not aware that there are giraffes in Egypt. I always thought they were called camels.

We are alone in the restaurant. The only other diners – a family of four – left half an hour ago and the restaurant is all ours. But then, from what I know, giraffes commonly gather in aggregations that usually disband every few hours anyway.

A kindly waiter keeps asking us if we are happy with the meal. We Canadian griaffes are not quite sure, but since he’s so nice and well mannered, we cannot answer anything but yes.

We return half of our mains and go for dessert. This time, pure English style: bread and butter pudding, and ice-cream waffle. Wait a minute. I spy a chocolate fried banana. Finally we are in Africa where I pretty certain they do have giraffes. Someone once told me that every food is good when fried: on this occasion, I have to agree.

Giraffes require less food than many other herbivores; not in this restaurant though, where portions are so abundant, they would hardly fit through a long neck, if I possessed one.

When leaving we’re a little bit sad to leave the lovely staff alone, but on reflection, I’m sure they’ll enjoy the quiet evening and the great background music (English pop-rock with a mix of American standards). My experience with Giraffe tonight hasn’t been what I was expecting, but hey, I wasn’t expecting to be on Hampstead High Street on a Friday night after a hard day at work. I depart using my best (imaginary) elegant giraffe walk (no bouncing neck pacing to the rhythm; and my eyelashes are of regular length).
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Additional Information

  • Cuisine Type: International
  • Dress Code: Not Specified
  • Group: Giraffe

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Venue ID: 859

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Loved

"Hi guys, I come here with my friends and have very good time. I like your place very much and is very good times. I come back when I can soon. Thank you very much." Which venue is this?

Hated

"Dreadful pub, run by people who have zero idea about hospitality or running a pub. Upon arrival we sat in the back garden that only had one other table occupied , when we tried to order off the lunch menu..." Which venue is this?

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