09 April 2018

At Temple of Camden, Canal-Side Comfort Food and Speciality Coffee

In the eight years since I started working in King's Cross, the neighbourhood has changed considerably, with new shops and eateries opening almost every month. I'm particularly looking forward to the long-awaited opening of Coal Drops Yard, along the canal near Granary Square, in the autumn. Sadly, the rate of new openings has been inversely proportional with my ability to take a lunch break anywhere further away than the adjacent Pret. When I can get away from my desk, I usually prioritise a lunchtime run, and it was on one of these workouts that I came across Temple of Camden — lured in my the smell of fried chicken.

Despite its name, the eatery is as close to King's Cross as Camden, a mere ten-minute stroll along the canal from the former, past the ongoing Coal Drops Yard construction site. It has a sister — Temple of Hackney — and both also go by the name Temple of Seitan. Temple of Camden is, you see, serves vegan fast food. After enjoying a really good vegan 'bacon cheeseburger' in Austin recently, I was keen to sample some more tasty meat-free fast food. I was a vegetarian for a decade and although I rarely eat meat at home, I am rather partial to a good steak or burger when I eat out. But I like to explore the alternatives too.

I finally got the chance to eat at Temple of Camden on Friday, a windy but very sunny day. The restaurant was packed and although there were no free tables inside, there are a few seats in the courtyard, just off the canal towpath. I didn't have to wait long to order and then it was only another 10 minutes or so before my food arrived — the staff clearly had a very efficient process down.

At Temple of Camden, they serve both fried 'chik'n' and 'hamburgers', all made from seitan. Figuring the chicken burger would probably be more 'meaty', I ordered the Temple Burger — a chicken fillet with rancho mayo, bacon, cheese, lettuce and pickle (£7). I also went for a small portion of fries (£2) with chicken salt (presumably chik'n salt!).

I took my food out to eat in the sunshine, although the strong wind did mean I had to hold on to my chips. The chicken burger was flavoursome and juicy — a worthy substitute for its meaty equivalent — and although the cheese might have been better if it had been melted, it was still good. When I was a vegetarian, bacon was the food I missed most because the substitutes fell so short — and I think they still have a long way to go, unfortunately, but the bac'n here was tasty. The fries were perfectly crisp and the chicken salt was a nice addition.

In the mornings, they serve bagels and there is coffee available all day from Hackney-based Dark Arts Coffee. I had a cortado (£2.20) and it was only afterwards that I realised I had, of course, inadvertently sampled my first Oatly-based espresso drink. The coffee was very well made and the fact that I couldn't tell that it was dairy-free speaks volumes. They have Bonsoy available too.

I'm sure I'll back to Temple of Camden before long — either with colleagues, or perhaps as a treat on the way back from a run. It's so close to King's Cross and yet the quiet canal-side location feels like it's a world away. And if you haven't tried vegetarian fast food before, or for a while, I'd suggest paying Temple of Seitan a visit — it might surprise you.

Temple of Camden. 103a Camley Street, London, N1C 4PF (Tube: King's Cross, Mornington Crescent or Camden Town). Website. Twitter. Instagram.

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