Esca is a little like a sweet store for grown ups. That is, if olives and tabouleh are your pick and mix of choice. The sunny cafe on Clapham High Street has floor to ceiling shelving that lines one wall and is stocked with the sort of gourmet products that you did not know you needed until you saw them. For most customers, the shelving merely serves as decoration. They come to Esca for the decent coffee and communal tables where you can linger for an hour or so over the papers. Not to mention the counter heaped with cakes and the chiller stocked with colourful salads.

Each communal table is stocked with butter, olive oil, balsamic and honey.
The salads sometimes look better than they taste. The pasta in the pea, pancetta and pasta salad that I tried (£3.95) was undercooked so that it was on the tough side of a la dente. I have no such complaints about the soup of the day (£3.75) which is a creamy mushroom soup generously dotted with chunks of potato, carrot and peas. The soup is served with a selection of Esca’s breads which gives you a good excuse to make the most of the encyclopedia sized block of butter that sits in the middle of every table.
Cream of mushroom soup
Special mention has to be made of Esca’s cake selection. From the moist walnut slice to the wickedly enjoyable chocolate brownie (£2.40) there are far too many temptations to accompany a cup of tea or coffee. In fact, I have started to develop a rather unhealthy addiction to the chocolate brownie. You may be getting the picture that I have become something of a regular at Esca. I’m not saying that it is the best cafe in London but it if a very enjoyable place to spend an hour or so if you are in the Clapham area. At the very least you can spend a bit of time drooling over all the gourmet goodies you could buy.
Details: 160 Clapham High Street, Clapham SW4 7UG (Ph 020 7622 2288)
Damage: Reasonable
If you liked reading this you might also be interested in Lantana which is consistently one of the best cafes in London. If you are in the Clapham area it is worth checking out The Rapscallion which is just around the corner from Esca as well.

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  1. I lived next door to Esca for ages and never tried it out. But did pop in a few times and always felt a bit strange. It’s the sort of place that needs to open up and be a bit more friendly. I’m sorry, this is a bit of a weird comment! But I’m finding it hard to articulate the odd aura I’ve always associated with this place.

  2. I must confess that I’m not a fan of pasta salads, generally, on the basis of the observation you made at Esca – they *always* seem to look better than they taste.

    That said, the next time I find myself in Clapham, I’ll know where to get a brownie. [Which begs the question – why are you spending so much time in Clapham?]

  3. Browners – While not super friendly I have found the staff to be pretty accommodating about me setting myself up in Esca for long periods of time. Not sure what you mean about the odd aura – will have to look out for it!

    An American in London – so often disappointing so sad. Studying there at the moment so becoming quite the Clapham expert…

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