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  • Jancis Robinson
Written by
  • Jancis Robinson
19 Dec 2003

Sue Ovens is undoubtedly the most charmingly named individual on the British food scene even though she does her utmost not to capitalise on her name's potential.

It comes second, in strict alphabetical order, after that of her partner Anne-Marie Kastner in Kastner and Ovens, their café and food shop just across Floral Street from the Royal Opera House in central London.

The shop itself, although pretty perfectly stocked, is petite with only one round table at the rear which you reach having passed by a front window and two large counters stuffed full of good things to eat.

For the past six months, however, the shop's entrance and window have been partially covered by the flapping awnings from the major building works next door. But when I asked Ovens whether this had cost them any business she replied with her customary schoolgirl smile, 'No, not really, all our regulars know where we are.'

And so they should because for all the singers, ballet dancers, office workers, shoppers, and policemen from the nearby Bow Street Magistrates Court, Kastner and Ovens provide all the food that they need to see them through a busy day. Food that is made with great skill and care in the kitchens downstairs and carried up with some style via a narrow spiral staircase to the waiting customers.

Sandwiches with attitude including very mature Cheddar and green tomato chutney; feta and caramelised peppers and Stilton with salad. Individual smoked chicken and herb pies with salad; four or five different, and correctly made, quiches as well as five different individual tartlets, three different individual pies, spinach and feta filos, Cornish pasties and six or eight different lunchboxes. And that is not including the daily selection of soups and several hot dishes.

The difficulty lies in taking all these in on the left-hand side of the shop while keeping your eyes off the right-hand wall whose shelves are stuffed with very sweet things. Banana, carrot and walnut loaf; numerous cakes - chocolate, coffee, preserved ginger and curly whirly - as well as lemon, almond, treacle and Bakewell tarts.

Nor am I too proud to admit that their banoffee pie and fudge are equally scrumptious.

Kastner and Ovens, 52 Floral Street, London WC2E 9DA (tel 020 7836 2700)
Open 0800-1700 Monday-Friday