These are the best of the classic cafes
left standing largely unharmed in London. Note that most keep
odd early closing times at the weekends - and often during the
week for that matter. Few open more than a couple of hours on
Saturdays. In the long-term all are under threat. Catch 'em now
whilst they're still standing.
Click here > for an at-a-glance Top Ten cafe guide.
Click here > for Central London
Click here > for the abbreviated No. 8 bus London
frontage (RIP), Spitalfields E1
Pioneer Market Cafe [Ilford] NEW
'The Market is a prototype shopping
mall, built in the 1920s. It is a maze of corridors, filled with
old fashioned individual shops such as wool shops, wet fish shops,
butchers shops, pet shops and household wares shops. As well
as a gem of a second hand record shop called Back Trax - if you
are into that kind of thing - right in the middle is the cafe,
which has some of its original frontage and a lurid turquoise
interior. Up until recently they had a marvellously kitsch collection
of Teatowels of the World pinned on the walls, although these
have now been removed. Worth a visit, as is the Pioneer Market
itself.' [e-mail from Sally.]
Rossi Ice Cream &
Coffee Bar [Cranbrook Road, Ilford] RIP 2002
'This is a cracker! Almost unchanged
since the 60s, it has original signage outside in cream plastic
and chrome, saying 'Ice Cream Bar' and 'Coffee Bar'. Inside it
is a haven of Gaggia coffee machine, shiny dark wood design formica
banquette seating, plus a dining counter with round chrome and
vinyl stools, fixed to the floor. Fake wood panelling, bright
green and black lino floor, large photos murals of lakes, mountains
and Italian fishing villages (I kid you not!). I remember being
taken in here as a kid, on shopping trips with my mum. One time
I saw a hippy/beatnik type woman, lounging in one of the banquette
seats, smoking a long stemmed pipe! I was about 8 years old and
thought she looked the very essence of cool! Incidentally Rossi
make legendary, delicious ice cream, so treat yourself to some
if you ever make the trip to Ilford.' [e-mail from Sally.]
Barbican Grill [Whitecross
St EC1] NEW
Good sign and green booth-style seating in the classic mode.
Solid dowdy atmosphere in excellent little enclave of streets
near Barbican and Bunhill Fields cemetery.
Central Cafe [West Poultry Ave
EC1 - Smithfield]RIP
As good as it gets. Set inside one of the great meatmarket avenues.
Utterly authentic meat-packers 'spoon' hidden under the awnings
opposite Fabric club. A charming rundown relic of happier days
in EC1. A symphony of Formica - chipped, grubby and perfect.
Superb old sign, beautiful yellow tables and wall to wall powder
blue Formica interior with a great counter. Probably only open
at 2.00am or so. Eat here as a labour of love.
Beppes [W.Smithfield - opp. St
Barts maingate EC1]
Nice booth seats, brilliant signage and a beaten copper counter.
The tables are slightly altered but the locals relish this family-run
place with its sense of Clerkenwell history and legendarily frosty
service. Old man Beppe's journal is framed on the wall (with
a picture of him as a young lad) but the power in the house is
Mama with her signature house dish, steak and kidney pie.
Butts [12 At John St
Unremarkable sineage diverts from fine deep brown interior with
dark chocolate coloured Formica tables, solid proper chairs and
lovely mosaic floor built of large bright shards of tile in full
60s style. Another feather in the hat of EC1.
Marylebone Cafe [Thayer St W1]
On corner of Wigmore St. Useful and smart little central cafe
with decent seating
Rossi Original [High St E17]RIP
Another good local. Very large
with cream and green vitrolite walls. Original booths replaced.
Very near to the Manze pie and mash shop which has a stunning
Sorrento Snack Bar [Woburn Walk
Hidden in a lovely enclave of Victorian fronted shops near Euston.
No formica but good booth-style wooden seating, murky green tile
walls and good light fittings. Surrounded by great little specialist
secondhand bookshops [one devoted to art & architecture]
and handy for the legendary "drab bar" of the County
The New GoodFare [Parkway
Super old style Italian restaurant/cafe. Not so great from outside
but...good tables and chairs and wall paintings. Large dishes
served. Open 7 days. Along with John's in Chalk Farm Rd, this
is the only decent place in NW1. One for the foodies. Worth noting
the fine scallop door handle on the main entrance too.
Rossi Cafe [Hanbury St E1]RIP 2002
Near Spitalfields new market - astounding orange and blue sign,
large, extensive rosewood interior. Fine tables and chairs. Famous
as the hang out for ghost legend David Rodinsky - the lost soul
of Spitalfields. See Psychogeography section.
Randolfi's [Roman Rd
Easily missed amongst the busy stalls. Odd 70s lettering on outside
logo but inside old marble Victorian tables and decent wooden
chairs. Good old vitrolite ceiling and standing only back section
with painted lemon and dun- authentic serving counter. Sandwiches
only here, no chips beans etc. Pie & mash meets kiosk utility
Cross St Cafe [St Cross St EC1]RIP 2003
Superb deco style sign on front in huge green lettering. Brilliant
little Rosewood and leatherette chairs and full steaming tea
machine. Superb service. Also upstairs section. A masterpiece
and possibly now open 7 days a week. Another beauty in Little
Italy, just off the Hatton Garden drag and surrounded by characterful
60s blocks and many enclave specialities. Visit now and forever.
Regent Snack Bar [Edgware Rd W2]RIP Jun 2002
Excellent 'seaside' cafe in
lime green. Great Int/ext. Great tables. Sister version 'The
Metropolitan' nearby. Very large and popular and with a great
jaunty feel. How this has remained unmolested on Edgware Rd is
hard to say. Visit immediately.
Andrew's [Grays Inn Rd WC1]RIP-ish
Brilliant 'plain' cafe. Good int. & ext. Solid tables and
chairs throughout. Lovely family service. Packed every lunchtime.
A really great local cafe surrounded by the Dickensian ambience
of Little Italy and the 30s factories hidden in the streets opposite.
Author Joanne Briscoe has written movingly in The Independent
about this haven and is a regular. Links will be published soon.
Farinas [Leather Lane EC1]
Fine large interior with marbelised tables and chrome legs. Great
signeage. Good green leatherette chairs. In the Little Italy
area, and a classic of the genre. Good menu.
Harris' Cafe Rest [30 Goldhawk
'A caff up West' Biggest portions in London? Great cups and saucers.
Good int. Good sign. Seems to win numerous awards - most recently
the mysterious 'Good Cafe' accolade. Worth mentioning the fluted
Zippy Grill [42 Goldhawk Rd W12]
Good 70s booths. Good lights. 'Bedazzled' Swingin'-Wimpy style.
A great advert for early 70s styling before things got wholly
out of hand.
Metro [Goldhawk Rd W12] RIP Jun 2002
Yet more delights on the dusty,
fume scorched Goldhawk Rd. This caff is built into the tube station.
'Pinter-plus' atmosphere and great old stick-on-letters menu
jammed in the grimy window.
Rail Arch Caff [Shepherds Bush
market/Goldhawk Rd W12]RIP Jun 2002
Hidden in a dark arch at the start of the market almost opposite
Harris'. Super booths and cracked formica. Utterly isolationist
and unflinching in its utility. A lo-fi caff minimalist interior
Euro Snack Bar [Swallow St/Piccadilly
W1]RIP Jun 2004
Good ext. 60s plainstyle: scoutmaster green crockery & unique
cruet shelves. Slap bang opposite the lapdancing clubs of Swallow
Dante [Duke St W1]RIP Jun 2002
Late 60s. V.Good lights and ceiling.
Authentic leatherete seats. Good atmosphere.
More > Leftovers:
A Classic Cafes Miscellany
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