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Beppes, Smithfield


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 establishments.
Click here > for the abbreviated No. 8 bus London Caff Tour.

Dino's frontage (RIP), Spitalfields E1

Pioneer Market Cafe [Ilford]
'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 EC1] NEW
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 Victorian interior.

Sorrento Snack Bar [Woburn Walk WC1]
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 Hotel!

The New GoodFare [Parkway NW1] NEW
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 E3] NEW
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 style!

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. Eternal.

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 Rd W12]
'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 wall paneling.

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 par excellence.

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 St.

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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