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Andrew's: Gray's Inn Road


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.

Also, here's the full unexpurgated Central London Cafe Tour that was put together for Architecture Week 17-26 June 2005...


Vince's [61 Red Lion St W1] RIP 2001

Brilliant gleaming steel logo! An oscar-winning frontage, and a (once) great little interior made this one of the greatest finds off Theobalds Road - and indeed pretty well the whole of London. Nearby, The Fryers Delight and City Snacks offer further Formica delights (and are still unspoiled.) Vince's inside counter was fabulous and there was a small corner with classic sit-down only perch-stools. Located at street level in a 1950s municipal block near Red Lion Square, this place had so much going for it: friendly service, wonderful surroundings, a decent second-hand bookshop a few doors up... All gone...

More > Vince Special

Italian Restaurant [Rochester Row SW1]
A real find. A great local in a brilliant little enclave off Victoria. Curvilinear counter in impressive beige dates from 1953. Classic b&w formica wall covering. Also, hugely enthusiastic staff adamant it should never be changed. Grubby, authentic 50s/60s interior. Good sign. Next to sleazy Alpha Books. Absolutely superb.

Tea Rooms [Museum St WC1]RIP
Old greasy spoon; good Deco sign, good dingy interior with fine monochrome formica walls. Seating is excellent. Stuck here for centuries. Full of authentic down and outs and tramps.

Silvas Grill [High Holborn W1] RIP 2001
Nice booths, very packed, good menu, fair sign, longstanding.

Stefanos's [Long Acre] RIP 2002

Neat little leftover once infested with art students and advertising types from the surrounding hives of creative industry. A most unfortunate synergy. Decent booths at the back section and an exceedingly pleasing frontage with a good set of awnings. With the demise of 'Johnny Bar' nearby this was the only proper cafe left in the increasingly faceless open air mall known as Covent Garden. Walls were usefully lined with cafe articles from various papers and magazines. Well placed also for a quick run over to the Chandos & Porky cafes, both overflowing with couriers, located down the road, just off Trafalgar Square

Zita [High Holborn WC2]
Near to Silvas. Top sign, and menu and orange formica booths. One of the few remaining central London cafes of any use. Waitresses wear nice orange aprons with the cafe logo on it. Good collectors item. Almost opposite is the 'Alfred' restaurant decked out in minimal cafe style by Quentin Reynolds - master designer of the almighty RK Stanleys.

Porky's Pantry [Chandos Place WC1]
Hidden just behind St Martins in the Field Church off Trafalgar Sq. Small with just a few booths. Walls lined with showbiz pix and autographs. Fair frontage.

Chandos Sandwich Bar [Chandos Place WC1]

Just up from Porkys caff. Fine red signage and lettering and good interior with solid booths and even better single chrome and green leatherette stools ranged along one wall. These are almost as good as the fixed seats in Vince's and the whole of the interior has a pleasant continental feel - a vast relief after the mass of tourist tat that subsumes this quarter. On the other side of Trafalgar Sq behind the National Gallery in Whitcomb St you can find the Regency cafe: a little cluster of hideaways for mooching away sodden London afternoons in the middle of a grey autumn. London at its moribund best.

St George's [Clapham Old Town SW4] RIP 2003
Nice little powder blue formica int. Good views onto old sq. Superb example of the 'plain style' in action.

Dorchester Restaurant [Leigham Ct Rd SW16] RIP
Good old Edwardian 'Lyons Tea House' style tea-room with booths ­ pensioner fever!

City Corner [Midddlesex St EC1/opp. Liverpool St station] Worst prices & service!
Very good small brown formica int. excellent seat & table design - large wall mosaic! But...terrible prices. Appalling service - the worst of any caff known to this site in London. Ramed all week and at Sundays. The cost of meals is hugely excessive. Well worth avoiding apart from the fact that it actualy looks pretty good.

Railway Cafe [Pancras Rd/Kings Cross]RIP 2002
Large-ish old cafe used by cabbies; railway arch style - good seats, evocatively forlorn area. Used in 'The Long Good Friday'

Golden Fish [Farringdon Road/Mount Pleasant - opp. post office]
Half of a fish & chip shop - opposite main post office. Truly amazing seats and rosewood interior. A must see. This place has an almost Edwardian air to it. The chair design alone should qualify it for a Conran award. A modern masterpiece.

Luigi's [Roseberry Ave]
Near Mount Pleasant between two set of barbers- small, good with wall-to-wall formica basement and wall-to-wall postmen from the Mt. Pleasant office. Used for Pulp's LP cover-insert shoot. Top 'drab' action and once again Little Italy comes up trumps.

Coffee House [North Audley St WC1]
Brilliant Chalet-style ­ fine interior and box seats.

Vernasca [Wentworth St nr Petticoat Lane.]
Great seats and brown formica - dark and humid. Good paneling throughout, nice front signage.

Continental [Kentish Town]
Good local cafe opposite the Forum club. Good n' dingy - fair int.

Tony's Cafe [Chapter St SW1]
Neat local cafe in great Victoria enclave off Vauxhall Bridge Rd. Good for booths and interior lighting.

Sidoli's Buttery/Lino's [Alfred Place WC1]

The Goodge Street area once held a number of neat little restaurants. There are fewer real caffs to pick from now though. Sidoli's comes from a chain of caffs that used to be found throughout the length and breadth of Britain. (There were branches in Newcastle Under Lyme in the early 60s & 70s.) Like Morelli's, this family business must have over-run the provinces after the war. This one (now taken over and re-named Lino's) is moderately large with good seating and a pleasing ambience, well away from the crushing boredom of the Tottenham Court Road furniture shops. Fairly adventurous menu but packed at lunchtimes. (Recent reports indicate the main sign/name has changed from the picture here)


Pembroke Cafe W8 [Warwick Rd]
Fair interior - Fine seating but naff outside sign - opposite large Homebase store.

Valtaro [Kingly St Soho] RIP
Easily overlooked but decent brown leatherette bench seating and a convenient Soho location mean it's worth a punt. More of a sandwich joint. but has a fair degree of space for the area. Unremarkable interior - only the wall menu and sad paintings on the back wall add any atmosphere.

John's [Chalk Farm Rd opp. stables market] RIP Nov 2003
Great plum and cream interior with fluted panels and fine chairs.


More > Leftovers: A Classic Cafes Miscellany


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