Caff Gazetteer #2 - Easter Egg Bonus

Reviews #1
Reviews #2
Reviews #3

Lost Cafes
Seaside Cafes
TV & Film
Site News

Dom's, Green Lanes, N13

With most classic cafes fading fast, here is a selection of some of the best left standing in London (and further abroad) as of January 2004. Over 130 prime caffs in London alone! Please note that ALL are under direct threat and many may well have vanished by the time you get to them...


South & West London Gazetteer (and beyond) #2


South London

Cafe On The Green, Camberwell Green SE5. RIP
Small and scuzzy with fair seats and endlessly bickering staff.

Val de Tarro, Camberwell New Road SE5. RIP
Astounding purple Formica tables.

Mary's, Camberwell Road SE5 NEW
Magnificent chairs and tables and a stupendously ugly view onto the ever-depressing Walworth Road. Serious pensioner action guaranteed.'Its mixture of blue, green, red and yellow Formica-topped tables is probably the most impressive I've seen so far.' (Patrick Turland)

Gambardella, Vanbrugh Park SE3.
Run by the same family right from its opening day over a half-century ago, this is possibly the most hidden cafe gem in all of London-lost in the Blackheath Standard area at the top of Greenwich Park. The building dates from the 1930s, but the unique moulded plywood revolving chairs were installed during the 1960s. Other fine features: the amazing flesh-coloured vitrolite and chrome front section; the red and black Formica back room; the silver deco clock, the tile-floor parlour, the 100 year old fridge; the nifty old wall heaters. A masterpiece.

My Tea Shop, Tooley Street, SE1 NEW
"One of London's best, and probably smallest, cafes. My Tea Shop occupies the last railway arch on the west end of Tooley Street, near the entrance to the underground station. Behind an unremarkable exterior is a cosy cabin-like space with a curved ceiling. Afficionados of the remarkable Classic Cafes website will be pleased to see that My Tea Shop is lined with original Formica and chrome metal fittings. Note also the lovingly-maintained Still water boiler (now no longer manufactured) and the little galley kitchen, which nonetheless serves up a good cup of tea made with loose tea leaves and a superior quality cooked breakfast. As is so often the case, this excellent cafe is run by an Italian." (Nick Heath)

Mama's, Waterloo Road SE1. RIP
This utility-build worthy has interesting high-backed grey booth seats, solid tables, good counter-space and corking wall coverings. Often rammed with extravagantly flatulent building crews. (Now under new management - the old seats have been replaced by the moulded- plastic-on-metal-frame variety. The whole place has been repainted.)

Marie's, Lower Marsh Street SE1. RIP
Small but popular local with a superb ratty, two-tone Formica interior and plenty of red booth seating.

Perdoni's, Kennington Road SE1. RIP
Established in 1926, the dread selection of wall-pictures is a turn-off, but the plentiful coffee-brown booth seating and beaten-copper trim is a consolation... "Restaurant and snack bar established over 70 years" is the slogan under Perdoni's logo. It was once called the Genoa Cafe and never closed even when the shops were blasted in the Second World War. It was busy when peace arrived and as the country entered the Fifties with the Festival of Britain just up the road. Now there are two Perdonis involved with the restaurant. The brothers Peter and John each come in every other day to run the business which is open from 7am to 6.30pm with a clientele ranging from taxi drivers in the early morning (a sure guarantee that the food is good) to business people and civil servants at lunchtime... The growing number of regulars just cannot be tempted away to the new restaurants."

Frank's, Southwark Street (Road?) SE1 NEW
'Acres of Formica (including Formica-lined walls) plus nice wooden tables which decrease in size as you reach the back of the room.' (Maurice Fyles)

Phoenix, Coldharbour Lane SW9.
Great, packed little local with plain laminate walls, proper tables and chairs and a small corridor-like back section. An institution holding its own in one of London's most wretched drug thoroughfares.

Cable Cafe & Snack Bar, Brixton Road (near Prima Road) SW9. NEW
'A classic, traditional Italian-owned cafe in one of South London's grittier neighbourhoods. Black leatherette settee-style seats, worn Formica-topped tables, Formica wall-panelling. A Formica-topped counter (with pine-effect front) plus traditional glass display cabinet. Wooden slat false-ceiling. An original mosaic-tiled shop front, old Pepsi sign, net curtains and Drury tea sign. The impressive reproduction Victorian wall-mural is a feast for the eyes. Also: colour photos of Italian landscapes, signed photos of Victoria Wood, Warren Mitchell (as Alf Garnett), and one of The Bill detectives!' (Patrick Turland)

Electric, Norwood Road (West Norwood/Tulse Hill) SE27 NEW
Bang opposite Tulse Hill fire station. Smashing beige and horror-brown decor; old pinball machine and ramshackle kitchen. Owner Stavros Tsoukkas confirms that the good old Electric (long thought deceased according to several Classic Cafes punters) is actually still standing after decades, right on the main drag of Norwood's nightmare alley. Says Stavros: "my family have been running the Electric for over 30 years. We are very much still open for business, and we are unchanged in our (ahem) 'smashing beige and horror brown decor'." They don't make them like this any more. Whizzer... and chips!

Barny's Cafe, Coldharbour Lane (near Loughborough Road) SW9. NEW
For die-hard, classic-caff enthusiasts only, being located in what was, until recently, one of the UK's most violent neighbourhoods. The owner, an amiable Italian lady, stoically informed me that: "I've been here 36 years, it's not so bad now". This austere, utilitarian place sports a faded Pepsi sign and net curtains. Seating is provided by a mixture of metal tubular-frame and wooden-seat chairs, reminiscent of 1960's ILEA classroom-furniture, a more aesthetically pleasing couple of Thonet-style chairs, and an old window bench-seat covered with frazzled caramel-coloured leatherette. The wooden tables are topped with worn beige Formica, save for the sole red Formica table next to the Formica counter. The small glass counter-display, handwritten menu and metal hot-water spout complete the ensemble. A souvenir life-belt bearing the legend Barny's Cafe Iberia 1961 might be a clue as to the caff's history.' (Patrick Turland)

Little Kitchen, Lendal Terrace SW4. RIP
The cafe Bob and Pete from St Etienne used to go to en route to their studio circa '91. On Lendal Terrace under the railway arches: faded Pepsi sign; giant sixties "cute kids" murals on the back walls; old red plastic sign above the counter featuring a dinky chef graphic; decent pendant lighting, wooded walls and rows of scruffy leatherette booths and good Formica tables. Always ho, steamy and packed to the gills. Probably the best railway arch caff left in London. Incredibly cheap prices too.

Mario's, Clapham High Street SW4. NEW
Little corridor cafe with excellent Formica purple/brown tables.

Dave's Diner, Battersea Park Road SW8. RIP
Very much in the 'plain' style, Dave's sports a good old Coke-sign frontage and a miraculously preserved interior slightly to the south of Battersea Park. There's a generous spread of faded red Formica tables inside and proper Thonet chairs throughout. There's also a period ceiling fan; one wall lined with old collectible plates; another displaying a light-up mechanical 3D map of the word; an original 50s Bakelite heater in the corner; old awnings; original cash register; wooden spoon on wall... In short, a corking local of a type in short supply. Hot tip: avoid the charred sausages but don't miss the voyage thru the kitchens to the rancid back yard ablutions!
(The new place still has the same name but has been fitted-out in an Ed's Easy Diner-style 1950's America diner pastiche - Patrick Turland)

Cafe, 59 Battersea Bridge Road, SW8.
"Hasn't got a fantastic sign or any Formica in ice-cream colours, but it is a proper working class, lovely little smokey cafe with coffee-coloured vinyl booths... there's a hand-written menu and the sandwich board outside simply says 'Cafe'... worth a visit just to meet its proprietor Chris who also owns the launderette next door... " (Suzanne Beirne)

Cafe Express, Battersea Park Road, SW8. NEW
'Slightly straying from the classic 50s/60s criteria, this is a former Wimpy opposite Battersea Park Library in the style of the Star Cafe (Whitechapel) & Bloomsbury Restaurant (Brunswick Centre) kitted out with orange-patterned exterior wall tiles, bright orange tiling behind the counter and light-orange leatherette seats on metal pedestals. The Formica tables even have an orange floral pattern. You can rest your orange-weary eyes on the mosaic-effect floor tiles, naff landscape pictures, the fish tank, or the great Wimpy-esque wall-mounted menu photo-montage! There's also a classic metal double-barrelled tea and coffee machine with hot-water dispenser. A mish-mash of Starburger/Star Express paraphernalia is evidence of the cafe's post-Wimpy history.' (Patrick Turland))

Tony's, Northcote Road (near Bennerley Road) SW11. NEW
'Looks like an unreconstructed 60's Formica-wall panelled cafe, with worn looking leatherette-seats, and an old-style tea-urn. Its main clientele must be the Northcote Road market stallholders and their customers. The whole area has been rendered almost unrecognisable by gentrification in the past 20 years. One of the last remnants of this part of Battersea's Up The Junction past. (Patrick Turland)

C. Notarianni, Battersea High Street SW11. NEW
Long-standing Italian cafe site that retains some of its 1950s charm. The external 'seaside' deco shopfront is magnificent.

Lito's Cafe, York Road, SW11. NEW
"Just round the corner from Notarianni's in Battersea High St. This is one of the growing family of London's Thai-owned, cafes by day, cheap restaurants by night (similar to Stratford's Pie Crust Cafe, the Popular Cafe in Lever St., and Marie's in Lower Marsh St.) It retains a brown-tile and wooden window-frame exterior, a good selection of classic, Formica-topped tables, leatherette-covered, wooden Thonet-style seats, and checkboard tiled floor. Original counter area. The small, traditional glass counter-display houses a selection of tacky-looking china cat ornaments, possibly some sort of good-luck symbol. The upper walls are covered in a late 70s bathroom-tile effect wallpaper." (Patrick Turland)

Grove Cafe, Grove Vale, East Dulwich SE22. RIP
Just purely and simply there - near the train station - for your noshing pleasure. It's as plain as yer boot but with a crop of classic cafe standard issue chairs n' tables, a truly twentieth century London frontage and general looked-over mien this is as good as it gets out Dulwich way. Why not pull in and take the weight off your prison-fresh trainers?

The Koffi Pot, Welling High Street, Welling. RIP
Originally owned by an Italian family called the Feraras, this much-loved local dates from the 1930s and retains an unusual collection of coffee pots-all sizes, shapes and colours-displayed on a long shelf over the counter. The outside sign boasts 'Builders BreakfastsHorlicks and Bovril'. The large interior is a fantasia of lustrous frosted lemon and lime Vitrolite set off with original ceiling fans, neon strip lights and a pair of beautiful old fashioned stick-on-letter wall menus. (In 2001, director Mike Leigh shot a couple of scenes at the Koffi Pot for his film All or Nothing).


West London

Metropolitan, Edgware Road W2. RIP
Just down from where the Regent Milk Bar used to be, this longstanding local features lots of green and cream Vitrolite and an original plastic deco counter with stylish moderne lettering. Joe Strummer and Paul Simenon were regulars in the late 1970s and the old place briefly appears to no great effect in the execrable Clash vehicle Rude Boy.

Chelsea Kitchen, King's Road SW3. RIP
Long established coffee bar-ish place dating back to the 1960s with nice period booths and banquettes upstairs and a roomy downstairs basement full of alcoves. (The Picasso cafe down the road retains its original sign-though little else-from an era when it too was a key Kings Road hangout with Martin Amis and Anita Pallenberg among the regulars.)

Harris' Cafe Rest, Goldhawk Road W12.
Loizos Prodromou came to London from Cyprus in 1951 to take over Harris' and the same Greek Cypriots have been running the place ever since. The fluted wall panelling, voluminous net curtains, anaemic pot plants, hat stands, dun n' plumb coloured panels, place mats, and motherly waitresses make this a real home from home.

Zippy Grill, Goldhawk Road W12.
Almost opposite Harris', Zippy's neat red leatherette booths and US diner-style fixed counter stools have been welcoming market folk for decades. The interior is the nearest thing London has left to the old original Wimpys. Look out especially for the illuminated plastic menus, above-the-counter lights, and single fixed tables running up the back with free standing leatherette chairs.

P George, Fulham Road SW6. NEW
Near Pulton Place, this still surviving caff was featured in Ken Loach's film Poor Cow. Facing an old ABC Cinema in 1967, it's where Carol White gets into a hopeless love tangle with Terence Stamp. Rumours abound that Scott Walker also filmed an advert sitting in the window here.

Olympic, Dawes Road SW6. NEW
Notable for the wall to wall gingham interior which can be spotted from the bus through the superbly greying net curtains.

The Troubadour, Old Brompton Road SW5.
An important, authentic and unusual cafe environment from a period when Earls Court was rampant with coffee houses. Founded by Michael and Sheila van Bloemen in 1954, the walls and ceilings are hung round with exotica. (Private Eye was first produced and distributed here. Paul Simon, Charlie Watts, Sammy Davis Jnr, Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan all performed here.)

Pembroke Cafe, Warwick Road W8 .
An unpromising exterior but a fine booth-based set-up inside. Always packed with builders.

Scoff's Eating House, Kensington High Street W8 NEW
A chalet-special that's pretty well exactly as it was twenty five years ago. Low-lit, ranged around with cod-Italiana, rows of cramped brown tables and chairs and with the emphasis on a family trattoria feel.

Frank's, Addison Bridge Place W8.
Intact, inert and exceedingly down and dirty, this excellent sub-Deco throwback is full of rumbunctious cabbies. Uniquely situated above a railway line, it's a superb old US diner-style place with crumbling interior, single stool seating and a picturesque counter area. (It's actually built out of an old abandoned signal box). Along with the Snack Bar in Brooks Mews, this is one of the only surviving London cafes listed in Jonathan Routh's The Good Cuppa Guide of 1966.

The Corner Cafe, Empress Place, SW6 RIP
'West London twin of the old Tea Rooms. Looks unchanged, more or less, since the 1960's. The exterior is nondescript, but for the faded Pepsi sign, menu, and net curtains there's little evidence of its classic status. Internally, this Italian-owned cafe retains a coherent, spartan 50s/60s feel, with Formica-topped tables, wooden benches and original floor tiles. There's a great Formica-topped counter, red-mottled Formica walls, glass-display and traditional metal double-barrelled tea & coffee maker. Customers are mainly the workers from the nearby Lillie Road bus depot, and Earls Court Arena and Exhibition centre. The prices are dirt cheap.' (Patrick Turland) NB: 21 Mar 2005 'A sign's appeared on the front door announcing that it's closed for refurbishment and is 'under new management'. The place now has even more of a Marie Celeste feeling of abandonment. The Corner Cafe was certainly an acquired taste - like the invariably stewed tea. The owners didn't exactly create a life-enhancing ambience, I don't think I ever saw them laugh once. It will be inextricably linked in my mind with a period of 1980s post-graduate unemployment. I'd sign on at the dole office off Fulham Palace Road, before burning off my accumulated angst with a lengthy stroll through Hammersmith and Kensington High Street, before circling back to Fulham Broadway tube. My reward to myself would be a fry-up at the Corner Cafe, while flicking through the Evening Standard or a tabloid. Another old-style Italian owned caff in nearby Jerdan Place disappeared in the summer of 1999 when the area was redeveloped as the upmarket Fulham Island. The punk-hairstyle sporting daughter could be found helping out her parents, while her musician boyfriend lolled around smoking and drinking coffee...' (Patrick Turland)

Star Cafe, King Street, SW6 RIP Oct 2004
'On the south side of King St, Hammersmith SW6. This is/was an old Jenny Burger/Star Burger, but still has elements of the old Wimpey bars - the lettering on the shop front, and the leatherette booths. I mentioned to the manager that I used to go there as a child with my mother, back in the early 70's, when it was still a Wimpy. The manager has been there since 1971. The place hasn't changed since 1971, or probably even earlier. Red-leatherette booth seating, a red and yellow Formica-panelled cash-register area, and walnut Formica tables mounted on metal pedestals. There are white plastic 60's/70's light shades in the front window area, two chandelier-style lights (fit to grace Liberace's celestial bedroom) and two ceiling fans. There are even photos of those 70's gastronomic essentials, the knickerbocker glory and chocolate sundae in plastic wall displays. The shop front appears to have the original Wimpy-style lettering. The manager intends to refurbish the place.' (Patrick Turland)

River Cafe, Putney Bridge Approach SW6.
This place has it all: superb vitrolite ceiling, magnificent blue-tile work, garlanded friezes, murals, excellent wood seats, full-on Formica tables, large busy counter, eccentric locals and a splendid frontage with Gill-face sign. (Also a handy base for a river visit to the church that featured in The Omen.) A show-stopper and no mistake.

Peterborough Cafe, Peterborough Road, Parson's Green SW6 RIP
'Situated in a chi-chi part of Parson's Green yards from the UK headquarters of Starbucks it resembles a transport cafe - which must seriously annoy most of the locals! Internally the place has some old-style features such as the grey and white Formica-topped tables, old wooden chairs with leatherette seat-covering, and pine-effect wall-panelling. The counter has a small glass display, and there's a original caff hot-water dispenser. The net curtains, ceiling-fan and menu-display handwritten in felt-tip pen complete the scene. Fight fans will appreciate the display of early to mid 80's boxing match posters.' (Patrick Turland)

Double 7 Cafe, Oxford Road (near Upper Richmond Road), Putney SW15.
'Near Pete's Mini- Bar... been here since the mid 60's at least and used to be the stables for the building now housing Domino Pizza! It has a great plastic external sign saying Transport Cafe which looks like a 60s original. Internally, the wooden panelling of the former stable is still discernable. Seating is provided by what looks like wooden Thonet chairs, painted red. The tables are of a fairly recent pine type, covered with plastic red and white check table cloths. Net curtains complete the feeling of a snug bolt-hole. Opening hours are 7am-2pm, Monday to Friday, 8am to 2pm on Saturday. Cheap all day breakfasts are a speciality... "(Patrick Turland)

Pete's Mini Bar, Upper Richmond Road SW15. NEW
'Yellow Formica, classic seating... come out of East Putney Tube, turn left and walk 50
yards, it's across the road on the right. I love the place.' (Anthony Abdool) "Anyone interested in visiting Pete's should get there double pronto. A Caffe Nero opened up a few yards away in October. This probably undermined trade to a degree, but to add insult to injury, a branch of Subway, the god awful, American sandwich-chain, opened next to Caffe Nero, just before Xmas. I can't see how Pete's can survive for long against the forces of homogenisation. Hopefully, the Double 7 Cafe round the corner in Oxford Road, can withstand the corporate onslaught, but I wouldn't bet on it." (Patrick Turland)

Metro, Goldhawk Road W12. RIP
Built precariously into the tube station, the Metro was comprehensively destroyed internally in July 2002 after remaining characterfully empty for decades. However, the old rotting frontage with a 'Lunches' sign in the window remains. To move with the times, owner Michael inexplicably installed a dozen Edwardian drawing room tables and draped the entire place in Eritrean nick-nacks. The cafe is now rammed every day.

Daquise, Thurloe Street SW7.
Lovely old Polish tea room cum refectory overseen by legions of harassed looking waitresses. Like The Troubadour, it has a strong flavour of original 1950s coffee bar.

Dino's, Pelham Street SW7. NEW
Built into South Ken tube, this is a roomy restaurant/cafe with a decent spread of lodge-style tables and chairs, fluted panel walls, masses of hanging, iron chalet lights and - best of all - three large pleasant murals on the back wall. The usual ersatz Italiana, but gently understated and thankfully non-corporate - which is something of a miracle for SW7. Open until 10.30-ish pm most nights. Coffees and pastries served at all times.

Dino's, Earl's Court Road ( near Earl's Court tube) SW5. NEW
'A classic Alpine chalet style Italian cafe/trattoria similar to The Lucky Spot in North Audley St but on a larger scale. There are some great wooden-booths, crazy-paving style & marble-effect floor-tiling. The walls are decorated with murals painted on wood, showing women wearing the dresses of various Italian regions. There's a great pulley-operated dumb-waiter. It might be a tad kitsch, but it's an oasis of civility in the corporate-chain dominated tat of Earl's Court Road. On the subject of Dino's, the South Ken branch was shown in Roman Polanski's 1965 classic "Repulsion". I vaguely remembered a scene where Catherine Deneuve leaves South Kensington tube station, and passes the restaurant. The manageress confirmed this, and told me that Deneuve had used the restaurant during filming.' (Patrick Turland)

Jack's Cafe, Boundary Road NW8. (opp. old Sattchi Gallery) NEW
Small plain cafe: rosewood tables & simple chairs & and classic cafe Coke sign. "Some of the furniture mentioned has been replaced by more modern chairs, though there's still a old wooden bench by the front window." (Patrick Turland)

Pacific Fish Bar, King Street, W6 NEW
In the down at heel end of King Street Hammersmith, opposite the UGC cinema. (In the same parade of shops there is a secondhand magazine store, just as there is in Rochester Row next to the Italian Restaurant). The Pacific has a truly awesome sign, sadly no longer illuminated at night, but it must have been a stunner. Behind the counter is an equally impressive menu board in yellow and blue. Tables are a lovely pale green Formica which may be more recent than the authentically battered red leatherette seating. Wall paneling is a newish wood effect, the lights are awful but the triumph of this place is the magnificent pale green, orange and chrome counter. To get the full effect of this lovely cafe, sit at the back. Clientele are certainly authentic: single, cheerless diners who have been coming in so long that they just sit and are served without ordering. (Richard Gray)

Half Moon Cafe, 125 Fulham Palace Road (Hammersmith end), W6 NEW
"With its Vitrolite ceiling, it could be the classic cafe cousin of the River Cafe, down the road. The round wooden tables strike a more modern note, though the new Turkish-Cypriot owner may replace these for smaller versions. He intends to open till 7pm, when he gets the staff. Makes a pleasant change from the burger bar/kebab shop dystopia near the Hammersmith Apollo." (Patrick Turland)

Sandro's Snack Bar, Great Western Road (near Harrow Road), W9. NEW
'A handy bolthole from the Notting Hill Carnival crowds... The previous owners were Italian, now Indian. The cafe still retains some original fixtures such as Formica-topped tables, wooden chairs with leatherette seats, false ceiling ( wooden slats), copper pot and swords hung on the wall in an Italian chalet style. There are signed 1980's photos of Madness and Motorhead on the wall, from when they used the nearby Zig Zag studios.' (Patrick Turland)

Cafe, Notting Hill Gate, (next to The Gate Cinema) W11 NEW
Once a main haunt of ex-local Van Morrisson this "small, Italian-owned place hasn't changed in the past 20 years at least. It's fitted-out like Dino's in Earl's Court Rd with chalet-style wooden booths and tables, trattoria-rustic walls, wooden wall-mounted panels, and a tiled floor. Juventus football pennants add to the feeling of localissimo" (Patrick Turland)

Costa's Grill, Hillgate Street, W8 NEW
"This Greek taverna (not a cafe exactly) established 1957, has what looks like an original, wall-mounted plastic external sign and an interior fitted out in Formica wall-panelling, with Formica-topped tables." (Patrick Turland)


Other British classic cafes

Despite the capital having the highest remaining concentration of classic cafes, good examples can sometimes be found beyond London-often around older, less modernised seaside resorts...


Micks Cafe, Cripley Road, Oxford, OX2 0AH NEW
"...immediately west of the station you see a wooden shack right next to a main road, the railway bridge and the public toilets. Inside are wooden walls, wooden peripheral seating and Formica tables. Fry-up menu, lots of regulars reading tabloids, and the occasional student looking for a bit of rough..." (Robert Wyburn)

Excelsior Cafe, Cowley Road, OX4 1UH NEW
"... the truly magnificent
Excelsior Cafe on the Cowley Road looks promising from the outside. Serves proper English cuisine - lashings of brown sauce and ketchup (a cheap vinegary one, not Heinz's) helps cover up the taste. Menus are provided, but you don't really need one - just point to something on the waiter's jacket..." (

Morelli's Cappuccino, Victoria Parade, Broadstairs.
One of only a handful of 1950s UK coffee bars left in existence. With its swathes of original pink vinyl seating, a small working fountain and an amazing curvilinear suspended ceiling, the general out-of-timeness makes the place feel like a sort of Portmeirion in pink Formica.

Rossi's Coffee Lounge, Western Esplanade, Westcliff on Sea.
Sitting at the base of the vaguely moderne Cliffs Pavilion, this shrine to light refreshment is always packed with pensioners and children who revel in its blatant other-worldliness. The frontage (which should be listed immediately) has good sea views.

Connaught Corner House, Marine Parade, Worthing.
Worthing seems to have been pretty well forgotten since Harold Pinter briefly lived there in 1963 (and wrote the scripts for the films The Pumpkin Eaters and The Homecoming). But the lovely Connaught, with its large curved windows overlooking the pier, retains a Pinter-esque flavour-a languid enclave of plump, olive banquettes, churning ceiling fans, pot plants and marbleised Formica.

Harbour Bar, Sandside, Scarborough.
Famed for serving some of the best ice cream in the country, Giulian Alonzi's Harbour Bar is almost unaltered since opening in 1945. With decor described by The Times as, "a sunburst of yellow and white, a banana split recreated in Formica" the walls are lined with mirrors and slogans 'Get your vitamins the easy way', 'Eat ice cream every day.'" The Alonzi's settled in Scarborough in 1896 and the old milk bar is thriving. Says Giulian: "We're busy all winter hereIn the summer, people come to enjoy themselvesIn winter, they come to enjoy the place."

Brucciani's, Marine Road, Morecambe.
Built on the eve of war in 1939, the local paper feared that Brucciani's might not be good for the sedate Victorian image of Morecambe and could be positively harmful to young people. Originally a milk bar, Brucciani's typifies the simple, geometric 'high street deco' popular at the time. The brown wood and chrome exterior has black lacquer base panels to the street, porthole lamps above the doors, ziggurat pattern doors, classic deco handles and original menus. The interior preserves extensive wall panelling, a slightly reworked counter, red Formica tables, red upholstered chairs, wall-to-wall etched glass (Venetian canal scenes), mirrors, deco clocks and penny-in-the-slot cubicles in the cloakrooms. That most Art Deco of confections, the Knickerbocker Glory is still served throughout the summer season.

Hart's, Marine Road, Morecambe.
Keeping up the Lyons Corner House tradition of silver teapots, maple floors, crystal chandeliers and waiting staff in traditional black and white uniforms, Hart's actually appears as a location in Tony Richardson's film of The Entertainer but seems more like something out of Tony Hancock's The Punch and Judy Man (filmed in Bognor in 1962.) Hancock co-star John Le Mesurier remembered the location as "a disaster area. The trippers had stayed away in swarmsHancock stood on the seafront at Bognor as lightning hissed and crackled overheadTurning his face skyward he shouted, 'go on make it worse.'" Hart's has outlasted them all.

Rendezvous Café, The Promenade, Whitley Bay NEW
"Totally unchanged"... "a delight" ... "absolutely fantastic" ... "The Rendezvous is a great cafe right on the beach at Whitley Bay. It's beautifully maintained and run with all sorts of ices on the menu as well as hot chocolate, cheese and tomato sandwiches - the odd bucket and spade too! Always warm and friendly after a walk on the beach, it also has amazing views out of the big arched windows. On a stormy day you can sit and drink frothy coffee and watch the sea. I think the same family have been running it for a long time." (Emma Holiday)

Abergeldie Cafe, Shude Hill, Manchester. NEW
Once serving the Smithfield wholesale market next door-now long gone- the Abergeldie retains a long counter with a steel hotplate for cooking; battered and bubbling pans on the hobs behind; Formica booths, proper tables and the original window frames. The Heath-Robinson style tea system behind the counter brings it all into focus. (In September 2003, film-crews turned the Abergeldie and surrounding streets into a mock-up of New York's SoHo district for a remake of Alfie starring Jude Law.)

Kings Cafe, Elmbank Street, Glasgow. NEW
Scots-Italians can trace their history back to the mass migrations of the late 1800s. Many remained in the port cities of Glasgow, Greenock and Edinburgh, opening shops and serving dairy ice cream direct from barrows with shouts of 'Gelati, ecco un poco' (consequently becoming known as the 'Hokey Pokey' boys). Italian cafes subsequently sprang up all over Scotland. This is one of the finest (along with Queens Cafe), loved by many for its startling turquoise deco exterior. Travis are noted fans of its potato fritters and Manic Street Preacher James Dean Bradfield is also a staunch supporter.

Venice Cafe, Ayr Street, Troon. RIP
Completely untouched since the 1950s. Absolutely gorgeous inside, with lovely geometric Formica tables and little booths. Doesn't do chips.

Carron Restaurant, Cameron Street, Stonehaven. NEW
First opened in 1937, this Scottish treasure (hailed as the finest example of an art deco building in the north of Scotland) fell into disrepair in the 1960s but has since been restored.

University Cafe, Byres Road, Glasgow.
This family-run classic-all rosewood wall panels, Formica side tables and mirrored booths-has been providing cafe staples since it opened in 1918. Matriarch Rina Verrecchia has been looking after generations of regulars since 1952 and her three sons (and some grandsons) work here too. Devotees revel in the Edwardian-tearoom-meets-1950s-icecream-parlour feel.

Gavin's Coffee Lounge & Grill, High Street, Haverhill.
Be transported back into the 1950's with Gavin's especial mix of timewarp red leatherette banquettes, pink Formica tables and bouquets of plastic flowers everywhere.

Kardomah Coffee House, Portland Street, Swansea. NEW
A longstanding local institution with some period detailing which, in an earlier incarnation in Castle Street, used to be a haunt of a young Dylan Thomas. The present location dates from 1957 (the original Kardomah was destroyed in the Blitz of 1941) but it was the nerve centre for a group of Welsh artists and writers through the 1930s including Daniel Jones, Thomas Warner, Mervyn Levy, Wynford Vaughan-Thomas, Charles Fisher and Vernon Watkins

Hillside Cafe, George Lane, Folkestone. NEW
Run by a Cypriot called Ken who has the smallest voice anyone has ever heard, it is almost a social service to the poor of Folkestone. They open every day, including Christmas. Ken owns a great deal of property which he rents out. He doesn't really need to still be working at the caff, but I think he loves it so much he can't give it up. His son Simon also works there but always says he's just helping out temporarily because actually what he does for a living is 'playing the stock market'. The waiter is a very odd little bloke with a hunchback and a limp who also hands out Christian literature in the street. The seating is simple, almost Shaker-like: fixed high-backed wooden benches varnished to death with plenty of dribbly bits; fixed wooden tables coated in a gorgeous speckled red Formica with obligatory scuffed mug marks. The windows are steamed-up with large puddles of condensation gathering on the wood-effect Formica sills. Weird silvery 'scraperboard' type pictures of European birds on twigs randomly are placed in between hastily cut-out dark red sugar paper notices announcing Sunday Lunch, beautifully arranged against yet more wood-effect Formica. Gurgling noises in the background; small glass cases displaying feeble selections of refreshments (Jammie-Dodgers in packs of two, out-of-date KitKats and, for some reason, Rizla papers). On the wall is a red plastic tray with the immortal words, "Counter Service Order and Pay Thank you". The cutlery is basic, unpatterned. The crockery is of that white, almost opaque substance. Mugs always come with a saucer.

Regent Omelette Bar & Restaurant, Meadow St, Weston-super-Mare. NEW
"suitably dilapidated and on the periphery of a down-at-heel shopping area, its beautiful tiled exterior defiantly faces the massive plate-glass windows of McDonald's: padded leather seating, wooden interior, white-aproned staff, proper tea (out of an urn)... most of the customers seem to be care-in-the-community cases." (Robin Mackay)

Cafe Riviera, Quay Wall, Newbiggin-by-the-Sea. NEW
As of Feb 2004 For Sale notices have gone up on the art deco walls of the Cafe Riviera, Newbiggin-by-the-Sea and its future is uncertain. Frozen in time since before the Second World War, the Riviera was developed from a group of cottages which looked out over Newbiggin Bay in the 1930s. Italian shopkeeper Benjamin Bertorelli created the building in stages and it was finally completed in 1937. The café was taken over by his son, Armando, who refused to follow changing fashions over the decades and kept it just the way it was in his father's day. Today it has the same tables, chairs, light fittings and display units that were brought in when it was built. The building remained unchanged, apart from regular decoration throughout the war years, the days of rationing, the rock `n' roll years, 1960s fashions, the Beatles era, men walking on the Moon and robot missions to Mars. The ice cream sold was made to a family recipe handed down through the generations (according to family legend, Bertorelli ice cream was a firm favourite of Queen Victoria) and the coffee was made to a blend Benjamin Bertorelli invented... "

The Penguin Cafe, Marine Parade West, Lee-on-Solent. NEW
The Penguin Cafe has a certain faux Fifties Mid-West feel. Named Di's Diner on the menu, leatherette upholstered banquettes match the beige marble-effect Formica; the ceiling is light blue. Painted panels show life in Lee in its heyday, the 1860s (sorry 1960s) but the piece de resistance is the frieze above the counter depicting the view across the Solent to the Isle of Wight (complete with plane) from H.M.S. Daedalus... and a penguin floating on an ice floe. There are many refrences to Penguins dotted about; not always subtly! There is a sign on the counter which reads "Viagra available in eye-drop form - you look hard!" Customers can borrow binoculars to survey the Solent. (S. Ambrose)

Divalls, Terminus Road, Brighton. RIP
A dingy, parlour-style cafe next to the town train station, this remains the sine qua non of lost, languishing resort cafes: a battered orange logo above the door, outside windows lined with hand-written menus, flesh-coloured Formica canteen tables, cankered fake-wood laminate on every wallThe spectral presence of Graham Greene and Patrick Hamilton hangs heavy in the air. The sheer bitter seediness of the joint seeps into everything around it; the atmosphere of dank, crumbling low-life is thrillingly potent.

Eastbourne, Terminus Road
Notarianni's Restaurant & Milk Bar
in Eastbourne lies in that archetypal moribundia address, Terminus Road ­ a treasure trove of classic caffs. It has an unusual, and apparently, original grey frontage from its opening back in 1947 but inside only the battered white banquette seating survives from the 40s. Atmosphere is nonetheless richly appealing to moribundia aficionados. Can't wait to return on a wet November afternoon! At the back of the caff is a collection of photographs of various Notarianni's in their heyday (this was a chain, mainly in the north of England.) The manager told us that a few survive: in Blackpool, Scarborough and other towns. Just up the road on the other side is a magnificent branch of a more familiar south coast chain, Macari's, happily retaining many of its original features: Splendid green and red wooden banquette seats, Formica tables, 1960s opening and closing-time clocks and a gorgeous street sign with a full colour knickerbocker glory (a motif repeated on the picture menu in the window.) I especially liked the Horlicks dispenser which pleasingly survives even though Horlicks, surely the signature drink of moribundians, is no longer served. However, the star of Terminus Road is undoubtedly the Taurus Steak House (RIP Jan 2005) next to Notarianni's. The sign is obviously 60's but nothing prepared us for the total timewarp interior. The manager told us that it had opened in 1969. And clearly absolutely nothing has changed since... the place mats, cruet sets, faded seating, carpet, the menu, take you straight back to the 60s and a bizarre pebble dash - no doubt very groovy in 1969 - covers one wall as while tall, conical copper lamps loom ominously above tables in one corner! (Richard Gray)

Tors Cafe, Derby Road, Cromford
"The Tors is in a fine tradition of splendidly basic transport cafe populated almost entirely by blokes in dark blue corporate poloshirts and safety gear. Truck drivers, delivery men, workers from Severn Trent. They don't trouble the menu with any fancy stuff, just basic cobs and fry-ups. No chips available." (Russell Davies)

National Milk Bars, Penrallt Street, Machynlleth
National Milk Bars is a chain of cafes in North Wales and adjoining bits of England. This place has the most relentlessly consistent retro aesthetic I've seen for ages. Lots of wood and green leather-like stuff. And fantastic 70s maps of the area." (Russell Davies)

Georgina's, Pallister Road, Clacton on Sea NEW
Good plum and cream coloured frontage with hand-painted sign. The interior features one section with faded green booths and fake-wood veneer tables along with a proper caff
Beaumont display board. Another caff on the seafront overlooks the front of the pier from a large windows-on-the-world viewing lounge - doesn't seem to have a name but does have lots of decent tables and chairs. Yet another eaterie - called simply CAFE - inside the large amusement arcade facing the pier has massive deco light fittings which are worth a gander. (The caff opposite the train-station has amazing purple Formica tables but little else of interest. The station itself retains a pair of beautiful bulb-lit 40s 'Buffett' signs above a side entrance.)

Felpham Boatyard Cafe, Bognor Regis NEW
"East of Butlin's at Bognor is a bizarre area of houses that are converted railway carriages, east of that lies Felpham. The boatyard there has a caff with lots of people (average age about 75) sitting outside, and in, drinking tea out of horizontally striped mugs. The place has stools for perching at tables round the windows and is identically furnished to my parents' kitchen circa 1967: tables surfaced in yellow and brown patterned Formica; chairs and stools covered in a padded brown leatherette. The rest of the decor is also redolent of the late 1960s. The staff were extremely friendly, and fairly young, so fingers crossed it survives. The tea was so good I had another cup!" (Robert Wyburn)

Rossi's Coffee Lounge, Westcliff on Sea NEW
Westcliff on Sea is a superb little seaside suburb just between Leigh on Sea and Southend in Essex. This area is great for moribund-high street action; packed with odd bookshops, thrift stores and old family retailers of all stripes. Above the Rossi lies the 'moderne' styled Cliffs Pavilion, a sizable early 60s arts centre (now somewhat remodelled) located on the landscaped gardens which rise up behind this shrine of Light Refreshment. Wistful views over Southend pier and an exterior/interior combination untroubled for half a century should put this masterpiece of wicker, leatherette and lime green Formica high on your hitlist! In January 2003 local Rossi fan Helen Salkin wrote to tell us: "...the new owners/managers have chucked out the original green Lloyd Loom chairs and matching marble-topped tables, does still have various tiled labels such as ICES and SUNDRIES... around 20 years ago, the council threatened Mr Rossi with closure on the grounds that the cliff was collapsing behind his cafe."

Ice Cream Parlour, Surrey Gardens, Birchington (nr Margate) NEW
A sign in the window says that the owners, Jan and Stav, recently retired from running both businesses after 21 years. The Ice Cream Parlour, established 1946, has apparently changed little since its opening. No Formica, but little Lloyd loom tables; original handpainted signs over the counter; a splendidly voluptuous bikinied blonde cradling a tempting cone; metal and glass ice cream dishes stacked on mirrored shelving; electric blue tiling outside; and a metal and wood panelled counter. The business was due to re-open under new management on 28th September, but three weeks later, nothing had happened. Let's hope the new owners realise what a gem has come into their possession, and leave it exactly as it is.' (Richard Gray)

Cross Cafe, Kilmacolm, Renfrewshire, Scotland NEW
Established 1924-25 and in the family for three generations.

Market Café. Carnation Road, Rochester NEW
'The castle, cathedral and mock Victorian high street don't bode well but marooned on its own by the busy Carnation Road is the Market Café. The Market is a true 24 hour, 365 days of the year café where every thing is fried (possibly even the tea!). It looks like the last building in a street condemned to demolition to make way for a road widening scheme. The only reason it hasn't been knocked down is because the town planners probably assume it will fall down in the next stiff breeze. Inside it's extremely rough and ready but always lovely and warm ­ calorgas heaters blaze away in the winter.  The clientele are builders, the skint and the homelessand real ale drinkers...' (Paul Shevlane)

Waverley Cafe, Kingsmead Square, Bath NEW
Kingsmead Square is attractively irregular, and on the edge of the town centre, though still on the main tour bus route, and it features lots of trees and is lined with restaurants, a small supermarket, and the WAVERLEY. This has a 1970ish sign, drawing in the caff aficionado from a hundred paces. Inside, there are fixed formica tables and double tip-up seats, colour grey, some slashed. Floor, large red and white formica tiles. Walls, white above yellow with pictures of 1960s celebrities. False ceiling features spotlights that are normal tungsten bulbs. The kaff
expands at the back into a wide area where smoking is allowed; the kitchen is downstairs with access via a dumb waiter. Friendly service and good food - superb steak pies, and apple pies, and paintstripper tea. A good find in an expensive town. (Robert Wyburn)

York Cafe, York Place, Clifton, Bristol NEW
It is in a very hilly area surrounded by slightly run-down Regency terraces, and is on a corner site with lots of windows. The kaff is long and thin and has ancient straight-backed black-painted benches separating red formica tables. Walls have white, vertically fluted paneling and feature a large but very polite "rules" poster, and the white ceiling features black beams to which are fixed (real?) tree branches sporting fairy lights. There is a small, modern "bar" area near the door. Outside, there are hanging baskets and numerous "beer garden" tables. There are lots of menu cards detailing the variety of fry-ups and daily specials - they do a steak-in-Guinness pie and various puddings-and-custard. Opens at 9am (definitely), I think 7 days-a-week. Superb. (Robert Wyburn)

Nora's Cafe, 74 London Road, Cheltenham NEW
A recessed central door, implying a prewar or earlier frontage, and loose chairs and tables. The tables are brown wood-effect, the walls vertically fluted (white?), the floor lino, and the blue-painted wooden servery is topped with formica. 5 tables in the front part of the Kaff - there is a small raised area at the back. Could be a real find? (Robert Wyburn)

Weston Omelette Bar, St. James St, Weston-Super-Mare NEW
Windsor chairs and tablecloths, very cheap. (Robert Wyburn)

Regent, 13 Regent Street, Weston-Super-Mare
The sun was setting as we walked along the prom, and from about 200 yards we spotted the Regent. We were drawn across the road, pulled by that irresistible force known so well to kaff lovers, and went in, admiring the 1967-ish facade on the way. We were not disappointed. Inside is a vast eating house, self service. The walls not occupied by windows or servery feature smoked mirrors with a large "REGENT RESTAURANT" sign above, and non-mirrored bits are of grained browny-yellow Formica. The grained pattern on the walls matches that on the white formica tables, whilst the colour matches the leatherette booth seating. The servery features mosaic and goes round several corners. Above this are white plastic panels illuminated from inside and displaying messages in capital letters such as "TRAYS", "SALADS", "PAY HERE", or a (faded) picture of the dish mentioned. In the middle of the kaff there is a pillar, surfaced in the same mosaic. There was a very small, old, Italian (?) waiter, who may well have been the owner, who alternated between rushing about and talking very genially to the young waitresses/servery staff. The servery featured an immaculate Still machine, which was used to dispense frothy coffee, suitably 1960s, and there were slush puppies to turn your tongue funny colours, and knicker boker glories (as they put it), and banana splits, and roast dinners and paintstripper tea. The clientele was mostly middle-aged, reliving their youth, but some young people too. AMAZING!!! (Robert Wyburn)

Clarence Park Cafe, Clarence Park, Walliscote Rd, Weston-Super-Mare NEW
This is a green and white chalet with a barge-board roof, and lots of outside picnic tables. There is a wooden counter area - and amazingly dour service. And, possibly the worst cup if tea in Somerset. The real oddity is the opening hours - allegedly 6am to 10pm, though take-away
only 6-10 pm in winter - and this in the middle of a park which appears to have no lights in it. Clearly no problem with local thugs? - but has "Clarence Park - full of kiddies up to mischief on dark nights! " Perhaps they drink lots of tea in the dark. Slightly off topic, in Weston we stayed in the Parasol Guest House, 49 Walliscote Rd., in a family room that was PACKED with vases, ornaments, pillows, cushions, and little ledges in corners to put them on. Except we put everything on top of the wardrobe, to keep them out of the way of the children! Also, flowery carpets and frilly bedspreads. Enormous, heavily tattooed (and quietly spoken) Brummie owner, with smaller wife (Ian and Jan!). Fishtank. Small pooch. Good breakfasts. Moribund
fellow guests. (Robert Wyburn)

Return To Top of Page