Parma Cafe: Edwardian shopfront lost in the hinterlands of Marble Arch

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Lost in excitingly anonymous Seymour Place (just north of Marble Arch), the Parma main window bay appeared to date from the 1900s and was completely unchanged from the days when it was probably an Edwardian shopfront.

The original 50s cafe signs in the panes remained intact - a real rarity for this part of town. The sills were full of choking old plants above which hung three large beguiling chalet lamps (as per the old Copper Grill, and the still extant Chalet in Grosvenor St.)

As if this wasn't enough the doorway retained an original mid-century design with a fine circular handle and a cheery multi-coloured 'Open' sign quite unmatched for vibrancy anywhere else in central London!

The interior was dark and steamed over with oppressive fake-wood cladding on every wall. A good selection of Formica tables, but unfortunately no seating to match. Despite this blindspot, the Parma's compensating charms were overwhelming. The grand tea-boiler fronted by a small breakfast bar with two swivel stools was particularly heart-rending.

Best of all, the Parma was tucked into a wedge of curious London streets-that-time-forgot, lined with an amazing spread of architectural style (Deco blocks, 70s brutalist, cute mews, 60s Contemporary, Victorian mansions...) radiating out from Marble Arch all the way up to Edgware Road.

A useful detour could be made with a follow-on trip to the nearby Buscott Dairy in Molyneux Street W1, beautifully sited in the base of a handsome mansion block in an even more forgotten area of the West End.

The Buscott still retains good caramel booths, old wall heaters and some original signage in the windows. The entire frontage looks very 1940s and the cafe seems to be attached to an incredibly narrow - only 6ft wide - block of flats.

Obviously once a local dairy, there's no other exterior quite like it in London. A real find.

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