Cafe Research Sources
Reviews #1
Reviews #2
Reviews #3
Lost Cafes
Seaside Cafes
TV & Film
Top 10
Site News

A personal selection of books and articles covering all aspects of cafe culture. Some are practical manuals, others are novels or plays. On no account miss the Classic Cafes book that accompanies this site - published December 2003.

Classic Cafes [Adrian Maddox, Black Dog Publishing, 2003]
"Brilliant" The Sunday Times... "Excellent" The Guardian... "Too good to be true" Space... "wonderfully evocative" The Independent... "Essential" Internet Magazine. Classic Cafes commemorates an institution perilously close to vanishing without trace or acclaim. Classic cafes are actually little gems of British vernacular high street design. In an era of retro-kitsch, inert 'theme' brasseries and fast-breeder US coffee-chains, they hark back to a European dynamism that added colour to Britain's post war social and commercial scene. Part sentimental journey, psychogeographic incursion and alternative architectural gazetteer, the first half of Classic Cafes presents a shadow social history showing how London's cultural ascendancy in the 1960s began life in the classic Formica cafes of the 1950s. The latter part goes in search of the archetypal classic cafe, culminating in a gazetteer that takes in many left intact as of 2003. Features extensive contemporary large format architectural photos by Phil Nicholls (Melody Maker, Blitz, Vogue, Uncut, Sunday Times, The Independent...) and legendary NME photographer Peter Anderson with many never-before-seen archive pictures. Plus, comprehensive research sources covering related books, journals, magazines, films, websites and much else...

Always a Welcome [David Lawrence Between Books 2003]
travelled 8000 miles around the motorways of Britain in 1999 and even lived at one service station for a week! The result: the finest 'glove compartment history of the motorway service area' ever. From garden sheds selling sandwiches at Watford Gap in 1959 to the latest retail developments, the book takes readers into the very heart of these strange, unloved places. With a foreword by Jonathan Glancey, this design, architecture and cultural history is illustrated in full colour, using technicolour postcards from the 1960s, through the brown and orange 1970s and cool beige 1980s to the present. A triumph.

Cafe [Cheryl A Aaron, Printers Inc Press 1985] NEW
"Cafes are oases, crossroads, resting places... The East End of London is full of these cafe oases, and the East End is itself a oasis. It always was a refuge... people landed here near the docks and they settled. This was as far as they were going... They came to this East End to escape pogrom and poverty. They had no choice. All were able to start again... Each new wave helped create an amalgam of tolerance and their various dreams and struggles permeate these pavements, these walls... No-one needs to be a stranger in the streets and in the cafes of Tower Hamlets... There is no high pretentious talk. Ideas are confined to the commonplace, which is after all the noblest area of existence...These cafes, these interiors, these faces give you identity. Life is for real. It is all here, and that is enough. You have no ambition to be anywhere else. You know where you are." (from the introduction by Bernard Kops)

Googie Redux: Ultramodern Roadside Architecture [Alan Hess 2004]
'A thoroughly revised and significantly expanded edition of the popular 1980s original, Googie Redux is the authoritative history of the mid-20th century icon that ignited an architectural revolution: the coffee shop. Dismissed as lowbrow stylistic folly in their heyday, in many ways they were the realization of modern architecture's grand promises. They were populist, employed new materials, and captured their purpose, place, and culture as vividly as any great architectural style. The original edition helped to spark a robust preservation movement and kick-started the reappreciation of mid-century architecture and design. This latest edition features extensive up-to-date research and dozens of rarely seen and newly found photographs.'

The Good Cuppa Guide [Jonathan Routh 1966]
The great gazetteer of its time... only two of the many establishments listed survive some forty years later: Frank's near Olympia and The Snack Bar in Brooks Mews.

Lime, Lemon and Sarsaparilla [Colin Hughes 2003]
Details the history of the Italian Cafe-based community in Wales, a community closely related to the London one being largely from Bedonia and Borgotaro (in the valley of Val Taro) about 20 miles from Bardi. The book has a great map of the Italian cafes in Wales... there are still at least 18 Italian cafes in Pontypridd/Rhondda - which would be a reasonable twelve mile driving tour.' (Republished by Seren Books Nov 2003.)

London Belongs To Me [Norman Collins 1945]
"All the characters in this novel are imaginary. The London of the title is real enough - that's London all right. But Dulcimer Street and the lives of the people in it, like the other lives which cross with theirs, are all fictitious. And so are the various Funlands, cafes, Sprititualist Societies, agencies, hospitals and institutions, with which the story deals." What le Carre did for spies, Collins does for shopgirls and nightwatchmen, accountants and publicans: 'Real londoners who sleep the night in London as well as work the day there. Real Londoners - some in love - some in debt, some committing murders, some adultery, some trying to get on in the world, some looking forward to a pension, some getting drunk...' St Etienne dedicated their first album to the book. (Collins was Director of the BBC, and invented Woman's Hour).

Coffee Bar Culture [Matthew Partington / Ceramic Review Magazine Mar/Apr 2004]
In-depth coverage of these lost gems from the leading British authority on the genre. Great illustration of the Moo Cow Milk Bar 1954 in Victoria Street, London. (On no account miss Partington's superb Design History Research Centre project 'Oral Testimony and the Interpretation of the Crafts').

The Uses of Literacy [Richard Hoggart 1957]
The British cultural critic - and co-founder of the Centre of Contemporary Cultural Studies - Richard Hoggart celebrates the working-class culture of his childhood in the Hunslett area of Leeds. At the same time he criticises 1950s popular culture because it is: "full of corrupt brightness, of improper appeals and moral evasions". He particularly disliked milk bars, in which he believed he could detect: "a sort of spiritual dry-rot amid the odour of boiled milk... The hedonistic but passive barbarian who rides in a fifty-horse-power bus for threepence, to see a five-million dollar film for one-and-eightpence, is not simply a social oddity; he is a portent." Bravo, sir!

'Cafe Society' [Charlotte Du Cann, ES magazine Nov 1990]
Double page spread focusing on Stefano's in Covent Garden; the now much altered Bonbonpierre chain and the ever lovely Copper Grill. Notable for its championing of caffs as cheap-eats oases in the midst of the last recession. Whole article is proudly displayed on the wall of Stefano's. A little place well worth checking out near the old college of art.

Cafes and Coffee Shops [ed. Martin M. Pegler]
US publication covering the waterfront of - mostly - the newer rash of 'Central Perk' style places. There is a rumour of another US book in preparation devoted to America's old lounges by one of the owners of LA's infamous AMOK bookstore. Sounds like a better bet.

Mood & Atmosphere In Restaurants [Newell 1965]
Magnificent guide book for 60s designers with great pix by one Michael Busselle.

Cafe & Milk Bar Catering [Joan N Marks 1952]
Brilliant short history of the cafe in the 50s, great pix and account of how to run a milk bar. Pure nostalgia.

A Catering Business of your Own [E Turner 1967]
Another smashing how-to-guide.

The Good Cafe Guide [Martin Fletcher]
Occasional copies surface in junk shops but distribution is scant. Updated every few years and sometimes an award certificate from the authors is seen on cafe walls. Seems to be published infrequently with the accent on cheapo food ratings. The author is reputed to tour London on his bike picking out decent old caffs to list. A noble enterprise.

Cafe Racers, rockers, rock n'roll and the Coffee Bar Cult [Mike Kay 1988]
More about motorbike gangs of the 50s and 60s. But some cafe content and pix.

A View Of London [Edward Pagram 1963]
Sad atmospheric illustrations of 60s London in charcoal featuring the kinds of characters in a cafe of the time. Grudging intro by Colin Wilson.

The London Nobody Knows [Geoffrey Fletcher]
Daily Telegraph illustrator of the 60s who sketched many London vignettes and illustrative essays. Several books in this series appeared and one was even made into a sordid UK mondo movie hosted by James Mason! Good on ambience and general seediness. "My object is to encourage an appreciation of unlooked-for create an enthusiasm for the neglected or undervalued, the freakish even"

Practical Milk Bar Operation [E F Colam 1961]
Great lost title for the start-up cafe merchant of the time.

In The Night Cafe [Joyce Johnson 1990]

The Lost Time Cafe [Elizabeth Wilson 1993]

The Black & White [Harold Pinter 1969]
Unsettling monologue mumbled by lone woman in a cafe. Though you can't tell from the text, the place she is in is actually an old Fleet St eaterie well known to Pinter in his youth called 'The Black & White.' A picture of the place can be seen in a new publication from The Museum of London called London Eats Out which also features nice interiors from the old Lyons Tea Houses.

'Grease Proof' [Caroline Stacey, Time Out, June 9-16 1993]
A rarity. One of the few articles about cafes in a major publication. Double page feature spread with limited round up of old London cafes and a poor montage of pictures.

Lights Out For The Territory [Iain Sinclair 1998]
"...reads the hidden language of the city like no other writer. This book is what literature should be about: intensity of language, humane wisdom and controlled of the most remarkable books ever written on London"

Formica and Design [Susan Grant Lewin 1991]
Many designs and a full history of the great all purpose covering.

Soho In The Fifties [Daniel Farson]
Full account of the boho London scene of the time with many illustrations. Good for background atmosphere on how the cafe scene developed and the main players.

Adrift In Soho [Colin Wilson 1961]
"The comic, sad, blazingly honest novel of a young man's search for experience among London's eccentrics, beats and artists...the espresso bars, dingy dives, the broken down tarts and actors, the virago landladies, the unwashed sheets - so good is Mr Wilson's prose, one sees and smells them all." A must. Re-issued by Braniac Books 1996

The French Cafe [Marie France Boyer]
Fine illustrated compendium of French cafes all over the country. Britain vitally needs something similar. Photos to die for and a bracing sense of pride in a glorious institution.

Contemporary [Lesley Jackson]
The bible of architecture and interiors of the 50s. A huge compendium of all that is great and good from the time. Gives an amazing insight into the optimism of the period and the materials and construction popular at the time. A must have book. Huge bibliography is also a vital resource.

Motels, Hotels, Restaurants and Bars
A US title published by Architectural Record and McGraw-Hill in 1960. Vast overview of many types of interior and exterior that have a cafe feeling. Truly these were the glory years of American architecture. Every project is a gem. Why the styles are not ripped off more today is beyond us.

Guide London [Brondum Publishers, Sweden?]
Little art book which may be available form Zwemmers containing an illustrated photo chapter on cafes by one Firmin Moriarty! Basically a handful of polaroids with no text or commentary but neatly done and featuring at least half a dozen east and south east London cafes unknown to this site but which look worthwhile from the pix.

Populuxe [Thomas Hine]
Another great look at the 50s US culture of streamlined styling. Recently re-issued.

Billy Liar [Keith Waterhouse]
The great British novel of the period. Required reading.

Ian Penman [The Face #96 Apr 1988]
Feature about the concept of 'drabness' at the heart of English life.

Mark Irving [Space: Guardian Mar 2 2000]
Attack on 'theme' pubs and a plea to protect the 'local' boozer. All points relevant to cafe lovers too.

Andrew Anthony [Observer Life Mar 13 1994]
Brave defence of Broadstairs - and lots of detail about the Morelli cappuccino milk bar.

Introduction to Modern Architecture [J M Richards, Pelican 1959]
Smart little handbook with good b/w pix of top modern architectural projects from the 'sixties and earlier. Good introduction.

Soft City [Jonathan Raban, Fontana 1974]
"Historians, sociologists, architects and planners have all tried to analyse (the) massive 'urban revolution.' But what does it mean to the individual as he looks out of the window of his flat, drifts on the street or rides in the crush of the underground train?"

Day Out [D Jones & G Richards, Abson 1980]
"The idea was that we two presenters would take it in turns week by week to do exactly what so many people enjoy doing for a nice day out - hopping into the car and finding somewhere interesting slightly off the beaten track"

Nairn's London [Ian Nairn, Penguin 1966]
" intensely subjective search for the really good things in London, described with vehement passion which flies out from a solid foundation of architectural knowledge. Anything visible is included - churches, pubs, alleys boulevards, dock cranes and suburban rhododendrons."

News of The World Better Homes Book [Ed. Roger Smithells 195?]
Beautiful collection of domestic interiors graphics and preposterously bossy text laying down the law on how to show off you 50s parlour to maximum snob effect.

R D Russell & Marian Peppler [Geffrye Museum 1983]
Two key 40s & 50s designers - full of amazing shop and domestic design pictures. Exceedingly evocative tribute to a pair of great modernist craft masters!

Putting On The Style [S. MacDonald & J. Porter, Geffrye Museum 1990]
Style compendium of setting up home in the 1950s. Almost as essential as 'Contemporary' and - once again - packed with amazing interiors and exteriors.

Fifties Style [Richard Horn, Beech Tree Books 1985]
Another compendium of kitsch - but some pleasing graphics.

Plastics Designs & Materials [Sylvia Katz, MacMillan 1978]
The hard stuff!

Boring Postcards [Martin Parr, Phaidon]
This collection of New Town concourses, precincts and Motorway stations is presented as a post-modernist joke. But the faded hues of the pictures and jaunty post-war architecture somehow pull at the heartstrings. Even the interiors of social clubs and rest homes look rosily nostalgic set against today's legacy of 80s toy-town mall architecture. Begs for a CD of accompanying incidental background music.

London Eats Out [Museum of London]
Based round the museum's 1999 exhibition of the same name this features a couple of pages of cafe info and assorted pictures of Lyon's Tea Houses.

Classic Cafes | Iain Sinclair interview

Classic Cafes | Quentin Reynolds interview

Classic Cafes | Mr Burkeman interview

Return To Top of Page