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
Click here > for the abbreviated No. 8 bus London
Also, here's the full unexpurgated
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...
More > Vince Special
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.
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.
Grill [High Holborn W1] RIP
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
[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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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'
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
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
House [North Audley St WC1]
Brilliant Chalet-style fine
interior and box seats.
[Wentworth St nr Petticoat Lane.]
Great seats and brown
formica - dark and humid. Good paneling throughout, nice
Good local cafe opposite the Forum
club. Good n' dingy - fair int.
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
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)
Cafe W8 [Warwick Rd]
Fair interior - Fine seating but naff outside
sign - opposite large Homebase store.
Valtaro [Kingly St Soho]
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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