Archive for the ‘London WC1 (Bloomsbury)’ Category

Cafe Presto, Torrington Place, Bloomsbury

February 22, 2011

First visited: Tuesday 22nd February 2011

Interior: Cafe Presto isn’t really for me. It’s perfect for someone who wants to sit in the refreshing air and soak up the traffic noises, probably with an inhale of nictotine just for luck, as it has a large number of seats outside, and virtually none inside. Even the two tables inside might as well be outside because they keep the door open. Essentially a take-away counter, it’s a pretty inviting one of those, with plenty of fillings, as well as pre-filled ‘it’s not really ciabatta’ panini (I don’t mind that in a place like this – I was a bit shocked when the Italian deli in St Paul’s Road did the same) and unexpected snacks like mini-samosas.

Food: I had a mug of tea which, while under-watered, left the teabag in, which gave me plenty of scope for strength (is is me, though, or is there something design-unfriendly about those stainless steel mini-jugs of milk?) and two slices of brown toast with margarine. The toast was exactly what you would expect, but the whole thing, tea, toast and sitting came to a princely £1!  Felt like a bargain.


Beani Bar, Torrington Place, Bloomsbury

October 30, 2010

Visited: Saturday 30th October 2010; Last visited: Wednesday 5th January 2011

Interior: Beani bar has been very smartly decorated. While clearly brand new, it has a pleasant ‘Italian coffee bar’ retro feel with stylish red and black vinyl chairs, tiles and formica tables. The red chairs are particularly-comfy looking, but since they are at the big table by the door, and I was on my own, I thought I’d skulk away from the draft. Unfortunately the pleasant interior was not matched by the welcome, which was as grumpy as you like. For some reason I think lemon-sucking service is worse when it comes from young, attractive women than from middle-aged men and women. I’ve never had an unfriendly welcome from a young man.

Food: I just had a  mug of tea today and was pleased that it was a proper mug, a strong teabag and it was left in (although next time I’ll ask for just a dash of milk, and might get slightly less than a half tea : half milk ratio). The menu is sandwich bar rather than caff (including some lovely looking pre-prepared omelettes – very south beach diet!) but you can get a full breakfast and an egg or bacon roll. The eponymous beans are of the coffee kind, but beans on toast also appear on the menu.

This one is open on Saturdays and not far from University, so I’ll give it another try, but it will be the last chance unless the staff crack a few smiles and stop making us feel like we’re ruining their day by trying to buy a cup of tea from them.

Cafe Noisette, Museum Street, Bloomsbury

January 12, 2010

Visited: Sunday 10th January 2010

Interior: Noisette is a pleasant wooden floors/wooden tables cafe space. Appropriately for Bloomsbury, it’s the kind of place you can imagine whiling away an afternoon reading your latest acquisition from the London Review Bookshop. (Because you probably couldn’t get into the cake shop there as it’s always full or about to close). The welcome was a little mixed – big smile when we entered then rather sulky thereafter.

Food: I had a cheese and tomato toasted sandwich with a peppermint tea, which was a generous portion served from a little pot. I was disapp0inted that they didn’t do decaff coffee. The sandwich was okay, and the accompanying salad actually quite nice, but the cost raised our eyebrows somewhat: 1 tea, 1 coffee, 2 cheese and tomato toasties on brown – nearly £13.00. Judging by my experience at the nearby Ruskin Cafe, Museum Street is not the place to go for value for money.

Ruskins Cafe, Museum Street

November 23, 2009

Visited: Saturday 15th November 2009

Interior: Ruskin’s is one of the more attractive cafe options in a somewhat touristy part of London – its tiled interior only slightly marred by bog-standard chairs and tables and a terrible inclination to keep the door open. Unfortunately, the welcome does not match the appearance – our stroppy waitress only temporarily dropped her mobile to bellow that we must collect our drinks ourselves when we attempted to drop our bags at a table.

Food: Beans on toast was one of the more pathetic effort – from its sparse appearance, a mini-tin of Heinz had been shared between two of us. There was barely enough to cover one piece of flabby, soggy toast, let alone four. And no, a slice of cucumber and quarter of a tomato does not make it worth 2.50 each, especially when an ordinary sized cup of tea costs £2. Poor showing all round.

Bloomsbury Diner, Bloomsbury Street

September 17, 2009

Visited: Saturday 12th September 09

Interior: Some institutional heritage tiling saves this cafe from being completely featureless, although it’s not one to go for atmosphere. There’s something not very convincing about the welcome, as if they’re trying to smile but would really rather you weren’t there.

Food: The Diner reaches beyond traditional caff food to cater for the large number of tourists failing to find the British Museum (it’s big, but somehow invisible). I had the ‘falafel feast’, of which the falafel itself was rather dry, but there was plenty of salad, including generous quantities of parsley (or not very pungent coriander). I also had a decaff coffee which was perfectly drinkable, not always a given.

Valtaro Snack Bar, Marchmont Street, WC1

September 24, 2008

First Visited: Monday 22nd September 2008, last visited: Saturday 2nd January 2010

Interior: Pared down classic of the formica/leatherette variety – no tables, but literally a bar hugging the walls with stools, but comfortable for all that. There was certainly enough width on the bar to take journal articles and notebooks as well as a plate of food and mug of tea. You order at the counter, paying beforehand, and the welcome was particularly friendly.

Food: Valtaro offer a surprisingly large choice for such a tiny place – perhaps because there is a generous space given to the kitchen. Tempted by the breakfasts (especially as it was 11.30), I opted instead for the vegetarian pasta which was absolutely delicious. The fact that it took more than five minutes and the pasta was amazingly non-soggy makes me wonder if they made it freshly. The mug of tea which arrived instantly was lovely. Everything was very cheap indeed.

Update: Today I had a veggie breakfast of a high quality – really lovely fried bubble, lots of beans and good grilled tomatoes. The mushrooms were tinned and not great, but tasty enough mixed in with the beans. Good value at £3.20 – toast and tea are extra but, to be honest, toast was completely unnecessary and at 50p per mug, tea is a bargain. I had two mugs.

Update for 2010: Another great breakfast, and my companion recommended the bacon, although he did consider that the meat content of the sausage probably qualified it as a vegetarian one.

Casa Nostra Cafe, Hastings St, WC1

June 17, 2008

Visited: Tuesday 17th June 2008

Friendly caff, good location, nice food

Appearance: Nice tiling and wooden tables – standardised lino and lunch counter look, but with that extra bit of effort.

Food: They didn’t have the advertised grilled veg, but they cut me up some fresh courgette especially, and gave me a bit of stuffed mushroom (yummy) for no particular reason. They had both granary bap and mozzarella, although my sarnie was sadly made with marge. Tea was lovely and in a mug though! All a good price.

Altogether a nice little find, really friendly welcome in a lovely spot, at the corner, appropriately enough, of Sandwich Street.

Marchmont St Cafe, Bloomsbury

September 12, 2007

Visited: Saturday 8th September 2007

A friendly welcome and nice location but otherwise unremarkable

Interior: Very standard metal tables, glass counter, nothing particular about it

Food: I had fried egg on toast and a mug of tea, which was perfectly nice and cheap. Best thing about the cafe is the nice view onto marchmont st. Welcome was terse but friendly nonetheless.

Bush & Fields, Museum Street

February 28, 2007

First Visited: Wednesday 28th February 2007, Last visited, Friday 7th January 2011

Lovely food in a friendly atmosphere. Not open late. It doesn’t appear to have anything to do with the take-away counter in the Bush House arcade of the same name. Every now and again I go a bit mushy at memories of Joseph’s melt, banter with Robbie and the assistant that looked like Gabrielle out of Xena, Warrior Princess.

Interior: The tiles behind the counter take this from being standard to being traditional, although in many ways it’s the friendliness of the staff which marks it out rather than any interior details.

Food: I had a spaghetti calabrese which would have been worthy of an Italian restaurant at half again the price. And Earl Grey came in a mug. Shepherds pie on the next table looked delicious. And they didn’t have a problem with my occupying a four-person table although I was on my own (but carrying a huge rucksack) and it was just before the lunch rush.

Cafe Deco, Store Street

January 31, 2007

Visited: Monday 8th January, last visited Saturday 9th August

Handy for my swimming pool and GP, this place is notable for being open on Saturdays. Service is friendly and overwhelmingly male.

Interior: Standard, but it is cramped enough to feel cosy.

Food: Rather impressive – vegetable pasta had loads of courgettes and broccoli in it and a really good ratio of sauce to pasta. A good-sized portion too. I had a decent side salad with dressing and ground black pepper. Tea was in a stupid cup of course


The pasta is a bit gloopy, and often not fully heated in the microwave (maybe it doesn’t have a turntable?) and the serving system is a bit unhelpful – you’re supposed to add your own black pepper at the counter but if there’s a queue it’s a bit tricky, then take your plate back to your seat yourself and, yes, there’s still a little dish for tips – but I still like this place.