Archive for the ‘London WC2 (Covent Garden)’ Category

Crown Cafe, Strand, Near Waterloo Bridge

December 17, 2010

Visited: 10th December 2010

Interior: While it may seem perfectly ordinary to many, I’ve come to love the tiled interior, sandwich counter and steamy windows of the classic London sandwich bar. There may be sentimental value as I had a strange feeling that my stepmother once took me here as a child when she was working at Bush House and allowed me to have a cake. However, the welcome was genuinely friendly. It was open after 6pm on a Friday evening as well which is more than many can say.

Food: I doubt the breakfasts would have been anything special here. However I had a cheese toasty and a decaff coffee and both of them were absolutely delicious. A nice lump of coleslaw on the side of my toasty and there I was, transported back to 1983 (when I would have preferred a cake really).


Cafe Milan, Shaftesbury Avenue

December 3, 2010

Visited: Friday 3rd December 2010

Interior: They’ve clearly made an effort here, with shiny tables and funky chairs and a stripped down ‘Italian’ look, but I didn’t like it very much. However, I must say that the counter was very inviting indeed – a genuinely tempting salad bar, bowls of pasta which looked lovely and lots of pastries nicely displayed. So full marks for effort.

Food: I had a jacket potato with cheese and coleslaw and I wasn’t very impressed. The potato wasn’t really hot enough for the (generous portion of) grated cheese to melt and the cold coleslaw on top didn’t help. The side salad was pleasant, but for £3.50 I think I’d expect something a bit more special. On the plus side the tea, similarly pricey at £1.50 per mug, was absolutely lovely. A strong triangular-bag brew,  not too much milk and the bag was left in!

Spreads, New Row, Covent Garden

February 23, 2010

Visited: Friday 19th February 2010


I’d always avoided Spreads because of its position in the heart of tourist land. After all, if you can entice people in to pay 9 pounds for fish and chips that went direct from freezer to microwave, why make an effort? However, I’m very glad I gave it a chance. On a rainy Friday afternoon, Spreads was extremely comforting and cosy. And the clientele clearly not just tourists. The decor is somewhat remniscent of the kinds of cafes-cum-restaurants that you get in English holiday fishing villages, but with strong overtones of raffia-chianti trattoria as well. Pulp film posters in Italian added to this latter feel and they do indeed have a  pizza and pasta menu. Wooden tables add to the cosy atmosphere and I was lucky, dining solo, that they had a one-person (or two friendly folk sitting side by side) table so I wasn’t hassled to leave.

Food: I had a jacket potato with cheese and coleslaw and a decaff coffee, both very nice indeed. The jacket was edible right to the skin, suggesting it had been baked thoroughly before being microwaved and the filling had just the right amount of gooey elastics of melting cheese to mash up into the potato flesh. Salad garnish was on the substantial side although it’s a shame there was no dressing among the condiments (apart from malt vinegar). It wasn’t the cheapest, but given the quality, I’m not complaining. I’ve certainly had worse!

Boggi’s, Monmouth Street, Seven Dials

May 2, 2009

***Cafe closed and stripped out as of October 2009***

Visited: Friday 1st May 2009

Interior:  A very nice example of the sandwich bar with a long formica counter looking onto one of central london’s more pleasant streets. The interior is enhanced by loads of natural light and the theatre posters typical of the Covent Garden caff. You order at the sandwich counter as you come in and pay there and then – clearly mostly catering for take-away trade (and Boggi’s opening hours would indicate an office-oriented clientele, despite its west end location) – but there’s plenty of seating room, tables too.

Food: I had a very nice jacket potato with a generous topping of cheese and coleslaw, in which the presence of red onion indicated it may not have come entirely from a white plastic tub. The jacket had been baked before being microwaved and had creamy flesh and an entirely edible skin. Nice mug of tea, although the pre-paying system didn’t really encourage one to order a second.

Chandos Sandwich Bar, Chandos Place, Covent Garden

February 23, 2009

Visited: Saturday 21st Feb 09

Interior: Attractive Italian-style sandwich bar. All the furniture is new, but had a traditional feel about it. There was a strong chip fat smell but it was otherwise a very pleasant place to be and the very young female staff were very friendly.

Food: I had two slices of granary toast with mushrooms and a fried egg which was cooked perfectly (the mushrooms were less nice). It came with a nice mug of tea. By contrast with the nearby Porky’s Pantry, the sandwich counter offered an amazing range of lovely fillings. I predict long queues on weekday lunchtimes.

Porky’s Pantry, Chandos Place, Covent Garden

February 18, 2009

Visited 17th February 2009

Interior: Green leatherette chairs in unusually good condition, projecting tables and a classic sandwich counter make this a classic caff in every respect. Be warned the deep fat fryer smell is particularly prevalent in this caff. Like many caffs based in old houses, going to the loo can be an adventure. Everything is spotless though.

Food: I had mushooms on granary toast and a tea and it was very nice indeed – mushrooms were fresh and sliced fine. Porky’s sandwich menu doesn’t seem to encompass roasted veg or sun dried tomato – expect spam, wiener schnitzel and coronation chicken instead. The full range of breakfasts is served all day.

Ola Cafe Bistro, Shaftesbury Ave, WC2

November 14, 2008

Visited Thursday 13th November 2008

Interior: Pleasant and enticing: wooden floors, tables and chairs – an interior that will lend itself to transformation into dining location in the evening.

Food: I had 2 slices of brown toast with mushrooms and grilled tomatoes. They were absolutely fine, nothing special but perfectly edible and were prepared for me despite the fact that they weren’t on the rather limited breakfast menu. They also weren’t especially expensive. I would have had the veggie breakfast but the manager had never heard of the distinction between free range and battery chickens (although he did know the eggs were from British farms, which is a start). Tea was poor, however: a cup (not a huge one) of tea made with hot water and teabag, costing GBP 1.60. I’d say this place is only marginally a caff. Lets hope it succeeds more as an upmarket cafe and bistro.

Franx, Shaftesbury Avenue, WC2

November 9, 2008

Last visited: Sunday 9th November 2008

Interior: Franx has the kind of utilitarian interior which may become classic some day: plastic formica tables, dusky pink wall tiles and black and pink chequerboard lino floor. It has the classic sandwich bar layout, a few tables and an unexpected wall-hugging bar at the windowless back. The lack of ventilation at the back has the unfortunate by-product that the door was kept wide-open on a chilly Sunday morning, not encouraging customers to linger. Perhaps because the noise from the street interfered with their listening, the staff had turned Heart FM up to stratospheric levels. Writing as one accustomed to blocking out radio noise while reading journal articles in caffs, this was made impossible here.

Food: I had the veggie breakfast which was mixed in quality: I was impressed by the generous portion of grilled tomatoes (3 thick slices of a beef tomato), the mushrooms were tinned, but okay when mixed into the beans but the hash browns had the sour taste of old oil from the deep fat fryer. Tea was good and the price was a standard (for tourist-land) 4 pounds 50, but it wasn’t a great experience.

I wouldn’t come back to Franx, which is a shame as I have fond memories of coming here much need tea and toasted sandwiches after marches when other venues were all closed, but there’s more choice in this bit of Covent Garden on a Sunday now and neither the venue, nor the food nor the welcome was particularly enticing.

Laguna, Charing Cross Road, WC2

November 3, 2008

**Now closed and building demolished**

Visited: Monday October 27th 2008

Interior: Laguna is in one of Central London’s uglier locations: in the shadow of Centrepoint, surrounded by discount bookshops and ticket agencies. There is, in fact, nothing to object in its interior, which is spotlessly clean and makes brave attempts at enhancement with pot plants and pictures. My problem was that on a night when temperatures were heading towards freezing, the door was kept open the whole time. I realise it’s hot work running a charcoal grill, but it is far less hot sitting eating the results. It makes no sense to me: on a hot day I’d get a takeaway and sit in Soho square.

Food: I chose to visit Laguna because of their excellent and generous falafel wraps, which I used to eat when I worked in Centrepoint. The quality was the same – I’m sure it’s mass produced falafel, but it comes with generous portions of salad, tahina and yoghurt, none of which tastes like it came from a plastic tub with lots of e-numbers. The only problem was that where the takeaway variety is expertly assembled for you, the sit-in version is dolloped daintily around a plate, making an ample portion look rather meagre. It also came with a single pitta rather than flatbread and my stuffing skills leave something to be desired. Overall the quality is fine, but I’ll probably leave a return visit to the kind of day I can take it away. No hot drink as it was too late for tea and they had no decaff coffee.

Diana’s Diner, Endell Street, WC2

October 18, 2008

Last visited: Saturday 10th January 2009

Diana’s diner has gone up in my estimation –
It was open on a Saturday night at 6pm, and my companion had an omelette and chips which he greatly enjoyed. The pasta looked nice too.

Interior: Lovely, cosy wooden interior, theatre flyers everywhere, wooden tables, walls – everything. A completely comfortable place to be.

Food: Not so good, unfortunately. It’s not that my grilled tomatoes and mushrooms on toast was that awful – the mushrooms were tinned, and particularly salty and slimy, but the toast was lovely and buttery and not totally soggy – it’s that they cost, with a mug of tea, the same as the vegetarian breakfast. When I asked about this, the assistant simply shrugged. I don’t think I’m being too fussy if I think that paying 4.50 for two slices of toast with not very much on them and a mug of tea is too much, when they can offer additional beans and eggs for the same price?