Archive for the ‘Traditional’ Category

Poppins, Poppins Court, Fleet Street (Ludgate Circus)

January 21, 2012

First visited Thursday 19th January 2012

Interior: When I first walked in the door of Poppins, I thought, here’s an interior that hasn’t changed for more than 40 years. On closer inspection, the tables and chairs (tasteful medium brown varnished wood, thank you very much) are clearly recent, but overall they have managed to preserve a real sense of the traditional London caff – I’m so glad they didn’t get rid of the 60s hanging lamps! Old fashioned sit-down caffs are hard to find in the City – I don’t think many city workers go out to a caff for lunch anymore, it’s either something nicer and / or healthier or a takeaway sandwich. Perhaps Poppins manages it because it’s tucked away in an alley. Nobody was looking, so they felt free to keep the burgundy and cream paintwork, lino floor and ceiling tiles that I hadn’t realised you don’t see in offices anymore.  It felt like a real find.

Food: I have to admit that I wasn’t eating at Poppins. I had a lovely bright orange mug of tea (a mug!). But there were a decent range of breakfast options, including my favourites, bubble and black pudding, jackets and sandwiches. But it’s definitely one to remember next time I need a breafkast in the City.


Inhabition, Chalk Farm Road, Camden Town

December 17, 2010

First visited: 17th December 2010

Interior: Pale laminate flooring and varnished pine tables could have made Inhabition a little austere, but in fact it’s one of the cosiest caffs I’ve visited in ages. As its name suggests, it is not the average greasy spoon, but it is not achingly trendy either. Perhaps it’s the theatre posters which makes it feel so welcoming and the proper caff menu which makes it feel so unpretentious. At any rate, a pleasant place to be in, even if it weren’t snowing outside (which it was).

Food: As it was lunchtime, I went for a full breakfast of the vegetarian variety. I was pleased to see bubble rather than the ubiquitous hash browns (I know bubble is just yesterday’s leftover mash and veg, but it is lovely, isn’t it?) and plenty of fresh, if characterless, mushrooms and grilled tomatoes. The poached eggs were perfect. The let-down for me was the veggie sausage, but then I only really like glamorgan sausage in a meat-free breakfast, so I’m not the ideal person to judge. If I may say so, the tea, a generous helping served in a pot, was almost too strong for me and I asked them to top it up with hot water when I’d got through the first lot. Sadly, they added another teabag for which they charged me, rather defeating the purpose, but the thought was there.

Buon Appetito, Sicilian Avenue, Holborn

December 17, 2010

**Appears closed as of December 2011**

First visited: Saturday 11th December 2010

Interior: A real classic this one, totally charming tiled Italian caff of the sort that’s found so rarely in Central London now. In fact, it nearly jumped straight to ‘I like this one’ status, only two things let it down. First, somebody had just used such pungent bleach on the kitchen floor, that the fumes were entering the cafe (one customer getting a take-away coffee said her eyes were watering). It really did make things quite unpleasant and I can cope with a lot in a caff. Secondly, as a mitigating action, the very friendly manager led me to the window table in the attractive annexe room, despite the fact that the cafe was completely empty, and it would be more trouble for him to carry my breakfast in, and offered to open the door for me, little realising that this move would entail my putting all my outdoor clothes back on again. But then most people aren’t as chilly (or ‘nesh’ as Derbyshire people call it) as I am.

Food: I had a toasted granary bap with a bespoke panino filling of roasted veg, fresh tomato and mozza (a sort of off-menu combo which they could only do because they made the panini from scratch). The peppers used had been marinated in balsamic which made the filling a bit sour, but it was nice nevertheless. And the range of fillings and hot dishes was impressive. A plate of goulash or lasagne would have been very tempting had it not been 9.30am on a Saturday morning.

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).

Wilkinson’s Coffee Shop, Bakewell, Derbyshire

October 24, 2010

Visited: Sunday 24th October 2010

Interior: In need of a cup of tea before catching a bus to sheffield, my companions and I attempted to get a table in the ‘Traditional Bakewell Pudding Shop’ only to be met by some indifferent staff who simply said that it would be a wait, despite the presence of several empty tables. Luckily, I’d noticed that the very untwee Wilkinson’s across the road was open. A very nice, simple caff (echoing its ironmongery namesake) with ‘order and pay at the counter’ service highly appropriate to a deadline set by an hourly bus departure. Service was nevertheless friendly (although I had to carry our tray of beverages to our table, reminding me why hospitality was never meant to be my trade). And unlike the cramped tearooms which fill the rest of the town, there was plenty of room for my luggage.

Food: My companions and I shared buttered toast and teacake (well I ate the teacake). Both were standard catering pack fare but very welcome for all that. Actually the teacake was lovely and tea amazingly strong. My companion’s coffee looked very nice too. And all was very cheap indeed. I highly recommend for anyone wanting to replenish hungry mouths without waiting half an hour for a seat!

Gossip Stop Cafe, Queens Crescent, Kentish Town

October 24, 2010

Visited: Wednesday 21st October 2010

Interior: There’s actually nothing special at all about the interior of Gossip Stop – no leatherette seats, no ketchup in the shape of a tomato, no 1970s kitsch – but it’s such a perfect example of an absolutely basic caff that I couldn’t put it in Standard. The welcome was friendly although the single point of service for ordering, paying and getting takeaway caused problems during a period where there were only 6 customers. I wouldn’t want to see it on a Thursday lunchtime when the market’s on…

Food: I had tomato and mushroom on granary toast and it wasn’t the best I’ve had, but was certainly edible. The tea, on the other hand, was lovely.

Marylebone Cafe, Marylebone Lane, W1

June 26, 2010

Visited: Saturday 25th June 2010

Interior: A classic this one – one would almost say a gem. Battered wood and leatherette seats hugging ‘formica’ tables, Magic on the wireless, sauce bottles and sugar shakers on the tables and menu above the counter. Natural light only coming in from the front window. The appearance was a little out of kilter with the service which was not only from the kind of young woman you might expect to be a fashion student, but she was wearing a uniform shirt with a ‘Marylebone Cafe’ insignia on it. She wasn’t notably more unfriendly than other caffs, but she was particularly unhelpful when one very desperate customer gave up on ever getting into the loo as its occupant – not previously seen anywhere in the cafe – seemed unmovable (‘is it out of order or actually occupied?’ ‘yes, there’s someone in there’). It wasn’t that I was punishing her by not leaving a tip, I simply couldn’t calculate it when my need for the loo was so urgent!

Food: I had an extremely nice mushrooms and tomato on granary toast. Both were generous portions and the toast was extra buttery. Tea was also great – in a mug with a strong teabag left in. I think I would have left with a far more positive impression of this cafe were it not for the incident related above. Given that it’s quite hard to find a cosy cafe near Oxford street open on a Saturday, I would not rule out a return. But I might wait until such time as I can nip across to Debenhams afterwards.

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!

De Marco, Junction Road, Archway

December 21, 2009

Visited: Saturday 19th December 2009

De Marco seems to have been done up somewhat since my childhood, although I must say you could never actually see what the darkened interior looked like through the misty windows. However, it still very much has the sense of being a traditional caff and although it doesn’t hold the same attractions as it once did, I was glad to see the ice-cream counter facing directly onto the street was still there. The cold weather meant that ventilation was poor and I left exuding fatty aromas, but the welcome was pleasant.

Food: I had a generous portion of grilled tomatoes, fried egg and mushrooms which was not the best of its kind but perfectly edible and good value at £4.20 including two mugs of tea. The tea itself didn’t have the mighty orange power many caffs offer, but was welcome nonetheless.

Fresh Cut Cafe, Crowndale Road

September 17, 2009

**NB as of Saturday 19th December 2009 this is now called Crown Cafe, but seems unchanged other than the new sign**

Visited: Saturday 12th September 2009

Interior: A warm and friendly traditional interior has been marred by some rather stark stripping down – the bare brick walls and flagstone floors seem more appropriate for wood-fired pizza thane egg on toast. However, leatherette chairs helped to keep ththe atmosphere cosy.

Food: I had fried egg, mushrooms and tomato on 2 brown toast and the egg was really excellent, the tomatoes fine and the mushrooms okay, but not up there with Perugino’s or Double Six. My first mug of tea was a little insipid, but they left the teabag in on request for the second one.