London’s best greasy spoons and traditional caffs, from E.Pellicci to the Regency Cafe

Fry to die for: the Regency Cafe, by Victoria  (AFP via Getty Images)
Fry to die for: the Regency Cafe, by Victoria (AFP via Getty Images)

Greasy spoons are to England what the diner is to the US. They are a culinary waypoint that helps codify the peculiarity of what “British food” once meant, and remain a place where celebrities and builders and architects and students all rub elbows. And, in the disposable age of doing things for the ‘gram, they represent staunch opposition — they represent standing the test of time.

That said, thanks to rents and rates, London has lately lost even the best of its greasy spoons. Happily, a few remain; below are our favourites.


 (E Pellicci)
(E Pellicci)

The rise of east London’s cool started long before gentrification entered the lexicon. Still, you’re probably equally likely to find Central Saint Martin’s dropouts and Arcteryx-wearing 22-year-olds at E.Pellicci as you will long-standing locals. This family-run cafe has been open for nearly 125 years. Maria, the wife of Elide Pellicci’s successor, heads up the kitchen. You can still get breakfast baps, fry ups and, as the name suggests, plenty of Italian dishes. Expect value, warmth and to speak to the person at the table next to you. They’ll probably have a marvellous story, and it’ll probably be about the Krays. Or Ray Winstone farting.

332 Bethnal Green Road, E2 0AG,



Nevermind a list of excellent London cafes, Terry’s is one of the best places to eat in town. Comparably young — Terry’s was set up by its namesake owner, a former Smithfield Market butcher, in Borough in 1982 — the place is now run by second generation chef Austin Yardley, who sources quality produce to make superb fried breakfasts, Welsh rarebit and bangers and mash. If Yardley is in, there might be nowhere better for quality British comfort food, the lesser-spotted bubble and squeak included. Is it any wonder the place has its own brand of tea?

158 Great Suffolk Street, SE1 0DT,

Regency Cafe

Any list of greasy spoons would be incomplete without the addition of the Regency Cafe. Solidified in some generations minds’ by countless film and TV appearances, it’s lasted since 1946, when it was founded by Antonio Perotti and Gino Schiavetta, due in part to an unfailingly simple offering and loyal locals. The walls are lined with photos of Muhammad Ali and Tottenham Hotspur paraphernalia, the red and white checked curtains give privacy from peeping pedestrians, and laminated papers with ad-hoc menu additions in bright red fonts border the kitchen hatch. Today, fine breakfasts endure, ones of golden hash browns, crisp bacon and keenly fried eggs, each plate a pretty picture on original Formica tables. Many would find it hard to broach the £15 mark when eating here. Good spaghetti bolognese at lunchtime, too.

17-19 Regency Street, SW1P 4BY,

Kennington Lane Cafe

An essential feature of the true greasy spoon is the oval-shaped plate. Whilst the total volume of usable surface may be identical to that of their more widely-used rounded cousins, the oval plate, particularly with a fry-up piled high upon it, is a far more pleasing thing. It just looks as though there is so much more there to enjoy. This is the way of things at Kennington Lane Cafe. The breakfasts are plentiful and delicious, the space is all fixed wooden chairs and Formica-laminated tables. The lighting is both terrible and exactly correct. For warmer days, there are tables outside.

383 Kennington Lane, SE11 5QY,

Electric Cafe

Early rising workers and later rising students eat between these walls. The east-facing facade means the morning light is often just so that it shimmies and bounces off the surface of the anonymous bottles of vinegar, next to the red and brown sauces (no branding, please). The breakfasts are simple, delicious and there’s a small specials board for lunches. It’s a proper caff, through and through.

258 Norwood Road, SE27 9AJ, @theelectriccafe

Mario’s Cafe

One of London’s most historic British-Italian cafes, Mario’s has a wonderfully chequered history, as so many great London restaurants do. First opened in 1958 as Tony’s Restaurant, the site became a Chinese for a while in the Seventies, after a fallout between the two Italian owners. For four years it sat unoccupied, until 1989 when the children of the original founders came together to open Mario’s. Named after the “uneducated, unemployed, pot-smoking wannabe rockstar” (his words) Mario Saggese, this Kentish Town hangout was a popular haunt for the arty Camden crowd of the Nineties and still serves the Kelly Street locals today. The decor is a little more modern than some, as are the vibes. Eggs on toast might be traditional, but sourdough toast is available (at a premium). Otherwise, have a bouncy omelette or a superb aubergine parmigiana, served with chips. The coffee, a contentious issue with owner Mario, who hates the term “barista” — is completely unfussy. 6 Kelly Street, NW1 8HP,


This could very well be the pinnacle of greasy spoons. Closed at the weekend but open from 6.30am until 2pm on weekdays — hours most hospitality folk would sell their mother for — Beppes is a rare thing. Here you’ll find generous breakfasts, a wall of international bank notes, wooden beams, a chalkboard. The food is as hearty, straightforward and nourishing as it’s possible to get. There’s more than ninety years of history within the walls of Beppes.

23 West Smithfield, EC1A 9HY, @beppescafe1932

Bar Bruno

 (Garry Knight)
(Garry Knight)

Alongside the sandwiches at the Italian deli I Camisa, Bar Bruno is a haven to cheap Soho lunches. It is another Britalian institution, one founded in the middle of the last century and a prime example of the best feeders in Europe doing better business by way of London. Today it is run by second generation Frank, in charge since the late Seventies. Bar Bruno is always frenetic, nevertheless a table will prove forthcoming, and on it should come classic fry ups, chicken Milanese and cheesy lasagne. To take away, ask for an omelette folded robustly inside ciabatta, a bread invented long after (1982) Bar Bruno began aiding Soho’s hungover.

101 Wardour Street, W1F 0UG, @barbruno101

River Cafe (Ronald Hackston - (Ronald Hackston -

No, not that one. This River Cafe is also in Fulham but is inordinately more affordable than its more famous counterpart. The food might be just as joyful. Here is a cafe that puts hash browns on the standard set breakfast (the question of whether these are vital to a full English is up for debate), while the bacon sandwiches — juicy and dripping — are a particular and notable highlight. Also on offer are plates of liver and bacon, shepherd’s pie, and the decor has sparsely changed since the Sixties. One thing to consider is match days. Due to its proximity to Stamford Bridge, home of Chelsea FC, it is advisable to avoid the cafe when a game is on.

1A Station Approach, SW6 3UH, 020 7736 6296

The Bridge Cafe

 (Google Maps)
(Google Maps)

The Bridge is owned by Frank and Jerry Marcangelo, brothers from a long line of Italian cafe owners. Here, atop a bridge connecting a residential pocket of north Acton with an industrial estate, is a place made famous(ish) thanks to its proximity to the television studios used to film The Apprentice. Losing contestants — one of whom once called the Bridge “that hole” in their Sun column, and there has been no better endorsement — would be sent there to sit despondent over mugs on tea and ruminate on their “firing”. They would never eat, oddly. A plate of excellent ham, egg and chips would have cheered them right up.

138 Westfields Road, W3 0AP, 020 8992 2559

Chef's Delight

 (Josh Barrie)
(Josh Barrie)

Chef’s Delight is one of those places with a long and aching menu — have a fry up or an omelette — while the décor straddles that delicate line between depressing and quietly wonderful. It exudes the sentimentality of the movie Lost in Translation, with a whirling ceiling fan, foliage draping from Eighties light fittings, white tables and dark chairs and dark tiles on the floor. When it comes to the service, it is much less melodramatic, only ever friendly and calm and fitted with warmth. The food comes quickly even for a greasy spoon. It is always busy with regulars, and serves its community cheaply; a relaxing, honest place that embodies the simplest but most affecting hospitality. Chef’s Delight means little in the grand scheme of things. To people nearby, it is a mighty resource.

13B High Road, N22 6BH, 020 8127 4854


 (Josh Barrie)
(Josh Barrie)

Here is a café built on true, old school hospitality — it is not hyperbolic or indulgent to call it special. The place recently celebrated its 40th birthday and its longevity is testament to its reverence. A multitude of the city’s cafes were founded by Italian immigrants, but here is one from the late Maggie Khondoker, who moved to London from Cavan, Ireland, on her own at the age of 15. She was a force, founding Maggie’s in Lewisham in 1983 with her Bangladeshi husband Mazid. Her two sons are now in charge but little else has changed: proficient, generous home cooking, the likes of chilli con carne (with rice and chips), cottage pie, and classic cooked breakfasts. A bastion of Irish hospitality in SE13.

320-322 Lewisham Road, SE13 7PA,



In 2016, Andrew’s made headlines after the site nearly fell foul of dreaded property developers. Thankfully, the cafe held fast — notable ITN journalists, their offices close, were key to its preservation — and so full English breakfasts, fluffy jacket potatoes, bacon sandwiches and shepherd’s pies are still quick out of the kitchen. Andrew’s is a charming space in a loud part of London. And it is a story of the city: originally established by Italian brothers Lorenzo and Andrew more around 60 years ago, today a new family is in charge, and doing a good job.

59 Grays Inn Road, WC1X 8TL,