Proper food by proper people

One of the joys of my present engagement at the lovely National Portrait Gallery is having the West End at my disposal. At lunch time the whole world is out there, waiting to be eaten.
Today I walked up to a little hidden gem, the imaginatively named Café Number One, on the corner of Earlham Street and Tower Street, just across the road from Fopp.
It’s a corner store, so is shaped like a slice of cake. It probably serves slices of cake, if you ask nicely, although I had a baked potato with coleslaw and cheese. I know, this is getting rather dull already but stick with me. The potato was properly baked: crispy and crunchy on the outside, fluffy and hot inside. It was just the right size and temperature for a hungry consultant on a cold day. The coleslaw was tasty, not gloopy or over-saucy. The cheese was flaked rather than grated, and not melted, so it was firm and cheesy rather than runny and greasy. I also had a cup of tea – tea bag in. All this came to £3.70, eating in at the little perchy table thing alongside the counter.
As I read the sports pages of the Guardian I earwigged the orders of the other customers. Leaving aside the number of people who said “can I get” when placing their orders (sure, come round this side of the counter and serve yourself) what struck me, other than the speed, friendliness and efficiency of the staff, was that all the customers clearly worked nearby. No Covent Garden-bound tourists, no Soho sightseers, no-one other than people who already knew this place was there.
This has to be one of the side effects of the Starbucks/McDonald’s/Subway/Pret hegemony. One stands accused of not paying taxes, one of causing obesity, several of their stores omit odours that make me want to vomit, but surely, all of them are causing people to do the boring thing, just go for the familiar, not take any chances – and, in so doing – not support small business and charming, independent, proper cafes serving delicious, bargaintastic food.
Please pop in to Café Number One. It’s great. I want it still to be there next week, next month and next year. You can spend the fiver you save at Fopp, on an upgraded copy of a CD you already have, thus keeping the ailing record industry afloat for another 34 seconds. Everyone wins.

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2 Responses to “Proper food by proper people”

  1. Isn’t just great when one finds a hidden gem like this? I still find it amazing that in this day and age one can be taken-aback when good service is provided along with lovely food and surroundings, when infact it should be the norm!

  2. It’s those small vendors who make London a “small, personalised” city rather than the endemic Euro High Street. Off the beaten track has always produced the best eateries where ever we have travelled.

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