Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Proper Caffs


The proper greasy spoon café is becoming an endangered species. I had a particular love of the cafes that were started up by Greek and Turkish Cypriots who emigrated to Britain after the war.

The beauty of these was that they covered the full range from the proper fry up, to Brit classics like steak and kidney pudding, and delish moussakas and kebabs. They were invariably dirt cheap, and although you couldn’t call it a fine dining experience, there was something pleasurable about sitting at a formica table with squeezey tomato and HP sauce bottles plonked in front of you.

The inexorable march of the fast food outlets has more or less killed them off. They will never be an acceptable substitute. Sitting on a plastic chair and eating out of a polystyrene container just doesn’t have the same appeal. The food in the greasy spoon probably wasn’t much healthier, but at least it was freshly cooked on the premises and tasted like proper food.

I suppose the second generation immigrants didn’t want to continue with the family business. The same thing’s happened with Greek restaurants, which used to be ubiquitous. Our high streets are already homogenised with chain stores, and it’s a shame to see the traditional caffs being squeezed out by the chains. How many Starbucks do we need for fuck’s sake?

21 comments:

Alex M said...

We've got a great wee cafe/sweet shop right underneath our flat. It's been there for at least thirty years, and three generations of the same Italian family have worked in it. As far as I can tell it still has the original decor and layout, and the same huge tubs of sweets in the window.

It's a fab wee place, but with a 24 convenience store just opened a couple of doors down, I just hope it can stay in business.

Fab ice-cream too.

Come to think of it, the place deserves a blog post of its own when I get around to it.

garfer said...

I suppose the University Cafe on Byers Road is quite similar. It's a bit of an institution.

Piggy and Tazzy said...

I fucking hate Starfucks. I can remember, many years ago, enjoying Starfucks coffee in Canada and thought it was okay - just like I can remember 'Subway' takeaways.

Now. What the fuck happened? They're bloody everywhere, sometimes more than once on the same fucking street.

And who the hell are all those people paying such extortionate prices for a cup of crap coffee anyway?

And have you noticed the lot that sit there ALL DAY drinking cappucino while perusing the papers? Lazy, bone-idle, good for nothing cunts.

*trots back out to order a double espresso*

garfer said...

Tina is currently blaspheming tea, our national beverage, and the perfect partner for a nice tea cake. Disgraceful.
I avoid Starbucks, Costa etc like the plague. Give me a proper caff with a gurgling expresso machine any day.

Sniffy said...

Helenic Cafe in Leeds used to have compulsory smoking. You'd go in there for a coffee before going to the local Odeon and, after navigating through the wall of luscious ciggie smoke, past the people buying their £1.50 Sunday roast dinner (pork that day), you'd get to such a formica table and enjoy your coffee and cigarette in peace.

There was a similar one in Harrogate near the bus station too. This was run by British folk and it did the most superb steak and kidney plate pie you could imaging. Proper fresh veg too. Dirt cheap.

Some still exist, but in the less popular parts of towns - just where they need to be to survive. There are a couple near the university in Manchester. No smoking these days, but the quality and VFM are still there.

Globalisation is just another word for stifling choice.

Sniffy said...

The British drank coffee long before tea was ever brought to these shores!

garfer said...

Some bastions of caffdom do remain.
May there windows remain steamed up in perpetuity.

Sniffy said...

I always try to have strawberry milkshake when I go into a proper caff these days. It takes me back to my childhood lunches in the Kingfisher Cafe in Swinton: cheese & salad barm with a glass of strawberry milkshake. Not exactly greasy spoon, but that's because Mother was a bit too responsible.

garfer said...

The milkshakes were always Crusha.
To taste properly they had to be drunk through a straw.

Sniffy said...

Yep, Crusha, that's the stuff. Delish it was too.

garfer said...

You can still get it. It's not the same drinking it at home though.

Sniffy said...

Some cafes still do it, although they never make it strong enough, the cheap bastards.

S.I.D. said...

There is a gem of an old cafe up the Shankill Road in Belfast, and they serve the Ulster Fry from 7am.
Two eggs, bacon, sausage,fried soda and a nice piece of slim!
With a mug of coffee of course.

Hangover cure delux.

They dont make em like they used to.

suburban wonder said...

If any of you ever make it over the Atlantic and near Pennsylvania, I'll take you to the Court Diner. My parents used to take me to Sunday breakfast there every week when I was little (and they were still married). Breakfast is the best meal to get at a diner. I recommend SOS (Creamed chipped beef on toast - commonly referred to as Shit on a Shingle, or SOS) with hash browns.

pissoff said...

I have been to a good greasy spoon in eons. However, you just can't find good bubble over here so what's the use.

garfer said...

The one thing that the North Americans do best is the roadside diner. With ultra cheap breakfasts who needs to cook?
Iy mystifies me why waffles and pancakes for breakfast haven't made it across the altlantic. Delish.

Alex M said...

I don't get along with the "sweet" breakfast that the American's like. They cover everything in syrup - yuk! Nice for desert, but not first thing in the morning.

My mate John keeps a complete stock of Crusha in his flat at all times. He loves it.

surly girl said...

may i recommend Jack's Cafe in deepest Ippo? truly wonderful hangover fare (for me = sausage egg and chips and....strawberry milkshake), and absolutely, squeakily, spotlessly clean. makes mcdonalds look like the filthy shithole it is.

Rainypete said...

God bless the greasy spoon! We've got a few diners in town that specialize only in breakfast. The rest of the day they have other offerings, but still cook breakfast type foods.

garfer said...

I once saw a Canadian order a plate of six fried eggs and proceed to pour maple syrup all over them. Truly bizarre.

MHN for short said...

We've got a small chain of greasy spoons that we like. They're called 59 Diner. The onet hat we like is just across the street from a homemade ice cream joint(mmmmmm. Amy's Ice Cream....). There was a real dining car that we used to go to called Simpson's Diner. It burned down. I cried.