Regency Cafe – Westminster

The Regency Cafe serves what is probably the cheapest pint in London. Coming in at just 50 pence it beats even Wetherspoons. But I’m talking squash here (available in a variety of flavours), not craft beer.

Unless someone has told you about the Regency, or you’ve been yourself, you’re more than likely not to have heard of it, nor walked past it. Situated near Horseferry Rd, the cafe sits on an unassuming, and let’s be honest fairly uninteresting street with little else there other than flats and offices.

This gem of a place opened in 1946, and has featured in both films (Layer Cake) and TV shows such as London Spy. With the exception of some pasta (exotic) this place couldn’t be more English. In 2013 it was voted fifth best eatery in London.

Nestled between Channel 4 HQ and Parliament one can only imagine what dealings may have taken place across the formica tables. The clientele are a mixed bunch – office workers, Japanese tourists, cabbies – a thrilling and diverse mix reflective of London itself.

 

Decor is art deco and I’d imagine largely untouched for years. The tiles on the walls are original, pre-dating the wall to wall tile trend that seemingly features in every new bar and restaurant these days. Photos of Spurs players and boxers adorn the walls for no clear reason.

The first warning I will give you is that this place is highly stressful. Firstly there sometimes can be queues – big ones at that – so getting in is the initial challenge. Today there are six of us so the challenge is pretty sizeable. There’s a small line but we’re ok.

Next the rules are you cannot under any circumstances sit down before you’ve ordered. You order first, and then hope to the breakfast gods you can find a table.

The third hurdle is what to order. It would seem at first there are hundreds of options but on closer inspection you’ll see that it is predominately combinations of every conceivable fry-up breakfast item (plus chips) with a few additional classics such as scampi and pies. Bacon, chips and beans/sausage, chips and egg/gammon, beans and sausage and so forth. The list could go on.

Be prepared, be decisive and please listen out for your order. Food normally comes out in around 2 minutes so don’t expect to have a long leisurely meal.

Around the table we all have all chosen different things. I pick a steak pie which is really good, meatastic, a thick pastry top, lovely rich gravy and a generous portion to boot. Chips are proper too – no skinny fries here. The peas are that green hue you only get from tinned vegetables but as the healthiest part of my meal I willingly take them on.

There’s a daily special always on offer, a set breakfast at £5.50 and a few custard friendly desserts. An omelette (with chips) comes in at £3.45, a large beefburger (with chips) £3.60 and various salads (probably with chips) around the £4-5 mark. Tea (builders and 90p) or coffee comes in mugs (from an urn natch) and you can even get orange juice in glass milk bottles like you used to order from the milkman.

Now I’d be doing you all a disservice if I didn’t mention one of the best features of the place. The lovely lady at the counter who quietly and swiftly takes you order.

Once seated a voice so loud that would put Brian Blessed to shame booms your waiting order across the crowded cafe. You may only manage a few sentences of your conversation before being interrupted with “GAMMON, CHIPS AND EGG!!!”. Like I said it’s not relaxing but this is totally part of the experience. If you want to be quiet then go to Costa.

Probably don’t come here on a date, or for a work meeting, but do come with a hangover and/or a large appetite. This place is fantastic and cheap as chips (literally).

Opening hours:

Mon – Friday: 7:00 – 14:30,  16:00 – 19:15
Sat: 7:00 – 12:00
Sun: closed