When you feel like I do today, the only appropriate thing to post is about bacon sandwiches. Oh yeah baby.
One of the contributions to global cuisine that this rainy island has made is the English Breakfast Fryup. It's so famous that they've named a type of tea after it (English Breakfast Tea that is, not Fryup Tea – that'd be bloody ludicrous, wouldn't it). You can cook your own breakfast at home, or you can go to a purveyor of such things – this sort of establishment is called a Cafe (pronounced “Caff”). Not far from my office is located one of the exponents of English Cafes – the Regency Cafe.
The Regency Cafe was built in the 50's and evidently they hit on a winning formula because not much has changed since then. The building's quite well maintained, and looks as pristine as one imagines it would have been when it was first put up. The black tiled exterior is done in a style which makes me want to describe it as “deco”, but probably isn't, and is therefore a dead giveaway that I'm architecturally ignorant… but moving on, or in this case, in.
The interior is a pale-yellow tiled, lino-floored and formica tabletop spotless no-nonsense diner. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the tiles were in fact yellow, and not white tiles caked with the accumulate grease of 50 years of breakfast. The walls are adorned with a variety of football photos and pictures of boxers – I know nothing about either of these areas, so I can't elaborate – and it very quickly sets the scene that this is a lads' haven. Apparently it quite often features in films, such as this clip from Layer Cake. It also features on Wikipedia as an example photo for the article on “Greasy Spoon”.
The caff is very definitely the preserve of the British Working Man, and this caff is perennially filled with working blokes – streetsweepers, tradesmen, cops, delivery drivers, cabbies: pretty much all of which will have done about 4 hours' work by the time I've dragged myself out of bed. But one of the best things about the Regency Cafe is that most of the blokes shuffling up to the counter to collect their meals, and back, are slightly overweight and carrying these serene looks of satisfaction that irrespective of the nutritional trends and demands of the outside world, in here they can get a no-nonsense plate of egg, beans and chips. It's a blokes' oasis. That's not to say that it's unfriendly in any way… it's just the sort of place where you'll be likely never, EVER to see the menu changed to include “cafe latte”.
One remarkable feature of the Regency is The Voice of Breakfast – I've seen 2 people working there; the bloke, and the short-haired bespectacled girl, and both when you place your order seem like normal people, until an order comes out from the kitchen. At this point, their heads tilt slightly back and an ordinary voice is transformed into a reverberating shout which booms around the room. “SET BREAKFAST WITH HASH BROWN AND BUBBLE, TWICE!”. The girl becomes what I like to think of as The Hight Priestess of Breakfast. Honestly, she wouldn't be out of place at Covent Garden.
My weapon of choice when I go there (actually “weapon” probably isn't far off, cos I'm sure enough of them would kill you) is a bacon sandwich – they have excellent thick crusty bread, and the bacon's nice & lean and cooked to absolute perfection. I had a bacon sandwich with extra bacon once (come on, you get the odd festive moment and these things should be attempted), but that was a bit too much.
But yeah, the menu isn't what you'd call an adventure into the culinary cosmos – the building blocks are egg, chips, ham, beans, tomato, bacon, black pudding, hash browns, mushrooms, “bubble”(& squeak) and bread. On the wall is a pricelist indicating what you'll pay for various combinations of these, and then there's a specials chalkboard, usually showing how much for a set breakfast (which I believe is ham, egg, beans and chips), and then detailing a few other things – they've got cornish pasties and also curry in at the minute… ideal for the sportsmans' breakfast! Oh and of course all washed down with litres and litres of tea.
This post isn't going anywhere – I was just saying how much I love the place. Hmm… I could just about go a bacon sandwich actually…