Bar Bruno, 101 Wardour Street, Soho, London, UK
I was listening to BBC the other day and they had a segment on how it is difficult to find a 'caf' in London like you could in the old days. One that was open at any hour of the day where you could get as good cup of tea, a good 'fry up' and lots of white bread. This came from a man who had been involved in the theatre in London for a long time. He said that these cafes were invaluable as you needed somewhere to go after a show at no matter what time in the day or night. I researched this and found only a handful left out of over 20 listings of cafes in the first decade and into the second decade of this century.
BBC went to Bar Bruno at 101 Wardour street in Soho which was started as just a tea, coffee and biscuit place in 1960 and has been established more or less as is since 1978. This spot is an English cafe with a strong Italian influence. The menu here includes a 'full English' breakfast (eggs, bacon, sausage, potatoes, brown beans, blood sausage, mushrooms and toast), many types of sandwiches, chips, bacon rolls, doughnuts, tea, coffee and beer but also paninis and lasagna. This is an all day breakfast spot that opens in the wee hours at 4am but closes at 9pm.
Another Soho long established cafe is Bar Italia. It has been around since 1949. The opening hours are from 7am until 5am. However here there are only a few pastries as food offerings. The main event is the espresso. Alcohol is available too.
For those who prefer a continental breakfast, look no further than Maison Bertaux which has been an institution since 1871 when French refugees came to London. Soho was the French Quarter of London at that time. Here you can find tea, coffee and fresh pastries from 930am until 6pm.
Balans has been a Soho fixture since 1987 when their location at #34 Old Compton Street opened. Their present opening hours are 8am-midnight. It is at their other location on Old Compton Street (#60) that is open until the wee hours: Wednesday and Thursday until 5am, Friday and Saturday until 6am, Mondays and Tuesdays until 11pm and Sundays until 11pm. It open 7 days a week at 10am. They feature an all day breakfast (until 5pm), a lunch and dinner menu and an extensive cocktail, wine and beer menu. They are famous for their 'Porn Star Martini.' There are also 3 other Balans: one in Shepherd's Bush, one in Stratford and one on High Street Kensington. The first two are open 8am-10pm 6 days a week and 9am-6pm on Sundays. Balans on High Street Kensington has slightly longer hours: 8-11 Wednesday-Saturdays and 8am-6pm on Sundays (with Mondays and Tuesdays being 8am-10pm). The menu is the same at all locations.
The Golden Hind has been around since 1914 and is on Marylebone Street. It's main dish is fish and chips but services other items -mainly fish dishes. It opens at noon everyday but finishes lunch at 3pm during the week, opening again from 6-10pm. Saturdays it is open continually from noon until 10pm and Sundays it closes at 9pm.
London is rich in choice of restaurants but it is sad to see the little family run businesses closing down. It is always wonderful to go into a place that has some history to it, whether in the decor or in the feel of the place. There is so much history in London but most of the traditional eateries are gone. Go try some of the above establishments. Maybe you'll be looking for a late night place to go sometime soon!