We used to live just around the corner from Regency Café for many years and while we’re trying to eat healthy, this Greasy Spoon managed to make us fall in love with it on first glance. Heck, I’m saying love, but it was more like an obsession!
Located just a five-minute walk from Pimlico tube station (Victoria line) or St. James’s Park (Circle and District), and under 15 minutes’ walk from Westminster tube station (Jubilee line), this café still celebrates the 1940s style that was fashionable when it was opened in 1946. The outside tiling is art deco (even though not the grand style you might be accustomed to from architectural milestones like the Chrysler Building, more the robust type that you know from the former headquarters of the Underground Electric Railways Company of London, adjusted for a small corner café).
It attracts a lovely mix of builders from nearby construction sites, taxi drivers from the taxi lane next-door, locals, and – of course – a fair share of tourists. Sometimes the queue stretches ten metres or more outside the door. Not only are you not permitted to make a reservation, you’re actually only permitted to look for a table after you’ve ordered at the counter, which is a fair deal in our book.
We’ve hardly ever waited longer than ten minutes to place our order and another five or ten minutes for the owner Antonio’s daughter Claudia, who is behind the counter nearly every day, to call us to the counter to pick up our meal. I’m saying ‘call’, but it is in fact a 100+ decibel force of nature that gives the signal, her voice could be heard from our flat and as far away as Vincent Square or Horseferry Road, you wouldn’t believe it.
The food is tasty, even though we’ll be frank, don’t get too excited about it. It’s similar to other good-quality, working-class corner cafes we’ve been to. You don’t really go to the Regency Café for excellent cuisine, but for the beautiful atmosphere and the thorough retro-vibe. Their tea is solid builders’ tea, thick, creamy, strong, and served in a huge cylindric cup.
When we were still living in the area, we saw film crews there every other month, with the café closed for a few hours and the streets cordoned off. The café has featured in a number of TV advertisements, TV productions and movies, maybe most famously in a fighting scene in Layer Cake with Daniel Craig.
I once bought one of my best friends from Germany a voucher for the café (I don’t think they normally do this kind of thing, but I can be very convincing), expecting him to use it on the two of us when he came to London next time, but instead he took his girlfriend there on their first night out in London (she had never been to this city), how cool is that? A short time later he successfully proposed. I blame the success to a significant extent on his sense of style and quirky dinner venue choices. Well done there.