The (other) River Café has all the makings of a special kind of foodie experience, but without any of the confusions of the foodie reality. What they do here is gather together all the ingredients of the British experience.
Once upon a time we would have referred to this place as ‘A Greasy Spoon’, and although the Café might wear that title as a badge of honour, in this small and yet incredibly perfect place it is a term of great endearment.
This is the kind of place where the British backbone was forged. There are dozens of combinations of breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and on football game days, (both Fulham FC & Chelsea FC are nearby), even early supper.
Those who know will go for some combination of eggs and bacon, with sausage, chips, baked beans, mushrooms, black pudding, tomato, and more. But of course, not all together. With a large mug of affectionately titled ‘builders tea’ and a couple of slices of bread, you’ll be out of the place in little more than half an hour, and for less than £7; that’s ‘quid’ in the local ‘argo’ here.
They make all their own puddings, apple crumble, bread and butter pudding, rhubarb crumble and sometimes carrot cake are the favourites, but whatever is in season.
Run for over 30 years by several generations of a delightful, hard working Italian family, the place always has a terrific atmosphere. Faded Italian football posters cover the walls, along with Fulham and Chelsea Football posters. There are Italian scenic murals amongst the blue and white tiling and Formica tables, and plenty of the days newspapers to read, although it’s likely someone will talk to you.
The River Café is always busy and clean and usually frequented by London Bus and Tube staff. Outside is a terminus point for the familiar red buses, and for those who use the train to South London. The famous Putney Bridge Tube station, which runs just above the bus station and is a ‘mecca’ for the football fans, as well as all those who gather to watch the Oxford v. Cambridge Rowing races. Or for those who just want to sit and watch the old river drift by.
There’s nothing fancy or showy here, it is a favourite London haunt and an essential experience to be had. So if you’re looking for the typical English café, look no further.
For those who like to learn the local language, if you want to know how to say its name properly, you leave off the French e-acute of Café. This is quite simply, The River Kaff.