A good cafe should offer comfort. Maybe it’s raining, or cold – that damp, bitter cold that gets under your skin. There should be people in there already, but there should be a table free for you. The table itself doesn’t matter too much – maybe wooden, maybe red formica. The chair should be comfortable.
There should be coffee, obviously. Tea (though I probably won’t drink it).
This is not a tea-room. I do like a tea-room, but this is a cafe, and the decor doesn’t matter too much. A tea-room does sandwiches and cake. That’s lovely, but a proper cafe should have hot food. Savoury food. Possibly breakfast-based. Maybe chips? It may have condensation on the windows. It may do something surprisingly exotic – when I lived in London, years and years ago, I had a mild addiction to egg and anchovy sandwiches from a little Italian hole in the wall cafe.
I have a handful of local favourites: Cafe du Parc, which is all mismatched wooden tables and a very French green. It’s a bit of a cheat to call it a cafe – it’s definitely a Cafe. I’d be delighted to find it in France, so to find it in North Devon is amazing; the Rockpool is deep and dark and celebrates the surf at Westward Ho!. Chips and milkshakes and, well, just very good food and lovely staff; the Coffee Cabin – teeny tiny, quirky, fantastic coffee, and owners who make you feel like you’re their favourite customer; Market St Kitchen – it has a secret garden, and the soup is wonderful, and they do a great cream tea.
I’ve read in cafes. I’ve worked in cafes. I’ve talked and disputed and fallen in love in cafes. They are places where people come together, are nutured a little, and then move on. They are places that allow communities to form – the regulars. They shouldn’t be too fancy, they should be open to everyone in need of a hot drink and a bit of warmth. That’s the point.
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The perfect café can be the perfect comfort, can’t it. Lovely post. Very relaxing to read. I am glad to read your latest post and I hope your health continues to hold steady and improve.