Freelance writer and journalist based in west London.
Published February 10th 2013
Vintage beats and eats
In the attractive area of Earlsfield in Wandsworth, a short stroll from Earlsfield Station, Mel's Café Bar and Garden can be found on the high street; an informal, relaxed place that caters for a huge variety of patrons.
It uses the theme of music as inspiration for the décor; records and sleeves hang on the walls and there's also a record deck. Tables and chairs are mismatched but it adds to the intimate atmosphere. There are a couple of sofas to lounge on, a long bar with several stools and a pretty garden which comes alive in good weather.
Coffee and breakfast get going at 9am, where the choices include musli, yoghurt, pancakes with numerous toppings, eggs multiple ways and the all-important meat and veggie fry-ups. There's a great lunch deal available; chose two of the following, soup of the day, toastie or house salad, for £6. The rest of the savoury menu is available for both lunch (12-3) and dinner (5-10).
Burgers include char-grilled steak with spinach, mushrooms and smoked applewood cheese, lamb and tzatziki and paprika chicken with farmhouse cheddar and bacon. Classic dishes range from steak to macaroni cheese and fish fingers and chips. Large salads feature tiger prawns, feta and egg. There are also sharing plates, light bites and sides. The food finishes with a small but tempting list of desserts; Knickerbocker Glory, sticky toffee pudding, floats, ice creams and a chocolate brownie to name a few. There's a great range of drinks; wine categories continue the music theme and there are sparkling options, cocktails, beers, ciders, smoothies, teas and milkshakes.
Children are catered for with their own separate menu and the child-friendly policy has been well thought through, as it doesn't come at the expense of other customers. Because Mel's has an alcohol license, youngsters aren't allowed in the bar area. So they've designated a good sized space, the 60s and 70s rooms, for families. A buggy park by the entrance means there's no worry about squeezing through crowds, it doesn't feel like it's separate or parents and babies have been banished – but it does mean that people who are there for a bit of peace or a business meeting can sit in the 80s area knowing a child isn't going to interrupt them.
On the day of my visit, Mel's was busy but the waiting staff were friendly, aware and and attentive in assisting my friend with her child. We were immediately told about the lunch deal and when the soup of the day ran out after our orders had been taken, quickly informed of the alternative. Water is complimentary and served in blue glass bottles. The mushroom soup was tasty and clearly home made and the toasties (cheese and ham, brie, bacon and tomato) stayed hot even with the amount of gossiping that was going on.
We had a great light lunch, spending three hours there without anyone hinting we should move on. I'm looking forward to returning one evening with a group of friends for wine and nibbles, because Mel's Café Bar and Garden is clearly able to switch effortlessly from day to night, making it a great little find.