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Published October 22nd 2012
A Quality Community Cafe Serving Generous Grub
Terry's Café in Southwark is an absolute gem. It's no greasy spoon, but an upmarket community café whose mission statement is to serve the best of everything to its customers. That doesn't mean that quality is put before quantity either: at Terry's you can have both, and still wish you had some room left to spoil yourself a little more.
Outside Terry's Cafe
The business was started in 1982 by Terry (who else?), who was a Smithfield butcher. When he set up the café his aim was to supply the best of everything. With his connections he was able to source the best quality produce, and this tradition continues. The Cumberland Sausages are made to his own recipe, as is the Salt Beef that is prepared and served once a week. Terry was helped out by his sister, Auntie Kath. Sadly neither of them is around any longer and the place is now run by his son, Austin, who has been involved for the last 16 years.
I had a long chat with Ashley, the older brother, who is overseeing the next stage in the life of Terry's café. Until now they have only stayed open until 2pm on weekdays for breakfasts and lunches, and 12pm on Saturdays, serving breakfasts. The weekday lunch menu changes on a daily basis, and also includes traditional puddings like jam sponge, bread pudding and bread and butter pudding, all served with lashings of custard. If you're not feeling greedy, or very hungry, you could always just have a sandwich, either inside or to take away. There are also tables outside on the pavement when the weather permits. Under Ashley's supervision they are also now serving quality meat, and non-meat pies with all the trimmings, until 4pm on Saturdays and 8pm during the week
I've eaten there twice so far, which is a recommendation as it is on the opposite side of London from my home, and takes about an hour for me to get there. My first introduction was to their ham, egg and chips, which I couldn't finish. The hand sliced ham was yummy, but more than I could manage to eat, and I had to turn down Austin's offer of bread and butter to go with it. The breakfast I ate yesterday was a massive plate of bacon (again more than I could finish) with a fried egg and two slices of toast. The bacon is the real deal, not supermarket rubbish that shrinks when it hits the pan, and the toast is sliced by hand from a proper loaf. It's served generously buttered and with a small jar of marmalade, not the commercial stuff in individual containers that are practically impossible to open. A word of warning here: if you like ketchup on your food it's so thick that you'll have to ease it out of the bottle with a knife. Unfortunately they couldn't serve me a cappuccino as their trained barista doesn't work on Saturdays and they would rather that these coffees are served properly, or not at all. I could have had a cup of tea, which is still priced at 20p per cup, but stuck to ordinary coffee.
My Bacon and Egg Breakfast at Terry's. I forgot to take the picture until I'd already started eating.
When you walk through the door at Terry's you may feel a little apprehensive, but have no fear as the café has a warm ambience of its own. The staff (who are mainly all family members) are friendly and welcoming and are happy to accommodate most requests with a response of 'no worries'. The customer base is an interesting mix of professionals (lawyers, barristers, accountants and architects), workmen, builders and local residents and you could well find yourself in conversation with a complete stranger.
Inside Terry's Cafe
Finally, a word about the décor: the walls are hung with black and white photographs of the family, of local community occasions, and of hop picking holidays in Kent. And where else would you find pictures of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert hanging in the loo? If you're in the Southwark area, do give Terry's a try. I promise you won't be disappointed.