Note: this cafe has now changed hands. I am heartbroken, because we have lost some truly great cafe heritage. Gone are the beloved Formica tables, strong coffee and cheery San Remo family. I wonder where they are now?
Sometimes I have days where I’m so stressed out by the noise levels created by my own family that I just want to go and sit in a park ON MY OWN IN SILENCE. In the rain, if necessary. I’m talking about my threenager’s tantrums, young baby’s screaming, mine and my husband’s anxious voices cajoling, bribing and shouting morning, noon and night. We’re just at sea in the riptide of parenthood. A friend of mine with two children describes this as ‘the relentlessness of the relentlessness’.
January and its crap weather is tough on families with young children, as having to be indoors a lot means hanging out in some pretty horrible places, a necessity if you don’t want your home repeatedly trashed by your own kids. I really struggle when, because of shit weather, I end up in a vile softplay / activity centre where toddlers shriek, run, push and fight – everything is so loud that I want to lie on the floor, tinnitus banging in my head. Alas, spending all day in a pub is not an option, as people will only put up with you and your boisterous midgets for a finite period of time before you become a social pariah. Ah!!!!
However, a short stretch of non-rainy weather this past weekend meant that we could be outdoors! That is the best solution for everyone – tire the threenager out, knock the baby out for a nap with the fresh air, then retreat to a cafe for lunch. It’s a double bonus if said cafe turns out to be inspirational. Streatham Common Cafe is such a place. It’s a place that time forgot – a small wooden panelled building on the edge of Streatham Common’s Rookery, looking a little like a scout hut. Inside, the decor has quite possibly not been updated since the 1950’s. Cheesy holiday knick-knacks perch atop a pastel pink counter, there is a proper ice cream serving station at one end, and you dine at teal green formica tables with angular wooden chairs that look rather ancient and beautiful.
The food is not exactly gourmet, but it’s simple, sturdy caff grub – fry-ups, jacket potatoes, a few specials such as Spanish omelette, Caesar salad and spaghetti Bolognese. We opted for a scurvy-inducing lunch of chips (our daughter only eats beige food) and very decent coffees.
A matriarchal Italian lady mans the counter, chatting with all the diners in strongly accented English:
I find out that the the San Remo family have been running Streatham Common Cafe for 13 years. You can tell – there is such a homely atmosphere and they have given the place a real personal touch. I highly approve of this kind of thing:
The ice cream station – I love the candy-pop colours of the ice cream flavours painted on the wall, super cheery:
With this photo, I felt like I was having a Martin Parr moment:
The cafe is very child-friendly, thank goodness. Old ladies cooed at our baby boy. My threenager blissed out on her chips and a cone of vanilla ice cream, then had a few 20p rides on a yellow mechanical horse stationed near the window. She then got a ‘stretchy pest’ spider toy from one of these olden gumball dispensers – heaven!
Ice cream, vintage knick-knackery, good coffee and nobody judging your children: we will be returning to Streatham Common Cafe like a moths to a flame!
Streatham Common Cafe
37 Streatham Common South
Zan is a big fan of the ice creams here and makes my parents take him there every week in the summer. I also often meet clients there before photo shoots at The Rookery and it provided the bright blue ice cream for one of my favourite pictures. Great place.
I’ve never been but I used to love Clapham Common cafe when my kids were that age. It was also run by an Italian family, and was beautifully old fashioned. It was also great because it was next to the bandstand on the common, and the kids could ride round..and round….and round… on their scooters while I had a latte.
Retro charm + decent coffee = rare find.
Gone now and just another trendy cafe in the sea of trendy cafes that we don’t neef