Regency Cafe Post-Pandemic Check-In (London, UK)

There are few London traditions of mine as sacred as going out for a good old-fashioned fry-up: a “Full English” breakfast, with at least bacon, sausage, eggs, beans, and toast, and I usually like to add even more to that (at a minimum, tomatoes, and usually black pudding as well). In the area around Pimlico, there’s exactly one place that anyone should even consider for that, and it’s the classic greasy spoon, The Regency Cafe. Virtually every trip of mine to London, even short ones, involve a trip to The Regency, except for holiday trips where they are closed. Indeed, one of my earliest reviews here in 2007 was for The Regency.

I like to occasionally re-visit my old favorites as “Health Check” reviews. It actually hasn’t been that long since my last visit to the Regency; I did one of my “Health Check” re-reviews of them back in 2018, and I know we visited them in 2019 as well, but the Pandemic did a serious number on a lot of restaurants, and if I think of places that might have been hit hard by pandemic restrictions, the Regency is near the top of the list, known for it’s relatively cramped quarters, long lines, and shouting of orders (“SET BREAKFAST! BAKED BEANS! TOMATO! MUSHROOMS! BLACK PUDDING!”). So I decided I’d let all my regular readers know how it’s going post-Pandemic at The Regency.

Arriving at The Regency, especially on a weekend, you can see one notable change, and it’s not directly pandemic-related (although the pandemic did contribute): it’s busier. The Regency has always been a busy joint, especially with the municipal workers in their high-viz vests, but there’s an added crowd here, and it’s hypothesized to be a results of AirBnB/VRBO: a much larger number of London tourists in and around Pimlico are using short-term rentals, and unlike hotels, they are almost always self-catering, and that leaves a larger population of folks searching for breakfast, and while Pimlico has a healthy number of restaurants post-pandemic, the breakfast segment isn’t terribly large. So expect to either come earlier or wait longer. Otherwise, the only real immediate notable change to is that they’ve rearranged the traffic flow a bit, added some perspex screen between the staff and costomers, and condiments aren’t on the table anymore.

The biggest changes are procedural. First, in a nod to post-Pandemic norms on cash handling, The Regency has finally gone to a credit card point-of-sale system, so you can finally just tap and go. Hurray. Second, the removal of the condiment bottles from the tables has shifted the food delivery to more of an on-demand activity; you generally wait at the window for your food, they ask if you want any condiments, and the staff applies them for you. A bit odd, but it generally works. But it also leads to a bit less of what The Regency was previously famous for, the shouting of orders… there’s no need for the staff to bellow out, loudly, “SET BREAKFAST! BAKED BEANS!” loud enough to wake the dead when you’re standing right there. While it does dampen the overall sound level, I’ll admit that it does also cut into the famous ambiance a bit. You know what? I’ll take it, especially when one other thing hadn’t changed since 2019 that I’d seen pretty much everywhere else in London: Refreshingly, the price increases have stayed far below inflation. In 2006, I paid 5 quid for a set breakfast. In 2019, the price for a base set breakfast was £6.50. In 2023, it’s only barely crept up to… £6.95. It’s a goddamn Festivus miracle, even if some of the add-ons have gotten a tiche more expensive.

Since it had been an entire four years, including a Pandemic, since my last trip to The Regency, I went with basically the same thing I ordered in 2019, “Set breakfast, baked beans, black pudding, and tomato.” Oh, c’mon Rich, say it like it’s meant to be said… “SET Breakfast! BAKED Beans! Tomato. BLACK Pudding!” And it’s still every bit as awesome as it’s ever been: Crisp bacon, moist and delicious sausage, a good tang to the tomato, and the joy of wiping up the various bits of bean, debris from the sausage, and some brown sauce with the toast. Yeah, it’s not exactly NHS-endorsed, but it’s a damn fine breakfast, and heartwarming to see that it’s basically unchanged, especially in these trying post-Brexit economic times.

My brother (who also hadn’t been to The Regency in some time) also went for his normal (and my backup order, if I go to The Regency multiple times on a trip): Crusty Bacon Rolls. One of the greatest of elegantly simple breakfast sandwiches, just a rasher of perfectly done bacon with a slight dab of butter on a crusty roll. Still one of the best in the area.

So yeah, how is The Regency doing after the pandemic? It’s doing well, in fact, it’s pretty much still at the top of its game. While the lines are longer, and the service a bit slower with the new flow, the food is unchanged, the staff still it’s excellent surly-but-good self, and the ambiance wonderful. And that they’ve managed to hold prices pretty firm against inflation, in London of all places? Impressive.

One Response

  1. TechyList 25 Sep 2023 at 01:11 #

    I’m glad to hear that the cafe is doing well!

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