Workers Café, 740 Holloway Road

Workerscafe There are seven tables in the workers Café. Apart from me there is just one other customer, a little Irish lady called Mary sitting in the corner eating meat and two veg.

My coffee comes – it’s weakish and very milky. I haven’t had coffee like this since I was on an internal flight in Venezuela 20 years ago. Café con leche.  I remember nearly shitting myself when the pilot flew much too close to some mountains and that parts of the internal structure of the plane were held together with string.  So the coffee brings back exciting memories. And it is the same temperature as the molten core of the Earth.

The bacon sandwich comes and it’s your normal basic rasher in thin white sliced bread. But its USP is that it’s neither straight cut nor diagonal but a mixture of the two – is that a trapezoid?

What sets the Workers Café apart is not the grub, honest though that is, but the ambience. In the space of about 5 minutes the place is full. It’s like a little Irish village in here this evening. Next to me are two Irish lads in their late 60s/early 70s. One of them orders pork chops the other chicken curry and rice.

“I’ll do a runner now,” says the one with the massive grey beard, “and make ye pay fer the lot ha ha ha ha.”

The other bloke laughs weakly.

Another Irishwoman comes in and sits down at a table on her own.

“Alright Mary.”

“Alright Jean.”


A tall thin old man enters.

“Alright seamus,” says the bearded one.


“You’re a hardy man where you come from up in the hills ha ha ha.”


They all chat about football and the GAA and how in the 60s you only got 10 minutes for breakfast on a London building site.

“Now it’s half an hour, 40 minutes. Luxury it is.”


There’s a silence for a while then Johnny says

“We’ll never go back now.”


“It’s just misery there now.”


Before you get too excited about visiting a part of Irish culture from 40 years ago I should point out that this time last week I was in and the place was completely packed out with Eastern Europeans.