If you have ever driven or walked along Markhouse Road you probably will have spotted Jimmy’s cafe, its red frontage and the large white lettering above the window make it difficult to miss. I’ve passed by countless times but until today I’ve never been inside. We live close to the cafe so I don’t know why we have never been in, I’m also not entirely sure why we picked today to pay it a visit. But when we left the house in search of breakfast we decided to cross the net curtained threshold and see what Jimmy had in store for us.
The cafe has one of those whirligig signs out front that spins around in the breeze, the kind that you often see in front of small petrol stations. As we walked up Markhouse Road we could see the sign declaring in faded dayglow letters that the cafe was open. The writing on the window lets you know that they serve Thai cuisine and the cafe is open from 6-10pm, although the S is missing from cuisine and all the N’s are backwards. We tried to peek inside before we went in but the net curtains keep the interior secret until you open the door and step inside. The cafe looks like it hasn’t changed much for years. The walls are panelled using formica, the same fake marble design that is used to make kitchen worktops. At equal intervals along the walls hang various pictures that wouldn’t have looked out-of-place in my Grans house. Formica comes in to play again on the red and black table tops and I suppose the chairs would best be described as vintage. The cafe has a familiar feeling about it, like visiting a grandparent whose house hasn’t changed for years.
We took a seat near the door, and immediately noticed that there were no menus on the tables. jimmy shouted a hello to us from behind the counter and motioned to the menu that was stuck up on the wall at the front of the cafe. The menu offers the Thai food that the window promises but also the more traditional cafe fare like omelette, chips, pies and fried breakfast. We ordered our fry up and Jimmy disappeared in to the kitchen and we heard pots and pans clattering around as he cooked. The lady working with Jimmy set to work on our toast and tea which is made behind the counter. When the tea arrived we noticed that the mugs were joining in with the general quirky theme of the interior, they have William Morris like designs on them, but you can see that these designs have been stuck over the top of whatever was on the mug before, perhaps an attempt to make them all match.
The breakfast consisted of beans, bacon sausage egg and toast, it cost £3.50 and tasted great, but the food was just a small part of our visit to Jimmy’s. Places like this can be hard to find, the retro feel is often recreated but it never feels the same as it does when its original. It seems to me like Jimmy, or James as another customer was calling him, has the same attitude that my gran had. She never threw anything away or changed anything unless it was broken and Jimmy seems to do the same. My gran used to say that you never knew what went on behind other people’s net curtains, Jimmy’s cafe proves she was right. These nets are hiding a little gem, easy to pass by but not easily forgotten once you have been inside. Next time you fancy breakfast or a spot of lunch why not pop in and see Jimmy for some formica and fried eggs.