Forget Michelin stars and Harden guides. One of the best restaurants in Britain is a greasy spoon in Westminster where you can eat for £5.50 with a cup of tea thrown in for free, according to users of the review website Yelp.
The Regency Café, favoured by cabbies and politicians alike, has been named as one of the UK’s best places to dine out, in an international list based on crowd-sourced ratings.
Naturally there are no frogs’ legs or foie gras: patrons enjoy a traditional English breakfast or the ever-popular steak pie.
Its owner, Marco Schiavetta, 48, was surprisingly modest about the food his three cooks produce every day. “It’s pretty good stuff,” he told The Independent. “It’s definitely not crap.”
Mr Schiavetta gets up at 5am every day to serve a loyal customer base, many of whom have given the café stellar marks on the Yelp site.
“I’m pretty familiar with the people who come in,” he said. “Some people have been coming here for 25 years or longer. The other day we had Andrew Mitchell in – that guy they say swore at a policeman. We’re very close to the Government buildings.”
There’s no table service – customers come to collect their dishes when Marco screams out their orders at the top of his voice.
The Yelp list, produced for the Wall Street Journal, notes five excellent British restaurants in the “more expensive” category. They’re familiar names, including Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, The Ledbury, and Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck. But the five in the “less expensive” category aren’t exactly household names.
Mr Schiavetta said he wasn’t out to make Michelin-starred cuisine. When he recently advertised for a job, he said one up-and-coming chef got the shock of his life. “This guy comes in to me and says he’s worked with Gordon Ramsay, and he’d worked on a top [cruise] liner, and I said I’d give him a chance. In the kitchen, he started saying, ‘Chef, carrots!’ and ‘chef, pie!’, and I said, ‘No. You get your own carrots’. I gave him £50 and threw him out.”
Other entries on the “less expensive” list are Glasgow’s Mother India Café, the London chains Workshop Coffee and Franco Manga, and the Edinburgh hog roast specialist Oink, where Adam Marshall cooks the animals in huge ovens for 14 hours. His hog roast rolls start at just £2.60.