Nice Green Café at Forty Hall

Forty hall is a charming giant 17th century dolls house, set in 107 acres of grounds on the very northern edge of London (see the Wikipedia article). It is owned and run by the London Borough of Enfield. Since its construction, it has been somewhat extended and a couple of very odd windows added. Otherwise, it is perfect. Its simple gardens are ideal for stolling and contemplation. Alongside it is a farm, run by Capel Manor, the local horticultural college. This includes a vineyard that produces very good, if rather expensive wine sometimes available in its student-run farm shop  and some very authentic looking animals.

The high-roofed café is in part of what was the stables. It is pleasantly higgledy piggledy, with touches of junk shop in its decor. As well as the usual tea, coffee, home-made soup etc., they sell a selection of cakes baked with gusto on the premises. The radio is sometimes on, but is not intrusive, even to my sensitive ears.

The athmosphere is usually very calm and definitley condusive to conversation.  It has terraces both front and back, both very sheltered, one in a large, bright, partly arcaded courtyard with delightfully bucolic Jacobean looking gateway (Wikipedia says 1650, but it looks as if the maker was remembering the style of his long lost youth) . The other faces into a grove of splendid trees, foremost among which is a cedar or Lebanon that was planted in 1770. Look out the splendid mid 19th century magnolia.

It gets busy on warm weekends, and there are always a few dog-walkers and retired folk around. There are pleasant walks to be had from the house,

Definitely, a favorite, in easy cycling distance from Enfield Town or Turkey Street stations. For those with the time, the best setting off point for a walk is probably Gordon Hill station about 1½ miles via Hillyfields park and the old course of the New River.

Forty Hall is a short walk by footpath from the beautiful gardens of Middleton House.

Café open: 7 days a week. 10-4 (November – March) 10-6 (April – October)




The Dugdale Centre, Enfield

Photo of the interior of the Dugdale Centre, Enfield
The Dugdale Centre cafe and foyer

The Dugdale Centre is the Enfield Council run theatre and arts centre in a windswept location, just to the south of the town centre. A river of one-way traffic swirls past its door. Plans to improve the immediate environment have been put on hold for the time being. Much of the local populace is too wedded to their cars to allow things to be put right.

That said, although very austere on the outside, and rather industrial inside, it is the most peaceful place in Enfield Town to meet and relax. The café serves soups, sandwiches and cakes; its bread comes from a local artisanal bakery, its cakes from the Forty Hall café, Its ice cream comes from an artisanal producer in nearby Edmonton. The coffee is from Union (right down at the mouth of the Lee), and priced well below the coffee-like-substance from the chain suppliers. The athmosphere is very relaxed and informal. It also gives the lie to the idea that the outer boroughs of London are cultrually homogeneous.

The council’s archive and historial library is upstairs and there is a small toy museum.

Sometimes the place is thronged with parents and children, sometimes with groups of old age pensioners.  Sometimes it is very quiet. A surprising gem!

The latest innovation is a weekly Philosophy morning.

There is a little gift shop that has a small stock of local history books. Although it seems to  be unstaffed, you can pay at the theatre box-office.

Opening hours seem to vary. When there is a performance, the bar stays open. The website claims 8am to 4pm Monday to Saturday, but sometimes I have found it closed in the morning, and it rarely closes anything like as early as 4. I will try to find out more.



Tullie House Garden Restaurant, Carlisle

A spacious cafeteria-style restaurant in Tullie House Museum & Art Gallery. Attractive and relaxing decor and wooden tables outside.

New Ground Cafe, Gardenstown

This is a pleasant and some unusual café in Gardenstown.
It provides a range of snacks and hot drinks.
Please note that the opening times are a bit limited – I have been on a couple of weekend days, when it was not open until 12.
As the name implies, it also serves as an art gallery, and has some some stuff to sell.
If you’re in Gardenstown, I recommend a couple of short walks – one to Crovie, and the other one along the beach and then up the path to the remains of St John’s church, from where the view is stunning.

The James Joyce/Italo Svevo Museum, Trieste, Italy

Trieste is a fine city of the Belle Epoque, looking better than ever after recent refurbishments. Unfortunately, it also appears to be filled with piped music, which infests every café, restaurant, bar and indeed street with hellish cacophony. This makes oases of calm even more welcome. Doubly welcome is one that commemorates two of its greatest residents.
In the early 20th century two giants of Modernist literature met and became friends in what was then one of the most cosmopolitan cities on earth: James Joyce, the Irishman who had chosen ‘silence, exile and cunning’ (but not piped music NB), and Italo Svevo (aka Ettore Schmitz), a native of Trieste whose Italo-German name reveals his mixed background. The museum, two floors up in a handsome building, honours both with a remarkable collection of letters, photographs and books.
The knowledgeable, affable curator, who speaks perfect English, will guide you around before showing a short film about Joyce and Svevo. The museum is free but seems to open at rather variable hours.
Best to phone or email it first +39(0)40 – 6758182 / 8170

Blessedly muzac-free museum celebrating two of the 20th-century’s finest writers


Scottish National Gallery – Garden Café

There are two cafés off the foyer of the National Gallery of Scotland. The larger of the two, the Scottish Café and Restaurant, does play piped music. However, there is a smaller one called the Garden Café (situated in the Gardens entrance) which is musac-free. The coffee is good and they have a variety of cakes and pastries. If you are lucky, you can get a table with a pleasant view of Princes Street Gardens

Open daily, 10am-5pm (6pm for August only). Thursdays until 7pm

Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh

Food is served all day in the cafe downstairs.
Tables outside on nice days.
Lovely location above the Water of Leith, a 20 minute walk along the river into the West End of Edinburgh.
The cafe can be clattery at busy times.

Open daily 10am-5pm
Cafe open from 9am – access through rear of building until 10am.
Closed 25 and 26 December only. Open 1 January from 12 noon-5pm.
Admission is free. A charge may be made for special exhibitions.
Free bus from National Gallery of Scotland on the Mound

British Museum – The Great Court

Not exactly a haven of peace and quiet, but a very good place to meet, if not a place to tarry for too long, particularly at busy times. The glass covered courtyard meets all the basic needs: toilets (muzac-free, I think, but correct me if I am wrong) and somewhere to sit and have a coffee and snack. And, if you arrive early, you can slip through thee Portland Stone porticos into the wonderful galleries (the fourth, South, portico is, notoriously, of the wrong stone). The light under the huge glass roof can be extraordinary enough to warrant the visit.

The Great Court has longer opening hours than the museum itself.
Sunday – Wednesday 09.00–18.00
Thursday, Friday, Saturday 09.00–23.00The Museum is open daily, 10.00–17.30
with opening to 20.30 on Thursday and Friday.