Has anyone opened a café recently that isn’t vintage-themed? Is there actually any room in the market for a place where you can just eat a cheese sandwich and not have to be reminded of the joys of rationing, ersatz coffee and lend-lease bacon? Well, of course the answer is yes, and there are plenty. But 1940s nostalgia is most definitely the thing these days, so it is perhaps not surprising that wartime décor is to today’s cafés as 1950s American diner-style was to those of the 1990s.
Violet’s 1940’s café has perhaps more of a justification for this theme than some others as it is set in the heart of Northwood’s Conflict History and Remembrance Museum: C.H.A.R.M. This museum is in the process of being assembled, and at the moment its acronym can only be ironic. Visually, the outside of the museum is a windswept yard surrounded by blank industrial units, an array of abandoned caravans and a smattering of military vehicles in various states of restoration. The vehicles are actually a pretty interesting spectacle, but they provide a curious backdrop to lunch.
Matt parked up at C.H.A.R.M. on his way back from an over-long meeting nearby, and set out in search of lunchtime sustenance. Violet’s presents a small but welcoming frontage, and Matt found it busy inside with a few workmen finishing lunch, and a brace of old ladies nattering over the teapot. Violet’s has taken an unpromising building and wrought a surprisingly comfortable interior from it by the liberal application of chintz and bric-a-brac. The reproduction 1940s radio was crackling out the best of Glen Miller, and every table was bedecked with a table cloth, folded napkins, and flowers. Matt’s table even had a cute brass kettle on it. He sat appreciatively in the warmth for quite a while before he worked out that to be served, it’s necessary to visit the counter. The waitress, dressed authentically in 1940s headscarf and pinny, acknowledged him and took his order cheerfully enough once he had made the proper approach, but she could have just as easily have encouraged him to go and place his order when she had passed by serving nearby customers.
£7 All day breakfast including drink
Matt’s lunch was the classic all-day breakfast, which at Violet’s comes commendably with toast and a hot drink included. Matt successfully negotiated away beans in favour of black pudding, making the whole thing only £7 – a competitive price. Preparing the food took a goodish while, but was worth the wait. Matt was more than happy with his ration which, as well as the prized black pudding, included freshly-fried mushrooms, piping-hot tinned tomatoes, hash-browns, sausages, sizzling bacon and a perfectly-runny fried egg. A mug of powerful builders’ tea and two slices of hot toast completed the meal. Above average was the bacon, three smoked rashers cooked to a perfect crispness. The low point was the sausages, which though adequate were basic in the extreme – a meatier sausage would have lifted this breakfast from good to great.
Word had reached Matt of the cakes at Violet’s, which were supposed to be worth trying. Alas, this opportunity was denied him. Nobody came to clear his table, or offer him anything else, and eventually as his lunch hour was up, he left unnoted.
So, a promising start for this new venue. It seemed encouragingly busy for a freezing winter afternoon, and if C.H.A.R.M. comes to fruition visitors to the military museum will find a very enjoyable place to refresh themselves after their visit. Certainly the breakfast was great value for a generous selection. Service from the suitably-costumed staff was cheerful if inattentive, and if this can be put to rights it looks as though Violet’s will be an excellent addition to the growing range of 1940’s-themed experiences available to the would-be diner.