‘There’s more of gravy than of grave about you,’ punned Ebenezer Scrooge at the ghost of Jacob Marley. His subject might just as aptly have been >Café in the Crypt
>Café in the Crypt, the vaulted dining space beneath St Martin-in-the-Fields. Thick sauces and hearty stodge await you in what is quite possibly London’s only canteen with under-floor corpses.
If you’ve never dined on somebody’s grave before, this is a good entry-level experience. Our table sat atop the final resting place of Georgian sisters Martha Mansfield and Rebecca Cross. Feeling a slight attack of the heebie-jeebies, we proposed a toast to their good health…albeit a few centuries too late.
So who, or what, eats here? The crypt is but a mere 100 metres from the official centre of London (Charing Cross), and close to both Trafalgar Square and Theatreland. Predictably, then, the clientele comprise respectable, middle-aged tourists looking for an inexpensive, pre-Mousetrap bite; plus, for one night only, Londonist and Mrs Londonist.
Time Out’s Cheap Eats describe the fare here as ‘more than a little school dinnerish’, and we can see where they’re coming from. The steaming canteen food mechanically ladled onto tray-borne plate did remind us of formative years. But we don’t recall our childhood meals including spinach roulade and rosé wine. Nor did our infant tables support precarious gothic candlesticks.
We went for the veggie option (it’s what Linda McCartney would have wanted – her memorial service was held upstairs). A weighty helping of Moroccan roasted vegetables with couscous (and broccoli and cauliflower and potatoes and…hang on, maybe this is school dinners) – somewhere around the £8 mark, with a glass of wine. Mrs Londonist, meanwhile, chose the thrifty soup and pudding option (£5.25). Both meals were keenly swallowed, though needed a good sprinkling of black pepper to get them kicking; and Mrs Londonist was a bit perturbed that the skins had been retained in her apple crumble, but she’s fussy like that.
Quite frankly, given the impressive surroundings, they could have served us Spam in cat sauce and we’d have been as happy as Bob Cratchit on receiving his unexpected Christmas turkey.
It’s not just food on offer here. They also present jazz evenings, a tiny gallery and an eclectic gift shop (with wares including Jesus encyclopaedias and St Martin-in-the-fields chutney). And make sure you shuffle into the brass-rubbing centre to the west of the crypt. For £15 you can make a rubbing of their ‘top brass’: a life size Medieval knight.
So, an interesting collection of activities, all in one basement. And, as Tiny Tim almost observed, God bless them, every one.
Café in the Crypt, St Martin-in-the-Fields Church, Duncannon Street. Opening times vary, see website for more details.