You've seen it in The Apprentice, but the down-to-Earth Bridge Cafe is a greasy gem in its own right.
"Hello, hello... come on in. Where are you working, then?"
The friendly greeting is quickly followed by a question about our employment. Few people ever stumble across the Bridge Cafe, an unassuming greasy spoon down a West Acton back street. Most trade comes from the nearby businesses, in this little-visited, industrial part of town.
We explain that we're not local, but have come to see the famous cafe off The Apprentice. This is the place where losing teams come to pick over their failures, while successful contestants are wined and dined elsewhere in style.
Turns out we're not the first on this mission. "Yeah, we get a lot of tourism," explains the owner. You wouldn't think so to look around this spartanly furnished cafe, but there are clues to its wider fame here and there. A crude, cut-out mask of Sir Alan Sugar presides over the room above signs for local businesses.
The cafe's history goes back much further than its recent TV appearances. Owners Frank and Gerry Marcangelo have been serving meals here since the mid-1960s. They show no signs of slowing down, greeting every newcomer like an old friend (which, in many cases, seems to be the case).
The menu can't have changed much since the 1960s. This is a place of fried eggs, bacon, beans and bread; where coffee is coffee, and not cappuccino. Green tea is as exotic as it gets.
The star dish is the Big Boy Breakfast. You get all this (with toast) for just £7.50->
"I'm the awkward veggie one," I admit, noticing that the set menu has meat in every quarter. But they're very happy to put together a mix of beans, eggs, mushrooms and toast. "Don't worry, we've had all sorts of requests in here," says Frank. One customer apparently ordered fried egg floating on a bed of marmalade. The mind boggles.
The cafe's been part of The Apprentice for around a decade. Frank explains that The Bridge was chosen as the nearest traditional cafe to Black Island Studios, where parts of the show are filmed. The action recently switched to the rival La Cabana 2 cafe in Willesden, but that doesn't seem to have affected custom. Visitors can even buy a "You're fired!" Bridge Cafe mug for £7.99. By the way, if you order a tea, make sure you get it with one (Alan) sugar.
Having enjoyed one of London's friendliest and most famous cafes, we depart with full stomaches and high spirits (although not — as losing contestants do following the boardroom showdown — in the back of a taxi). We'll need both for the long slog back to North Acton station through the January drizzle.
The Bridge Cafe is located on Westfields Road, West Acton W3 0AP. The nearest stations are West Acton and North Acton, either a 10-15 minute walk away.