In September 2016, Waterloo became London's first all-electric bus garage. But did you know it also offers hungry Londoners the chance to refuel, in its own hidden cafe?
Waterloo train station — until very recently the UK's busiest terminus — has no lack of fairly-priced grub joints in its orbit: from the Thai lunch deals at Marie's Cafe, to battered sausage and chips at Fishcotheque. But the Bus Cafe is on a whole other plain of thriftiness: we're talking homemade soup and garlic bread for £4; substantial plates of jerk chicken, rice and salad for £6.50; and gut-busting fry-ups for a trifling £5.50. Someone forgot to tell them the 1990s are over, and we're not complaining.
First things first: you are allowed to be here. Yes, the Bus Cafe is secreted behind a wall of silently re-juicing buses, and yes the joint is frequented by hi-vis wearing Go Ahead employees who like to shoot pool in the corner, or catch up on the news headlines over soup and a sarnie. The vibe is that of an employees' lounge, but it's not. As the inconspicuous sign outside suggests, this caff is open to all, at least it is from Monday to Friday, 8am-4pm (this is not, we would stress, somewhere to take your paramour for a candlelit dinner after the Noel Coward play at the Old Vic).
You'll find the entrance on Cornwall Road, just to the east of Emma Cons Gardens. If you can see dozens of parked-up buses, you've found it. 10 seconds down the pedestrian pathway, painted blue, you've arrived in Thrifty Lunchville — formica tables, handwritten blackboards and all. Order at the counter: staples (including sandwiches, salads, melts and burgers) are on the overhead menu, and specials are on the boards off to the left. Caribbean classics are a speciality: mutton curry, oxtail, jerk chicken, that kind of thing — although trad caff grub is also abundant. Once you've ordered, sit down and wait to be called to go up and fetch it (if you've ever been to the Regency Cafe, you'll be familiar with the system). Table sharing, by the way, is a prerequisite (that's right, you're going to have to talk to a bus driver for once), and if you're in the mood for making friends, you can even challenge someone to a game of pool.
Those in the market for a transport-themed cafe afternoon, should make the short walk to Scooter Cafe on Lower Marsh, where you'll find post-lunch va-va-voom in the form of a flat white or a negroni, surrounded by transporty trinkets, including a couple of strategically placed Vespas.
The Bus Cafe, Cornwall Road, Waterloo, Monday-Friday, 8am-4pm