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“Cafe Below Par”
Review of St. Mary-le-Bow

St. Mary-le-Bow
Ranked #500 of 1,790 things to do in London
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Owner description: This church, designed by Christopher Wren and also known as Bow Church, is truly significant: anyone who is born within the sound of its bells is considered a "true" Londoner, or Cockney.
Reviewed 11 April 2014

This is a review purely of the cafe, not of the church.

We went there early in the morning before work in an attempt to avoid the usual "by numbers" breakfast options like Pret or Costa. The cafe seemed nice enough and as we entered there were 3 staff standing in the open kitchen, and 1 lady working as reception/coffee/waitress. Despite there being lots of signs stating "please wait to be seated so we can take your orders at the table", there was a group of around 5 businessmen waiting at the reception area. The reason they were waiting soon became clear, as the front of house multi-tasker was making a tea & coffee order for another set of customers, so hadn't spoken to them yet.

Given that making coffee has become an art form, it took the waitress a long time to complete, then she wandered off and eventually wandered back to deal with the businessmen. She took their order, starting making it, then sorted them out with a table. Quite some time later she finally spotted that we were duly waiting by the "please wait to be seated" sign, seemed quite surprised that we were waiting for a seat (well, you had asked us to !?!?) and pointed us towards a table.

Quite some time later she re-appeared and finally asked us what we wanted. Well a menu would have been nice, but given that time had now really run out for us we took a guess and ordered some coffees, plus some simple cooked breakfast. She took the order and then strolled off to make the coffees, totally ignoring the kitchen on the way, so clearly not handing over the food order to them. Time really was starting to be an issue, so we went over to her and asked her to put the food order in so that they could make it, which was greeted by a very blank and confused expression. After quite a bit more explanation, she finally understood what the issue was and said, well there's no need to worry as the food will only take 3 minutes to do.

Unfortunately, this was the last straw, with both time and patience running out. We decided to leave and the waitress said "sorry, but I am all alone". She was right, but only because there were three other staff, standing in the kitchen area looking over the chaos in a very unbothered "it's not my job" kind of way - oh, and to add insult to injury, happily sipping away on cups of tea!

If you have lots of time on your hands and are in London as a tourist, then perhaps this is for you. However, if you have anywhere else to be, then the total inefficiency is really likely to wind you up - and whether that is worth it for food that "will only take 3 minutes" to cook is probably debatable. I guess that this started as an opportunistic add-on for the church, but they really need to sort out their staffing and service if this is ever going to meet the standards of the competition.

1  Thank Lordlucan1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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37 - 41 of 55 reviews

Reviewed 30 December 2013 via mobile

According to the famous nursery rhyme, the great bells of Bow, "... do not know"! Some things I do know are that the famous church below them was another of Sir Christopher Wren's masterpieces and if you happen to give birth as you're passing, then you have yourself a genuine little Cockney...

1  Thank Howi58
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 31 July 2013

We tried to stop here for lunch on a Saturday, but they were closed. We walked all around the building trying to find an entrance but all the doors were locked. We didn't see any hours posted, or we might have returned.

Thank mkmarcoux
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 11 July 2013

Anyone who is born within the sounds of its bells is considered a true Londoner. It's very close to St. Paul's so you might as well visit. It's rather small but very beautiful, especially on the inside. The cafe below the church ( think it's actually Cafe Below) is rather good, especially considering there're not many alternatives on a weekend.

Thank Seda E
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Reviewed 27 September 2012

Too dry and soggy (impossible but true)
Not a great taste especially for GBP 8
Old bread

Thank DimT_78
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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