Blast from the past: Greasy spoon cafes

The humble greasy spoon is a rarity these days, bemoans HELEN MCGURK. Forget hipster cafes with their burritos and single-origin coffee, sometimes only an Ulster fry will do.

An Ulster fry is always on the menu in a good greasy spoon
An Ulster fry is always on the menu in a good greasy spoon

Steamy windows, formica-topped tables, a cosy fug of frying bacon and sausages, stewed tea and flimsy white bread - the essential elements of a good greasy spoon.

If the waitress has a face that could curdle milk and a manner to match, even better!

Proper greasy spoons have become an endangered species, overtaken by hipster cafes selling alfalfa sprouts and freshly squeezed nettle juice, and coffee shop chains with their bland, over-priced offerings.

A good greasy spoon is a sanctuary. A place with soul where all of life congregates; a huddle of hungover students tucking into the curing qualities of a hearty fry, workmen slurping back mugs of builders’ tea, a courting couple whispering sweet nothings over gravy rings and mugs of Mellow Birds.

The table will be adorned with a plethora of essential condiments, red sauce, brown sauce, Sarson’s vinegar, and before the smoking ban, an over-flowing ashtray.

OK, the highly-calorific food would reduce nutritionists to tears, but sometimes, only a bacon bap, rather than a poncey croissant or avocado-topped sourdough, will cut the mustard.

Given the cyclical nature of fashion, the greasy spoon will probably rise again, albeit with organic sausages, wasabi paste and eye-watering prices. But something irreplaceable will have been lost with the passing of these no-frills establishments, the true spiritual home of the hearty Ulster Fry.