A cheap and cheerful community cafe in South London

6378987105_2400dfea1b_oCheap food has never felt so homely than at Bonnington Cafe, a five minute walk away from Vauxhall station. With an anarchic history, and an artistic atmosphere, this eatery is the perfect place for an alternative birthday meal or a memorable dinner date.

Wooden tables, blue bottles lining the windows, dried flowers and a shelf of vegan recipe books; the interior of the cafe is like an artist’s country kitchen. Originally run by squatters in the 80’s, Bonnington Cafe has retained some ambience of its rebellious past. On the wall is a squatters’ poster that proudly pronounces, “Vive la republique,” and the lean waiter wears a communist peaked cap.

The functioning of the place is also somewhat reminiscent of it’s history. Although rent must be paid and the workers take home some tips, the cafe couldn’t be called a business. Run by volunteers, the cafe functions on a rotational system; a different group of cooks will prepare variant meals each day.

The chef on the night I visited, Gigi, is a middle aged French woman with high cheekbones, golden skin and a green, polka dot scarf tied about her head. She made for us a selection of vegan winter warmers. I started with a yellow pea, coconut-based soup garnished with coriander. For the main I devoured a potato masala with pumpkin chunks, chickpeas, and a beetroot salad in a delicate vinaigrette.

The absence of meat left plenty of room in the belly for desert, which was lucky because the best was saved till last. The chocolate fudge brownie was a perfectly moist consistency thanks to the olive oil used as a substitute for butter. Gigi explained to me later that there is no need for eggs to make good brownies and the high quality chocolate she uses gives them a rich flavour. All three courses cost £14 in total, which seems like a kind price for a student such as myself.

The cafe is not only an eatery, it is also connected to a community centre. Upstairs from the dining area is a space which serves as a hub for locals to convene. Visitors can dabble in meditation, craft, yoga or drama and all activities are free.

Generously priced and flawless in flavour, the dishes I tried at the cafe were difficult to fault. The only complaint I have is that the plates were cold, meaning that the food on them cooled quicker than I could eat. But what was lost in temperature, the chef more than made up for in tastes. The atmosphere as well as the ethos of the place keep the customers chatting cheerfully, and I would recommend the cafe to anyone.

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