Toby Young Follows in Our Footsteps

Local journalist joins Apprentice losers at Bridge Cafe

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This article originally appeared in The Evening Standard


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Toby Young is obviously making good use of this website. We published an article about the Bridge Cafe in West Acton a couple of weeks ago. This week in the Evening Standard, Toby followed in our footsteps.

Here is what he had to say about Frank Marcangelo's unpretentious Cafe which he seems to have taken to in a big way:


When I first moved to Acton a year ago, I got into trouble with the locals for claiming that the only café in the neighbourhood serving "ethical" coffee had closed. "Evidently there aren't enough middle-class people in the area to sustain a single decent coffee shop," I wrote.

I was deluged with letters of complaint, all of them pointing out that the café in question hadn't shut up shop, it had moved to larger premises. I duly wrote a follow-up column in which I apologised to my neighbours for running down the area.

Alas, my description of Acton as the Monte Carlo of Metroland may have been a bit premature. I discovered a few weeks ago that the "ethical" coffee shop is about to close its doors again, only this time for good. Where will I go for my morning cappuccino?

It was with this in mind that I made a trip to the Bridge Café, the establishment made famous by its starring role in The Apprentice. Each week, the losing team is forced to retire to this hole-in-the-wall in west Acton where they try to work out what went wrong.

The fact that a trip to the Bridge Café is the booby prize on the programme doesn't mean it's not worth checking out. After all, what looks like a dump to the rest of the country could turn out to be a palace by Acton standards.

At first glance, the Bridge Café didn't seem very promising. With its crude Formica furniture and fluorescent strip lighting it looked more like a police cell than a coffee shop.

The menu was pretty basic - I opted for bacon, egg and chips at £3.40 - and the only cappuccino machine in evidence was gathering dust on a high shelf. It has remained more or less unchanged since it first opened 46 years ago.

"We started off like Sir Alan Sugar, but we didn't make the money he made," said Frank Marcangelo, whose family have owned the Bridge Café since he was 16. He now runs it with his brother, Gerald.

About half the customers come from Black Island Studios, the nearby production facility where The Apprentice is filmed. I spoke to a set-builder named Gary Dempsey, who identified himself as the Café's "oldest customer". He told me the Bridge Café hasn't allowed fame to go to its head.

"We all remember the incident when someone asked for brown toast," he said. "Gerry informed him that there was no such thing as brown toast on these premises. His exact words were, 'What d'you think this is? A bistro?'"

After talking to the customers, I began to warm to this honest, down-to-earth establishment. The Bridge Café may not serve "ethical" coffee, but I can see it becoming part of my morning routine.

May 1, 2009