"You're Fried!" Apprentice Cafe Owner Speaks Up

A trip to Acton's infamous Bridge Cafe

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Westfields Road

London W3 0AP

020 8992 2559

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From the outside, you might not give the Bridge Café a second glance, but for fans of the Apprentice it's a familiar sight and for the contestants it is presumably a sight which they would rather not see. As the owner, Frank Marcangelo pointed out to me: "We are just the booby prize for the losing team."

For anyone who doesn't watch the Apprentice, the winning team on each task is wined and dined in style. However, the losing team is sent to lick their wounds in Acton's Bridge Café while they wait until it's time to go to the 'boardroom' (which local TV afficionados say is filmed in Black Island Studios just down the road). There, Sir Alan Sugar gives them a stiff dressing down, tells them how useless they are, encourages them to make disparaging remarks about their rivals and eventually points one of his multi-millionaire fingers at one of them and tell them: "You're fired."

After a fortifying and extremely good cup of tea, I had the impression the café should upgrade itself at least to being a consolation prize. Although it was lunchtime and the place was full of regulars who all seemed to know Frank (one of them quipped that I should know that Frank's great great great great great grandfather was "an extremely famous ceiling painter"), he managed to chat whilst pouring tea and supplying platefuls of fabulous-looking fry-ups.

The Bridge Café has been in Frank's family for 46 years after his father bought it in 1962. He is the perfect antidote to the cut and thrust of the wildly competitive contestants of the Apprentice.

"Sometimes I have to calm them down - they can have some quite heated discussions. They have been coming here from the first series." (We are now on the third batch of ambitious, suited wannabe millionaires). He told me: "I can't say too much about it. The majority of them are actually quite nice." However, none of them has returned to the café after the end of the series.

Frank tells me: "Sometimes the filming can go on very late into the night. It's always done at a time when the café isn't open." I asked him if he is a fan of the TV series: "I watch bits and pieces of it - especially when they make comments about the café."

When asked whether once he gets to know the personalities involved he can tell who is going to win, he says: "No, I can't. Some are alright - and some I'm not so keen on."

Frank has other things on his mind. He has three daughters. Nicola, who worked at the café for 18 years, left in November to have her first baby. Frank's oldest daughter lives abroad and has five children.

The family had another brush with reality TV when Frank's youngest daughter, who attended Northolt School, was one of the singers in the TV series the Choir.

Despite associations with competition losers, this seems like a great place to go if you're looking for a great fry-up, a comforting cup of tea, a bit of banter and a friendly smile. I think Frank could teach Sir Alan a thing or two.

Clare Gittins

April 16, 2009