Egg Bacon Chips and Beans, by Russell M. Davies

. 517 words; about 3 minutes.
Category: Books.

Publisher Harper Collins
Copyright 2005
ISBN-13 ‎978-0007213788
Format Hardback only
Pages 160
Rating 8/10

[This post was rescued from an SQL dump of my ancient Movable Type blog. There may be conversion errors and broken links.]

Egg Bacon Chips and Beans is a book inspired by Russell Davies' blog of the same name. The book, and the site, are dedicated to British cafes (aka a "greasy spoon") and the fry-ups therein.

The book, being a relatively thin hardback humour book does on the surface appear to be in the same vein as Crap Towns et al. In the introduction it even alludes to said volume but then dissociates itself from that. This is not a negative book that goes "the food is vile and the cafe is a dump, ha ha".

It's also not a top 50 list either, nor an exhaustive guide. It's just 50 cafes that the author happens to believe are both excellent and representative of the genre. So you should certainly not buy this book as a guidebook to find a suitable greasy spoon, even though you will most certainly want to visit some of the featured places.

What it is is a celebration of cafes. On initial glances, cafes are run down dives that sell cheap, greasy food and frequented by people you'd rather not rub shoulders with. The author makes it his mission to sell these places to you and to make you love them, and by the end of the book, you almost certainly will.

The cafes are grouped into arbitrary categories to make chapters. Most cafes have a double page spread, with some favoured ones having four. The general theme is the same for each: notable exterior and interior features are pointed out, the plate of egg, bacon, chips and beans commented on for both presentation and flavour, and rather obsessively, the range and placement of the condiments. The reviews are heavy on the photos, mostly taken furtively, with just enough text to explain the photos.

The brevity of the reviews means that interesting facts about the venues are not covered. For example, it fails to mention the likely reason why Mr Egg's odd sign invites you to "eat like a queen", which is because it's slap bang in the middle of Birmingham's gay village. However, since the book is not actually about individual cafes but the genre as a whole, this is arguably just fine.

Between the review chapters are short pieces of prose covering single aspects of the cafe experience: the different ways to cook beans, an analysis of brown sauce, the other patrons, how a US-style diner fails to match a British cafe, and the quality of service. The writing style is a bit jokey and sometimes hides the fact that something quite serious and interesting has just been said. The whole volume is very much Ha Ha Only Serious.

This is no authoritative reference work. But it is an entertaining and interesting romp through cafes, and you will almost certainly learn something, especially if you're not British. It also makes a fine coffee table book.

Edit 2007-09-02: Russell's blog is at