Positives: It’s cheap and BYOB. All the food is vegetarian and freshly cooked that day. The atmosphere is invariably great. There is often live music. It’s situated just off Bonnington Square, the most unique and vibrant of London’s residential squares, which, like Bonnington Cafe, has its roots in the squatting movement. There’s nowhere else like it.
Negatives: The quality of the food depends on which of the many volunteer chefs is cooking that night, and the service can be somewhat emotional, but it’s all part of the fun of the place. It’s cash only and you should call the chef to book a table – the rota is on their website.
Bonnington Cafe has been a mainstay of Bonnington Square since the squatters moved in in the early 1980s. At that time, many of the houses didn’t have functioning kitchens, so members of the community took turns to cook for each other in the communal cafe, using ingredients either bought from or scavenged from the nearby Covent Garden food market.
The cafe still operates in this way, run as a co-operative, with a different chef cooking every day, but it’s now open the wider public as well, and it’s a truly magical place to spend an evening. Needless to say, the food can be a little hit and miss depending who’s cooking, and there are generally just two choices of starter, main course, and dessert, all vegetarian and some vegan. But the food is cheap, it’s BYOB with no corkage charge, and the atmosphere is invariably great, with candles, occasional live music, a wood fire on cold nights, and above all, a real sense of community (the cafe doubles as a community centre). Just don’t ask for the “special stuff”.
Here’s a video about the Bonnington Square squatters, including plenty about the cafe (thanks to @taxbod for the link):