Talking of diners

There’s a fantastic quote by David Lynch in his book Catching the Big Fish:

“I used to go to Bob’s Big Boy restaurant just about every day from the mid-seventies until the early eighties. I’d have a milkshake and sit and think. There’s a safety in thinking in a diner. You can have your coffee or your milkshake, and you can go off into strange dark areas, and always come back to the safety of the diner.”

I love the concept of the diner, a place where you can let your mind wander far to places and concepts beyond the walls around you. All the time the steam from the coffee in front of you wafting slowly around you and the faint noise of the traffic and people outside occasionally reminding you that you’re still in that safe little cube. I’ve found some fantastic places over the years, none of them diners unfortunately, that fit this criteria. Sometimes they’re just cramped little coffee shops, greasy with strip lighting. Sometimes they’re cleaner and more minimal — when you’re found the right place you know it, whatever the décor and atmosphere.

I think I’ve found it at the Tate Modern member’s bar and café. Don’t get me wrong, in terms of quality cafés the TM leaves a lot to be desired. It’s often packed out and the queue for a coffee can be long and annoying. There’s no table service and you get some fairly pretentious characters from time to time. On the other hand, you get a view like this:

View from the Tate Modern café

Not a bad view if you can get one of the highly sought-after north facing seats — don’t even try on a weekend, they’re like gold-dust. On a weekday, like last Thursday when I took this photo, you can sit back in one of the comfortable chairs and gaze across to St. Paul’s on the north side of the river. The furniture in the bar is minimal but comfortable, with long rows of seats along the walls and little coffee tables, just what you need for a nice creative session.

Minimal furniture

So I finally found my diner, somewhere I can go off to those dark (and light) places and come back to my coffee when I’m done. Just don’t try it on a Saturday.