Eating inexpensively in Lyons Corner House

The first time I encountered Lyons Corner House was on one of my infrequent visits to London. It was quite an institution, and it was inexpensive. As the name implies, they occupied corner sites. The one I visited was on the Strand opposite Charing Cross station. Founded in 1909, they occupied several floors, with a shop selling their own brand foods, and several floors of restaurant above.  They employed hundreds of staff, with waitresses called “nippies” because they nipped speedily about.

For relatively impoverished people such as myself, in the days before fast food, they provided low-cost, nourishing food.  Some of their produce sold nationally.  When I was a boy, Lyons Maid ice-cream was the major competitor to Walls ice-cream, though in retrospect neither of them bore much relation to real ice-cream.  For many Londoners and tourists, they were a godsend in the post-war days, though the food they served then would not pass muster today.

They struggled for years with costly premium sites and huge staff overheads before finally calling it a day.  The advent of fast food outlets changed public habits and tastes. They tried to compete, but their Wimpey brand, offering a stewed meat loaf in a bun that bore little relation to a hamburger, could not compete with the real thing. They were part of the London scene, but everything changes.