Josh Barrie's bacon and eggs: The Class Café, Purley

Purley: place of kings (Christian Adams)
Purley: place of kings (Christian Adams)

I was born in a place called Purley, in the far reaches of South London. It’s a reasonably affluent, leafy part of Croydon, where the actor Bill Nighy went to school and where members of the Kray family disappeared after their empire gave way.

There have been, and still are, a few famous faces around: Darren Brown was born in Purley; Sir Bernard Ingham lived there, as did Wilfried Zaha before he left my beloved Crystal Palace; Francis Rossi is still about as far as I’m aware — he lives in the impeccably grand Webb Estate, an architectural marvel. People wear Gazelles and go to the driving range, if you know what I mean. Which is fine.

Mostly Purley is nothing more than a big Tesco and a lot of Catholics. There are no good restaurants. Zero Quattro is a typical suburban Italian and passable, there’s an excellent fish and chip shop, a Pizza Express and a branch of Iro Sushi — perfectly fine — but there’s nowhere of note. You have to head into Surrey to find somewhere with a whisper of being enthralling or head up towards town, to Croydon and beyond.

But you can always rely on their being a café in these sorts of areas. The Class Café is opposite an average kebab shop, next to an average Chinese takeaway; opposite one of those branches of Boots which feel desolate and without products that appear on Instagram, only packets of paracetamol and fuzzy bath sponges hanging from grey strips of metal.

I like the Class Café and visit whenever I’m around — much of my family still live nearby, or at the very least in Coulsdon or Kenley, both of which really are the classless basket of London: look north and you see the city, gaze south and there are only fields.

 (Josh Barrie)
(Josh Barrie)

By far the best option is the bacon and egg sandwich. I had one not so long ago. I like it because the bacon is always spot on: fat crisp, medallions soft, greasy so that it soaks softly into the bread but not overbearingly so. The bread: neither doorstop nor flimsy. I dislike bread which is too thick because it supersedes the filling, and obviously I’m not a fan of thin little slices because they dissolve like rugby teams facing the Irish back line. The eggs? These are fried and flipped usually, yolk still runny but not dripping everywhere for a social media post. I never understand why the yolk in modern sandwiches is always oozing out over the plate.

Yes, this is just a decent bacon and egg sandwich. I got a paragraph out of it but it’s not so much the point here. This week, the happiness is in nostalgia: Purley is where my family come from and so even though it is barren and bleak, it still feels like home, and of all the meals, breakfast is usually when you are at your most vulnerable.

I love being out for lunch, I very much adore being out for dinner, but breakfast? A local, community café is always best. There should be quiet at breakfast. They might be all the better solo, in a small, unassuming place, free of the hubbub and embroiled in mundanity. This might be about nothing more than being sleepy and unsocial. But it is also about beginning each day feeling calm, awaiting the serendipity to come.

48 High St, Purley CR8 2AA, 020 8660 1413