Enis's Cafe, London
I have to admit that I am completely stumped by this place, despite my best efforts to delve under the surface. Internet searches have found nothing – simply more people asking the same questions as myself, and trying to tease out answers from the owners has been unfruitful as they remain eerily aloof. The place in question is Enis’s Cafe in Waterloo, London.
Enis’s sits squarely in an area of London that would at first glance appear unremarkable. As one of the main routes into South London the roads are clogged with buses and covered in tumble weeds of litter from the nearby train station. However, a closer inspection reveals an area that is well worth a visit should you be passing through or find yourself with a slow connection at Waterloo station. There is the Hole in the Wall pub under the arches of the station, Caprini’s Italian restaurant with original fittings that remind me of my Polish granny’s house, the fantastically named “Fishcoteque” fish and chip shop and then there is the strange coffee hatch on Alaska Street...
This coffee hatch was my introduction to Enis’s. Like a moth to a flame I have been drawn towards this tiny hatch for years, not realising that it was just the tip of an iceberg. The street it sits on is dark and gloomy due to the train line that runs overhead. At night the yellow light shines out of the hatch and peering in you are met with a most marvellous sight, for here is a tiny kitchen that is entirely covered in aluminium foil. Part fairy grotto, part Warholian Factory the effect is breath taking. Tins of spam nestle into their silver background next to tomatoes and on the wall is an intriguing notice announcing “Enis’s SOS... the elixir of life”.
One day whilst peering in and getting random strangers to acknowledge the greatness of this unassuming place, a man appeared on the serving side of the hatch. I asked if I could take some photos of the inside and he said I was welcome to. He then enquired if I had ever been to the cafe round the front as this hatch was just for quick snacks and beverages. I followed his pointy finger and found myself in an astonishing interior. Long and thin, the cafe is filled with a mish-mash of furniture – some 1950s Formica tables and a long breakfast bar down one side with plastic bar stools. The window is painted with slogans in Coca-Cola font talking again of “Enis’s SOS”. But perhaps the most impressive features are the walls and breakfast bar which are covered in swirly hand-painted patterns in pastel and wax crayon. On the surfaces there are unusual trinkets, pictures of Elvis and collages made from magazines. At the end of the room is a large sign saying “£100” next to some odd-looking jars of stuff.
I decided to stay for some food so I could try and find out more about this intriguing place. The menu is limited, especially for vegetarians and the portions aren’t large but then food isn’t the main reason you’d come here. As I ate I quizzed the owner and his female accomplice. The owner (is he called Enis?) had decorated the walls himself. It had taken a considerable time and he didn’t want anyone to touch them as it would come off on your hands. His cafe had been there “a long time”. There is no toilet. This was about as much as I could glean.
On leaving I was handed a card which read:
“ Elixir Enis s So s
Don’t eat it, taste and feel it
- It is the healthiest substance of the world.
- It is the elixir of all time.
- It is the best recipe since time.
- It is as if is the oil of mankind.
- It is the elixir of life.
- It is the one and only recipe of herbs that gives organic energy.
- It is one of the world’s wonderful miracle.
- If not the most –
Yes, You Got It
It is ?
From £ 1.000 less 90% = 100 ”
The man explained that he had put his “special sauce” in the food but that this sauce was “not suitable for children”. The sauce was for sale at the back of the shop for £100. As I left I started to panic... what was in this special sauce?? Why couldn’t children have it? My suspicions took a turn for the worse as I stared at the name of the cafe.
And so Enis’s enigma remains. In a land of bland, sterile cafes and coffee shops, eccentricity should be embraced. The decor alone makes it well worth a visit but the chance to taste the elixir of life is surely an opportunity not to be missed.
More of Jasia's Enis's photos
How to get there
Enis's Cafe, 79b Waterloo Road, London United Kingdom SE1 8UD
Enis’s is currently hidden behind hoardings and scaffolding as the railway bridge undergoes repairs but it is OPEN! And the hoardings are suitably decorated to make the entrance obvious.
Waterloo Station is very close. Buses 1, 4, 26, 68, 139, 168, 171, 172, 176, 188, 243 and 521 all go past the front door.