‘The best cooked breakfast you’ll find’ - we visited the legendary cafe still going strong after 83 years

This Severn Beach institution has been in the same family since 1940

The 1962-made Seeburg jukebox at Shirley’s Cafe stopped playing records long ago. A sign stuck to the front politely reminds customers that it’s out of action and purely for decorative purposes these days.

A faded copy of the Bow Wow Wow single Go Wild In The Country is still inserted at the top of the jukebox. Released in 1981, it may well have been the last 7” vinyl to be played at Shirley’s Cafe. Seeburg stopped making jukeboxes in 1979, which must make this beautifully preserved model highly collectable.

By 1981, Severn Beach’s heyday was long gone but then Shirley’s Cafe has been around long enough to have seen the one-time holiday resort thriving. Just around the corner from the Severn Beach railway station and a short hop from the seafront, Shirley’s has been in the same family since 1940.

That’s a remarkable achievement, especially at a time when many struggling restaurants and cafes are lucky to survive 12 months. I can’t imagine a single new opening today lasting the distance for 83 years.

A sky blue-painted, low building with bright red Coca Cola signs and a neon ‘open’ sign in the window overlooking the garden, Shirley’s Cafe is modest and timeless. Inside, rows of simple wooden tables and chairs are arranged on the tiled floor, with a counter at the far end where you order.

The walls are covered with fascinating photos of Severn Beach in the good old days, when there was an open-air pool next to the sea wall and a boating lake.

Shirley’s Cafe is something of an institution, not just for Severn Beach residents, but for the thousands of people who visit each year. It’s especially popular with cyclists and walkers, but also dog owners. Canines are warmly welcomed.

One of the breakfast options at Shirley’s Cafe
One of the breakfast options at Shirley’s Cafe
One of the breakfast options at Shirley’s Cafe

And the food is worth travelling for, whether it’s bacon and egg sandwiches, cheese and tomato toasties, beef burgers, omelettes, filled jacket potatoes or ‘Shirley’s Specials’ such as the homemade chicken curry with rice and poppadoms, broccoli and cheese bake with sweet potato fries or simply a bowl of Shirley’s legendary homemade chips (they’re better than chips I’ve eaten in Michelin-starred joints).

Under a section called simply ‘meals’, you’ll find the cooked breakfast options and old favourites like ham, egg and chips (£6.45).

The breakfast is an absolute bargain at £5.95 for two rashers of bacon, fried egg, mushrooms, beans, fried tomato and sausage. I pushed the boat out by adding toast (75p) and black pudding (£1.20) and it was worth the extra investment.

Shirley’s Cafe in Severn Beach
Shirley’s Cafe in Severn Beach
Shirley’s Cafe in Severn Beach

Everything on the plate was cooked to perfection. The good quality bacon was crisp on the edges, the sausage plump and juicy and the wheel of black pudding rich and spicy.

The glossy baked beans were served in a dinky little enamel camping mug, the tomato flecked with herbs and the egg timed to the second, its golden yolk spurting over the rest of the plate on contact with the knife.

Washed down with a steaming mug of builder’s tea (£1.75), it was as good a cooked breakfast as you’ll find. If only more places were like Shirley’s.

With food of this quality, it’s no wonder it’s still going strong after 83 years. It’s an absolute gem.

Shirley’s Cafe, 37 Station Road, Severn Beach, BS35 4PL.