Palma Cafeteria, Blackpool
The night before we first went to the Palma Cafeteria in Blackpool I couldn’t really sleep, my brain was fizzing with the promise of chips, gravy, and Blackpool Pleasure Beach. I was on holiday with my best friend Hannah who I hadn’t seen in over a year because of the pandemic, we had been planning our trip to Blackpool for quite some time before, and whilst cafwalk in its fully realised form didn’t exist at the time I was absolutely in the full throes of formica café obsession; and so I am including it as a dispatch. As the trips to this café took place over three days there wasn’t a specific walk accompanying it, so I will describe the café and also provide a best-of in terms of things that we saw. Blackpool is an incredible place; whilst I am focusing on this specific cafe in order to make writing this feel like a task within my capacity at this present moment, it feels criminal to be skimming over what I experienced there. There was so much and it was quite a while ago now, so I am hoping this will do.
I came across the Palma Cafeteria on a digital deep-dive in an intense moment of unblinking obsession with finding old cafes. I can’t remember the exact way in which I found it, but this one was either through walking the streets of Blackpool on Google Streetview looking for old signage, or going through every single café in Blackpool that I could find on Trip Advisor. A lot of time goes into finding the cafes in advance, with methods including googling “time warp café" “formica café (insert name of whatever town I can think of)” “trip down memory lane” “dated interior” to find reviews that may signal the presence of what I am looking for. Admittedly, in the manner in which I experience intense interests, often these deep dives take place over a few days where everything else, including basic self care, gets put on a backburner, it becomes all-encompassing, and when I have to divert my focus onto anything else I get irritable and hard to be around. It was unclear from what I could find about Palma Cafeteria just how close to what I was looking for from the pictures online, but we decided to go and find out for ourselves once our holiday commenced.
The plan was to wake up early and get breakfast from Palma Cafeteria before going to Blackpool Pleasure Beach, which we had scoped out the night before in the dark after walking the illuminations, and finding more thrill in the neon signs and lit-up tat-wagons selling all sorts of light-up ephemera to children than the illuminations proper. Upon waking, all I could think about was still chips and gravy, and even though it was definitely breakfast time, I felt nothing else would do, so I held tightly onto the hopes that they would be able to accommodate this need so early in the morning. We got up, and after ensuring we were equipped with the necessary practicalities to spend the day at Blackpool Pleasure Beach, we walked the 11 minute walk from our B&B to The Palma Café, guided by google maps.
The first thing you might notice about the Palma Cafeteria in Blackpool is the incredible bright orange 1960s plastic shop-front, complete with that classic 1960s style of font. The plastic that covers the shop front serves as a lightbox, and if you walk past it in the dark it glows like an orange plastic glow-worm full of the promise of chips. We got there, picked up our plastic trays, Hannah had egg on toast and I asked “is it OK if I have chips and gravy for breakfast” to which they replied “yes of course you can obviously have that because we are the best café in Blackpool”(Maybe they didn’t say exactly that)
The Palma is big and bright inside with egg-yolk-yellow and white panelling on the wall, cream formica tables complete with really good visible condiment basket presence. The seating takes the form of green leather(or fake leather, I can never tell) Booths. It opened, as far as google tells me, in 1965, and seems to have not changed so much in that time. It’s a “self-service cafeteria” in its form, which I really enjoy as an obsolete café genre, along with milk bars and coffee bars. It’s full of light as it has big windows and mirrors.
We ate our breakfast, both noticing that Hannah’s egg yolks were really bright. Good eggs. I ate my whole entire plate of chips and gravy and it was great and I would do it again a thousand times over. We had our cups of tea and set off on our way to Blackpool Pleasure Beach which, and I know I am an over-user of hyperbolic language but I must be clear that I GENUINELY mean this, the best place I have ever been(THE RIVER CAVES, WALLACE AND GROMIT RIDE, THE 60S ALICE IN WONDERLAND RIDE, THE FIRST EVER GHOST TRAIN. Sometimes when I am sad I remember that Blackpool Pleasure Beach is there and if it is during opening hours there is going to be someone on the River Caves having a nice time and that thought is a reliable balm which keeps me going).
The next morning, after a night watching moulin rouge and if I remember correctly having One Pint Of Strongbow Dark Fruit at the northern soul pub next door, we decided to begin our day once more with a visit to The Palma Cafeteria. This time I joined Hannah in egg on toast, which was an excellent decision and possibly the decision I would make if I were to visit them today. I really wanted a banana split, and asked someone if they sold them, to which they said NO (I am learning in this process that banana splits are increasingly hard to find.) so we decided to return later for a peach melba.
In our second day we took it gently, we took the time to complete some of our particular holiday wishes; mine was to buy some shell statues, and Hannah’s was to have her fortune told, both of these things we managed to complete on just one pier. I am a seaside tat connoisseur and I will boldly state my opinion which is that Blackpool seaside tat is unrivalled, I was ultimately looking for a Kiss me quick hat, which I didn’t see anywhere, but I did manage to get some gems such as a lighter that said I Love You, some of the best shell statues I’ve ever seen, and a stick of rock for my friend dan that said cunt all the way through it.
Our train was around 7, so we had some chips on the beach and decided to return for a third time to our favourite café for a peach melba sundae which we shared. It was sticky and it got everywhere and by that time we were so frazzled from the dizzyingness of Blackpool that we just sat for ages to recharge.
We have decided we must go to Blackpool at least once per year now, and I hope we do that until we are old and that we can continue to go to the Palma Cafeteria all the while. I thought Blackpool might well have more of these places than we actually found, but we did notice a lot of old B&Bs which seemed to have really 70s interiors, and I would love to go in these one day. I am always looking for suggestions for cafes but I am particularly searching for Blackpool Suggestions.
I didn’t go into too much depth because there was SO much, but here are some photos of my favourite things I saw in Blackpool;