A Norfolk station cafe used by Stephen Fry celebrates 100 years
One of King's Lynn's favourite institutions yesterday celebrated its 100th anniversary.
It might not have quite the architectural splendour of St Margaret's Church or the Custom House, but the little buffet at the town's Victorian railway terminus has been serving travellers for more than a century.
With the demise of the buffet car, and even the snack trolley on train services between King's Lynn and London, the Country Line, as the cafe is called, provides a vital service for those on the move.
Hundreds grab one of its famous bacon rolls or steaming hot teas to keep them going on the early morning haul to their desks in the capital.
Owner Alan Gajdzik, who has run the business with his wife, Betsy, for 24 years, said: 'It's the characters who come through here every day, all the people working in London, such a tremendous variety.
'We've had a lot of film directors, a lot of actors. John Hurt and Stephen Fry come through here, Amanda Holden uses it, Peter O'Toole was coming through every day for two or three weeks 18 months ago, when he was filming up here.'
More than 100 customers yesterday helped the Gajdziks and their staff celebrate, amid the iron columns, racks of newspapers and magazines and a well-stocked bar which includes shaving requisites alongside its spirits.
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Other famed patrons over the years have included authors visiting Lynn's literary festival, such as the late Beryl Bainbridge, who traditionally arrive in West Norfolk by train.
Lesley Bambridge, one of the literary festival's organisers, said: 'It's the look of it. It's very atmospheric – I keep thinking of Brief Encounter.'
Raymond Monbiot, Burnham Market-based author and former chief executive of Campbell's Soups, said: 'It's a really nice atmosphere first thing in the morning in here, they're always really cheerful, they cheer you up.
'Alan knows all his customers and gives them great service.'
West Norfolk Mayor Zipha Christopher, who joined guests at a special reception yesterday, said: 'I've been coming in here more than 40 years and it's gorgeous – it's a lovely little building.'
Proceeds from all drinks sold in the buffet yesterday will go towards two Norfolk charities – the Robert Foot Leukaemia Fund and Norfolk Hospice, at nearby Snettisham.