A small cafe on the outskirts of London’s Hyde Park keeps the memory of Princess Diana alive 25 years after her death, with photos of the venue’s most famous patron adorning the walls.
The cafe was opened in 1989 by Iraqi-born entrepreneur Abdul Basit and serves a combination of Middle Eastern and British cuisines, including the “Diana burger”.
Mr Basit decided to change the name of his business after seeing the princess take her young sons to school and saw it as a good omen.
Cafe Diana is just a stone’s throw from the Princess’ residence at the time, Kensington Palace, and before long its namesake was a regular customer.
“Diana came from the palace down the road and brought the two boys, William and Harry, when they were little and apparently they had burgers,” said regular John Harkness. The National.
“I’ve been coming here for years and years.
“It’s good coffee. I have American friends and they think this is good strong coffee. It’s different from continental coffee.
“I always have the same thing. I have the falafel with hummus and salad.
“It’s very popular with tourists en route to Portobello Market or the other way.”
To indulge herself and take a break from palace life, Diana often went to the cafe for a coffee, cake, croissant or full English breakfast. Anxious to ensure that her young sons did not miss out on normal childhood experiences, she sometimes took them with her.
Diana, who at the time was married to Prince Charles, could often be seen chatting with Mr Basit and waiters. As a tribute to the once royal guest, a photo of the princess with the baton is still on display in the café.
Another image that stands out from dozens of others is an elegant portrait of the princess, signed in gold, which Diana gave to Mr Basit, who has since sold the business.
Mr Harkness, 78, suggested Diana was drawn to the Bayswater cafe by its ‘simple and friendly’ atmosphere.
Originally from Glasgow but having lived in London for more than 40 years, Mr Harkness said he once saw the Princess driving by the cafe.
“I was walking home along the road and the car came out and I stopped and looked down and there’s Princess Diana all by herself. No protection officers or anything,” he said.
“Fortunately, she stopped for me, she let me pass. I just smiled at him.
He remembers walking past the cafe shortly after the princess died in a car accident in Paris in 1997 and seeing the storefront “surrounded by flowers” left in her honour.
Ken Aldous, 87, who has been a regular customer of the cafe for years, said the unique venue took on new meaning after his death.
“A lot of people got very interested looking at all the photos of her,” he said. The National.
He said the cafe probably served as an oasis of calm for the princess and her two sons.
“She used to sit and talk to the owner,” he said.
“I live very close, just around the corner. It’s a very useful place to come and it’s a good environment and relatively peaceful.
“The best time to come not to find peace is in the evening because it’s very, very busy.
“I usually drink coffee or herbal tea. Sometimes I have a snack but being English I am not very supportive of some of these foreign menus. I’m more of a person who likes lamb chops, fries and peas.
Updated: August 28, 2022, 06:00