The famous Lenham Café – the transport café on the A20 between Maidstone and Ashford – sees its 60th birthday in January, and will celebrate by hosting a checkpoint for crews on the London to Cape Town World Cup Rally which will stop here on the night of 1 January 2012.
This café has an older continuous run than the North Circular Road’s Ace Cafe, and is a regular haunt for bikers and classic-car events today. In its time it has seen regular breakfast finishes for the Kent night-road-rally scene, and was a haunt for Monte Carlo drivers in the era of duffle-coats.
The café has a number of rally plates around the walls from John Sprinzel, British rally champion in a Frogeye Sprite in 1959, and over 100 black and white rally photos, which makes it Britain’s biggest public display of rally memorabilia.
The café was regularly visited by Ian Fleming, author of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and James Bond creator – he dropped in when travelling to London on the coach service from Deal, he lived on the sea-front nearby, to London’s Victoria Street. The number on the front of the bus was 007 and it’s the bus number that inspired the number of the “licence to kill.”
Fleming and fellow travellers would stop at the Lenham café as it was the half-way stop to London, take in a bacon butty and tin mug of tea, and then rejoin the bus…today the mugs have changed. They are now china, and have a cartoon on the side of John Sprinzel’s head poking out of the top of a Frogeye. An army of local rally enthusiasts, sponsored by the Endurance Rally Association, have recently given the Lenham Café a make-over, but the original brown stains on the ceiling from the 1950s were spared the paint brush.
Opening Times and more history is available on www.lenhamcafe.com