A laundry basket filled with assorted floral fabric napkins sits on one of the tables. Stacks of DVDs, a cardboard box of Pop Tarts, plastic red and white striped popcorn containers, and an eggshell coloured antique retro dial-up phone are shelved on one wall. This is the Bag Lady, the ideal lunch spot to escape from the normalness of your life. Pretend like you are Alice, jumping into the wonderland of the restaurant.

Jane Beattie takes a seat for the first time on Saturday morning. She’s wearing a thick blue and black flannel sweater, not the kind that’s worn for aesthetic purposes, but the warm kind that’s thrown on to sit by a cozy campfire.

The Backstory 

Jane Beattie is The Bag Lady. Before she opened the Variety and Café at the corner of Pall Mall and Maitland seven and a half years ago, she walked into London office buildings with a basket hung over her shoulder. The basket contained her signature Caprese, roast turkey, and Italian club sandwiches, accompanied by home baked goods. She made and sold brown bag lunches to office workers. Naturally, they called her the bag lady. “I got it on my right arm,” she explained while pulling up her sleeve to expose the black ink tattoo that labels her as the bag lady.

Before the restaurant opened, Beattie took a trip to visit her brother in Berlin, Germany. She appreciated the number of unique cafés available to sip a cup of coffee and read a book. Beattie realized there was nothing like it in London. She decided “to make something that’s just different” from the series of chain restaurants. A year before Beattie bought the property, she started collecting items from vintage stores that would become the treasure of her restaurant.

Best on the Menu

The best brunch order? If you have a sweet tooth (like me) order the Mojo — two slices of cinnamon sourdough french toast, coated with crunchy peanut butter, honey, and banana OR get the cinnamon role french toast, that's my personal favourite. But if 11am is a little too early for your sweet tooth, the breakfast burrito will satisfy your brunch cravings.

“I fly by the seat of my pants.” Beattie smiled as if she’d said it countless times before. People used to ask her if she made a business plan prior to the opening of The Bag Lady. “If I did a business plan I knew it wouldn’t be viable,” she explained. She decided to try it out to see what would happen.  

Once my time with Beattie ended, I sat on a red velvet couch and let my eyes indulge in the scene of The Bag Lady. I comfortably reclined in the bag lady’s home, and so did the rest of the neighbourhood.