Everyone from a chef to a cabinet minister has enjoyed tea and cakes at the Pavilion Gardens Café in Brighton.

Now celebrating its 70th birthday, the little open air cafe is, in its way, as much a local institution as the grand palace a few yards away.

Customers have spoken about their experiences in a new book called Teatime Tales.

They include fashion historian Lou Taylor, whose father, Lord Elwyn-Jones, was Lord Chancellor in a 1970s Labour Government. Both he and his wife, better known as the artist Pearl Binder, loved going there.

Lord Elwyn-Jones was a distinguished lawyer who had been a prosecutor at the Nuremburg War Crimes Tribunal.

The couple were also friendly with Clifford Musgrave, director of the Royal Pavilion, and his wife, Margaret.

When Lord Elwyn-Jones died, the cafe owners attended his memorial service at Westminster Abbey and arranged for a magnolia tree to be planted in the Pavilion Gardens. It is still there. The chef was Peter Stowell-Phillips, who has cooked for everyone from American president Jimmy Carter to singer Marlene Dietrich.

Herbert Tennent started the cafe on Brighton seafront in the late 1920s but he was forced to close during the Second World War because the beaches were mined.

In 1941 he made the bold move of asking the council for permission to move to the Pavilion Gardens and this was granted. Originally it was in a hut on the north side of the palace. The present building behind New Road dates from 1950.

Today the cafe is run by Bert Tennent’s grandson, David Sewell, whose parents Douglas and June managed it from 1976.

Broadcaster John Henty often featured the cafe in his early morning show on BBC Radio Brighton. He is still a regular today.

He made mention of the rock cakes and said, “They personify Brighton. They celebrate its quirky uniqueness.”

Douglas could not have had a better start than the heatwave summer of 1976 – the hottest last century. But a few years later the cafe was threatened with closure by Brighton Council because some people in authority felt it did not fit in with the area.

An enormous petition signed by customers made councillors change their minds.

Douglas says the most exciting times were when the TUC annual conference was held at the Dome before moving to the Brighton Centre.

The cafe was the favourite haunt of many union leaders and politicians, including the tea-drinking Tony Benn. They would often be pictured and interviewed there on TV.

But the Sewells have also appreciated support from hundreds of less famous regular customers.

David Sewell says one man comes every day in the summer all the way over by bus from Eastbourne to sit in the cafe grounds.

Other customers who arrived as youngsters in the 1950s now bring along their children and grandchildren.

Douglas Sewell says he is sure Herbert Tennent would love to know that his grandson David, who once played in the Pavilion Gardens in a tiny go-kart, is now running the cafe.

* Teatime Tales: The Pavilion Gardens Café Interviews (QueenSpark Books, £5.99)