TV & Film
The New Rock n' Roll
Dec 16 2001
Ross MacFarlane writes to say:
'Just a quick shout to say Classic Cafes is a great site
- amazed by the amount of detail you've got going there. Thought
I'd pass on this link; it's an article from the lead singer of
Scottish band Belle
& Sebastian lamenting the loss of his favourite cafe
in Glasgow.' And more on the lamentation front... a new
caff cavalcade of largely ruined Soho cafes. Several years
ago all of these had perfectly decent interiors. Today, as the
Benjy-fication of central London eateries continues unabated,
only Kingly Street's Valtaro is worth a qualified visit. NEW: Click
here for an illustration we found
lurking in the online portfolio of one Justine Beckett and
based on part of the Classic Cafes site. Also...
a hot new picture special is being prepared for New Year based
on recently acquired snaps of the wonderful old Valotti cafe
on Shaftesbury Avenue. This legendary enclave on the verges of
Soho was once frequented by a young Audrey Hepburn but vanished
years ago when the leases expired. We have tracked down not only
many pictures of the place but also two key staff. We hope to
run a full interview with owner Rick Valotti and the wonderful
Myrka alongside the photo-spread soon. Unmissable. Unforgettable.
Caff Cavalcade #11
Nov 30 2001
This 1914 painting by William
Ratcliffe hangs in Southampton's City Art Gallery/Bridgeman.
The print is reproduced in Peter Ackroyd's monumental recent
historical study 'London: The Biography'. Titled 'The Coffee
House', Ackroyd's caption to the picture tellingly reads: 'despite
its colourful interior, (the cafe) conveys a characteristic melancholy
and anonymity.' Making this possibly one of the first tangible
incarnations of Britannia Moribundia. To this day, The Tea Rooms
caff near the British Museum remains spookily similar in terms
of decor... and clientele.
Caff Cavalcade #09
Nov 14 2001
Rossi's Coffee Lounge,
Westcliff on Sea
The magnificent Rossi's Coffee Lounge in Westcliff on Sea - a
superb little seaside suburb just between Leigh on Sea and Southend
in Essex. This area is great for moribund-high street action,
packed with odd bookshops, thrift stores and old family retailers
of all stripes. In the background, above the Rossi, is the 'moderne'
styled Cliffs Pavilion, a sizable early 60s arts centre (now
somewhat remodelled) located on the landscaped gardens which
rise up behind this shrine of Light Refreshment. Wistful views
over Southend pier and an exterior/interior combination untroubled
for half a century should put this profound masterpiece of wicker,
leatherette and lime green formica high on your hitlist! Twentieth
Century society in all its bracing contemporary brio. In January
2003, local Rossi fan Helen Salkin wrote to tell us: "...the
new owners/managers have chucked out the original green Lloyd
Loom chairs and matching marble-topped tables, does still have
various tiled labels such as ICES and SUNDRIES... around 20 years
ago, the council threatened Mr Rossi with closure on the grounds
that the cliff was collapsing behind his cafe."
Nov 4 2001
Concerned readers have contacted
us asking: "What's all this Moribundia malarkey? Where are
the middle-brow spreads in The Sunday Times? Are there tie-in
trainers? Is Jarvis fully appraised? How can we help?"
Let us be clear, Britannia Moribundia is
part rallying cry, part counsel of despair. Britannia Moribundia
posits a national malaise of ongoing managed-decline in a country
riven with shattered public services and consumed with social
psoriasis. Britannia Moribundia upholds the benighted alt.architectural
austerity fag-ends that we feel most pointedly embody these worn
values... We Luv 1951.
Note, we have two more additions to our
burgeoning Moribundia section...A
fine piece in The Standard about a magical lost shop in Kentish
Town: 'Blustons, an old-fashioned dress shop... The lino floors;
the electric bar heaters; the sewing machine that was second-hand
when the owner's grandparents bought it in the early 1900s; the
jazzy pine-effect wallpaper that creates a bizarre faux-Scandinavian
wainscoting. If English Heritage had any sense it would slap
a preservation on the place immediately. Then there is the window
display. The recessed double-fronted layout with its glassed-in
units creates a mini-arcade... The homogenisation of our high
streets is a crime against our culture.' And...
the deceased Head of the Church of Satan Anton La Vey (The Black
Pope) musing on the supranatural power of the forlorn environment:
"The word 'occult' simply means hidden or secret... Go
to the record store, to the corner where no one else is, where
everything is dusty and nobody ever goes... If there's anything,
any frequency, any power that exists anywhere in this cosmos,
in this universe, (it is there) you're gonna stand out like a
beacon! It truly makes you elite."
Coming soon... 'Moribundia
on Sea - The Essex Connection.' A caff cavalcade of Wescliffe
and Leigh on Sea treasures. It will amaze ye!
Oct 21 2001
Picking up on this site's two years'
worth of campaigning and propagandising, at last proof positive
a looming mainstream media caff-cult is starting as evinced by
a clutch of recent Evening
Standard links: one about the endless corrosive effects of
Starbucks-style coffee bars entitled links Greasy
Spoons v Culture Cafes; the other, a day in the life of the
family owner of London's top cafe of all time Pellicci's.
Pellicci also figures in the ES 'top 50 hip
list': "Where are hippest spots in town? Where should you
be seen? Where should you shop? ... No. 23 Pellicci's cafe: With
its Formica tables, Fifties fittings and traditional grub, Pellicci's
is full of retro charm. Go on a Saturday morning and you'll find
arty, post-party twentysomethings and locals Steven Berkoff,
Gilbert and George. 332 Bethnal Green Road, E2 (020 7739 4873)."
Ruination! Also, a note from Classic Cafes aficionado J. Fulgoni
re: 'A great caff resource is a book called Lime, Lemon and Sarsaparilla
by Colin Hughes (now sadly out of print - but being republished
in April 2002) which details the history of the Italian Cafe-based
community in Wales. This community is closely related to the
London one (being) largely from Bedonia and Borgotaro (in the
valley of Val Taro) about 20 miles from Bardi. The book has a
great map of the Italian cafes in Wales... there are still at
least 18 Italian cafes in Pontypridd/Rhondda which would be a
reasonable twelve mile driving tour.'
'Greasy Spoons v Culture
Cafes' by Nick Curtis [Evening Standard 2001]
"The corner caff is a
cornerstone of London life. Usually a family concern, it is run
more often than not by Italian immigrants who lavish the same
loving care on their chips as on their customers. Never mind
the poor, tired shoppers of Knightsbridge: the caff is a haven
for everyone who wants a sausage sandwich or a plate of spag
bol at 5.30am. There, office workers and lawyers rub shoulders
with builders and cabbies - now that's a cosmopolitan atmosphere.
If you've got an early start in the morning, or a crippling hangover,
nothing else will do... Caffs, though they will never face extinction,
are a dwindling species as high rents, competition and the dying
concept of family ownership force many out of business. They
are the red squirrels of the restaurant world, threatened by
a tide of grey uniformity. Just as Happy Eaters and Little Chefs
have almost exterminated the motorway caff, so wipe-clean chains
such as Costa, Pret A Manger and Starbucks are slowly colonising
the London caff's urban habitat. But as long as there's a brickie
to be fed, or a beer-headache to be slaked, the London caff must
162 Farringdon Road, EC1 (020 7837 4015), open Mon-Fri 7am-5.30pm,
A favourite hang-out
with taxi drivers, Muratori doesn't lack atmosphere, and manageress
Giuliana Muratori has no doubt as to the most important ingredient
for a successful caff: "Noise!" One can imagine the
heated debates that occur when a cabby voices an illiberal opinion
next to a worker from Amnesty International, whose offices are
next door. The café was set up by Giuliana's father, who
came over from Parma in the 1960s, and it's been on a (bacon)
roll ever since. All the food is home-made, and Muratori is yet
to feel the pinch of competition. "There are loads of cappuccino
places nearby, but it hasn't affected the cab drivers,"
says Giuliana. "Most builders don't want a croissant."
Cafe, 11 Park Street, SE1 (020 7407 5048), open Mon-Sat 4.30am-4pm.
This tiny, defiantly
old-fashioned local fry-up joint has been written up everywhere,
from the New York Times to the German gourmet magazine Feinschmecker.
Marianzena Moruzzi and her mother Amalia (known to everyone
as Mama) believe that "the customers make a café"
and keep up a torrent of good-humoured banter with their regulars.
The ladies are famous for their bubble-and-squeak, and were called
in to cook up a sample to be fed to American tourists on Newsroom
Southeast after Gwyneth Paltrow dissed the dish. Mama remembers
serving the porters of Borough Market when she first came over
from Parma, and the café's counter was made of apple crates:
today, the clientele ranges from dustmen to priests to Sean Connery.
On his way out, an insurance ombudsman proposes marriage to Marianzena
and gets a good-natured earful in return. The café is
threatened by Railtrack's plans to broaden the nearby railway
line, which would be a crime against history and good food.
332 Bethnal Green Road, E2 (020 7739 4873), open Mon-Sat 6.30am-5pm.
This venerable café
has an intricate marquetry interior crafted by Achille Capocci
in 1946, as well as a distinctly homey atmosphere. "Because
we're all family we love working here," says Anna Pellicci.
"My grandparents came over from Lucca in Tuscany and set
up the restaurant nearly 100 years ago. My dad was born upstairs.
That all adds to the ambience." Anna's mother Maria is in
the kitchen at 5am each morning preparing sauces, and her cousin
Tony "has been a fixture for 35 years". Two more fixtures,
during the 1960s, were the Kray twins, who put their East-End
seal of approval on the place. Nowadays, there are more German
and Italian tourists than gangsters at the tables, but some traditions
persist. "Bob the taxi driver still comes in for a breakfast
of spaghetti bolognese at 5.30am every Saturday," says Anna.
As Charles Campion says: "Any breakfast good enough for
the Kray brothers should be good enough to conquer Europe."
Sep 12 2001
Moribundia mon amour: "We're in for
a dire decade... (Britain is) a place of seedy, comfortable decline, of clubbable anger and unfinished
crossword puzzles, of splenetic punning letters to the editor
about the decline in grammar... A country scratching a lazy irritation
at sagging doorjambs and late trains, whose greatest attribute
is a collective, smelly tolerance... A country of public insouciance
and private, grubby guilt, where you can believe anything as
long as you don't believe it too fervently. A country where the
highest aspiration is for a quiet life..." AA Gill: Sunday Times Sept 9 2001 For
the full piece click here. Also just in, new picture files
from London & Europe...
Sep 9 2001
Lots more links
info added about US vernacular diner architecture: 'The quintessential
diner is a small, family-owned establishment which serves no
more than about 50 people at one time. Counter seating is essential
and this configuration makes the diner more than just a place
to eat. A diner is also a place for conversation, a community
center in some ways. There are a number of characteristics which
many diners share. Most are open 24 hours a day and serve breakfast
for the whole time. Most serve coffee as a staple. Suburban diners
usually cater to old folks or school kids. Highway diners serve
the needs of travelers and truckers; two groups which may need
sustenance (and especially coffee) at any hour of day or night...
If in doubt, look for speckled formica, linoleum, stainless steel
and moldy wood. Chances are, if you find all of them in the same
eating establishment, you've found yourself a genuine diner.'
Amen to that!
Sep 1 2001
A new selection of atmospheric
pictures by Phil Nicholls
taken at various
London locations last year will be filtering onto the site. A
gallery of the images at their original print size is being prepared
and will go online shortly. Phil is possibly best known for his
work at 'Melody Maker' during the 90s where his portraiture set
the standard for the entire music press of the time. His work
has also appeared in 'Blitz' and 'Vogue' and numerous broadsheets.
More recently he's worked closely with the Tindersticks on the
majority of their LP releases. A major retrospective of his work
was previewed at Belgium's 'Botanique' centre this summer to
wide-ranging European acclaim.
Aug 19 2001
seaside special! Worthing
has just enough alt.architecture diversions to justify a couple
of visits. This English seaside leftover seems to have been pretty
well ignored since Harold
and inexplicably came there for a year in the early 60s: "He
moved to the Regency house in the... sedate, cosily geriatric
environment... of Worthing in 1963, where he wrote the script
for The Pumpkin Eater for Columbia Pictures and The
Homecoming for the RSC... 'it was a rather lovely house (says
Pinter) bow fronted... in the only part of Worthing that is really
attractive, a street called Ambrose Place very close to the Connaught
Theatre...' " Rather too much vicious 70s building has disfigured
the place - especially around the stomach-churning northern part
of the town by the station. On no account miss the majestic Connaught Corner House cafe opposite the pier - a fantasy
of green leatherette, old-time ceiling fans, marbelised walls,
dinky hanging lamps and fine service. Avoid both the mustard-coloured
Macari's ice cream parlours - their only
interest lies in the counter signage but the owners refused point
blank to allow us to take any pictures... so we rattled 'em off
any way! Other good caffs: one green one with neat booths and
suitably decrepit interior right opposite the train station and
a couple of other winners tucked down side-streets around the
town centre. Check out the Edwardian seafront cinema and the
Deco Connaught Theatre too.
Jul 28 2001
A lovely quote about the moral
evils of caff culture by Richard Hoggart British cultural critic
and co-founder of the Centre of Contemporary Cultural Studies
in The Uses of Literacy (1957.) Hoggart celebrates the working-class Hunslett
area of Leeds but at the same time criticises 1950s popular culture
because it is: "full of corrupt brightness, of improper
appeals and moral evasions". He particularly attacks "milk
bars", in which he believed he could detect: "a sort
of spiritual dry-rot amid the odour of boiled milk... The hedonistic
but passive barbarian who rides in a fifty horse power bus for
threepence, to see a five-million dollar film for one-and-eightpence,
is not simply a social oddity; he is a portent."
Staying on the coffee
bar trail, memories here of West of London circa 1969-71[Richmond,
Twickenham, Kingston] from a 'Mr Weed' with his stories of L'Auberge Cafe on
the legendary ex-Mod centre Eel Pie Island where Pete Townsend
now lives. You may have to click around his site a bit, but it's
quite well marked.
Jun 23 2001
NOTE TO RESEARCHERS:
Not sure if this
site has been included somehow in the national curriculum but
we have had dozens of requests from 'O' Level students doing
graphics courses asking for research materials to be made available
and advice to be dispensed. Apart from the masses of stuff over
the last year that we have still to filter online and feature,
all the caff material is on this very site. NB: If using content
from "Britain's finest alt.architecture resource" please
first inform us first of the project for our own records and
please do credit the site in any work and cite the full URL.
Those wanting to dig deeper into the architectural background
should contact the archives at The
Museum of London or
check out our resources pages and track the titles there at the
new British Library. Old copies of 'Hotel and Caterer' magazine from the 50s & 60s have many pages
of ads that might be helpful - although their archives are out
in the stix. We also highly recommend a trip to the magnificently
Museum in Shoreditch
[Liverpool St tube then bus] to see their modern period displays
and archives. The bookshop at the Royal Institute of British Architects [RIBA] is also full of wonderful
things and the building itself round from Langham Place - behind
the BBC - is one of the wonders of London built in 30s high style
with regular exhibitions.
Jul 10 2001
This just in, green
shoots of recovery and reclamation down Sussex way: "Hello
- your web-site is great. I've recently opened my own small tribute
to the classic coffee bar of the late 50's/early 60's in Brighton
- the Off-Beat Coffee
Bar - at 37 Sydney
Street in the North Laine. Brighton was sadly lacking in any
formica cafes despite having had loads of them in the past so
I decided to open my own. Outside of Brighton, Worthing has an
excellent example of the classic seaside cafe in Macari's which is on the seafront virtually opposite the
pier (there's also one in Eastbourne.) It's got about 20 booths
and has the yellowing pictures of various ice-cream combinations
along the length of one wall which are obligatory in any decent
ice-cream parlour. [Sharon Thomas]"
Be sure to head to
the South Coast this summer to recce all these fine establishments.
Also as promised, more sweet memories from the archives...
Jul 8 2001
At a time of constant
bad news on the caff front [see West One obituary in Lost Cafes] and with chrome hellholes like Benjy's - truly
the Stringfellows of fast food - proliferating everywhere, it's
very good indeed to be able to report freshly chanced-upon new/old
joints like Bar Central
[4 Bernard St WC1]. Almost next to Russell Sq tube this caff's pleasing
exterior gives little indication of the magnificent suspended
moderne ceiling work inside. Six good leatherette booths make
up the seating area and the counter accoutrements are top notch.
A smart little local place handy for the Renoir art cinema and
Skoob books both located in the brutalist maze of the Russell
flat complex opposite. Also close by is one of the most amazing
deco buildings in London - once a garage and now the headquarters
of an ad agency. A brief mention too for the useful, if almost
[Kingly Street WC1] behind Liberty's
in Oxford St. As a back-up for the West One this just about suffices:
decent booths, nice menu, excruciatingly slow and grudging service
from London's most downcast caff owner... but the lack of atmosphere
makes us yearn all the more for the happy days of Wells St.
As the nation's leading - it's that USP
again - alt.architecture site, we're often asked: "How about a map with the exact
location of each caff - what about a search function?" Well, part of the mood that appeals about these
places is finding them by accident, the not-noticed quality is
something we very much want to preserve. Most street locations
are given anyway, just walk up and down and keep your eyes open.
Also... the rate of attrition is accelerating each year so by
the time you try to look out a particular place it's likely to
have been demolished anyway. Furthermore, by raving about the
Pellicci in Bethnal Green so much we've found the place
overflowing of late with undesirables disrespectfully noncing
about with mobiles, iMac sized trainers and 'Hoxton-Fins' [Travis-lead-singer-haircut.]
Come back Reg n' Ron! Because of this, the whole site must now
be maintained on a need-to-know basis via Masonic levels of clique-ishness.
For God's sake, tell no-one what you see...
May 23 2001
Click here for a couple of illustrations
that have found their way to the site. Ron Godwin
will be providing us with a number of paintings and illustrations
in the months to come. Godwin is a painter working in oil, acrylic
and watercolour best known for his pellucid estuaryscapes and
beach vistas in the West country. Although largely a marine painter
he also constantly paints the city using a Pochade box, mostly
in situ. He has been a regular exhibitor at The Royal Society
of Marine Artists since 1970. His works are held now in many
private collections. The portrait of 50s London literary legend
(and 'Absolute Beginners' author) Colin Macinnes
sitting in his favourite caff comes from the front cover of his
collection of essays "England Half English" - first
published 1961. Also stills of the famous 2is Coffee Bar in 50s Soho that served as a launch point for
many bands and singers of the time and which Macinees would often
namecheck in his essays and journalism.
Apr 23 2001
and Die! A first visit to the mighty Pellicci
on Bethnal Green Rd since the interior was burnt out last year
[see above] reveals the entire place much improved. All the intricate
early-century woodworking and even the stained glass lead work
on some of the interior doors has been replaced to perfection.
Every last strip of Vitrolite, marquetry and formica has been
lovingly burnished and restored. The old signed pic of Steven
Berkoff is up on the wall and all seems right with the world.
The ever solicitous Pellicci family are back and serving
in fine fettle and the place is rammed. Through the serving hatch
at the rear it seems as if the kitchen space has been significantly
increased, but otherwise it's business as usual. And what a business.
On a Saturday it pays to get down early to secure a seat. Within
months there will be queues around the block. Only one problem
- the new denizens of this master caff all seem to be graphic
designers, supermodels and trendy vicars. Long term visitors
to this site will know that we take a very dim view of this kind
of new blood - as we do about almost anything that impacts upon
our strict pre-'70s Little Englander mindset. Oh, for the flimsy
pensioners and truculent barrow boys of yesteryear - whither
the legions of faint hearted English whimsy? Either the gentrification
of the area has forged ahead in the last 10 months or Classic
Cafes has a greater congregation and reach than previously imagined.
Forget The Dome, forget Tate Modern... here's where you can see
the pale fire of Britannia Moribundia sputtering most markedly.
The Pellicci refit has set the standard by which all others must
be judged. Could there possibly be a better start to the century?
And if you get down fast enough, this legendary caff is giving
away pocket souvenir cards to mark its rising from the ashes.
Speed the plough!
Apr 22 2001
A jaunty NEW section called Caff
Cavalcade will be located
here as a way of randomly complementing our other gallery area devoted to the ins and outs
of cafe architecture. Tiresomely irregular additions will be
bolted on as and when. But for now...
Also NEW in this section... under no circumstances should
you miss our insightful picture specials on Frank's Diner in Olympia; the lovely RendezVous in Maddox St and a mawkish Stairway to Moribundia - Anchorites
Away special! They
don't come much more otiose than this. New increasingly 'special'
panels will be updated on a semi-regular basis. Catch 'em if
Mar 10 2001
A selective behind-the-scenes
re-code has been done to stop various table problems PC users
were having with the layout of certain sections. Apologies to
any visitors coming to the site from Wintel/non-Mac machines.
Seems like version 4.5+ browsers for Macs are a lot more forgiving
of mangled tags than their Windows counterparts. Thanks to everyone
who mailed in suggestions. The problems should all now be fixed.
Since this site is only tested on Macs - we have no access to
PCs - we're grateful for any tech-nerd web-monkey criticism we
can get. We must just point out a superb new site called Psychogeography.Co.Uk
This stunning and
streamlined resource is a must for those addicted to mapping
the myriad conceptual contours of the modern metropolis. No point
denying either our envy of their elegantly lo-fi design which
puts Classic Cafes to shame - no wayward html here! A curatorial
Feb 17 2001
A few more decent
places have been unearthed in the last month. The Bonbonniere Restaurant is exceedingly central, just opposite Debenhams
in Oxford St in Woodstock St. This has a somewhat offputting
neon sign but the interior has the feel of some sort of large
Sorrentine ice-cream parlour with a big tiled sea-faring mural
at the very back of a sizeable floorspace. More of a lost restaurant
than cafe, it's really the spaciousness and seried ranks of nice
nut brown tables and chairs [and the pretty wall lamps] which
make this such a comfort zone. There's a touch of the curtain-twitchers
about this one which we like but a draconian 'minimum charge'
policy and punitive 'no cheques or credit card payments under
£10' rule puts it beyond the true caff pale. A pity - this
place has real potential and a sense of history. A pleasing sister
eaterie used to exist some years ago in Carnaby St but has since
been brutally Starbucked. Another flawed masterpiece...Mama's is a potentially fine local find right on the
lower end of the noxious Waterloo Rd as it voids into the Elephant
and Castle. This utility-build worthy has interesting high backed
grey booth seats, solid tables, good counter-space and corking
plain wall coverings. Unfortunately it is also solid with extravagantly
flatulent building crews whose sulphuric tabloid intake and relentless
phatic communions make for a less than congenial atmosphere.
One for the Brian Sewell in us all.
Jan 25 2001
NEW Hotel Moribundia 1 picture special. A new find for
the site which deserves wider recognition - but which we are
going to cloak in secrecy anyway. This is a lost hotel bar somewhat
akin to the infamous Colony Rooms drinking club in Soho beloved
of Francis Bacon. It probably won't last long but we include
it here because it encompasses all the shabby, outcast virtues
of Incidental England: the rooms are splendidly desolate; the
clientele are all anchoretic lost souls and the ambience is as
inactive as the smudged old bar counter itself. Perfection. We
offer up this picture special as an object lesson in top notch
drab. See also Hotel Moribundia 2 - Stairway to Moribundia featuring
another secret hotel bar of particular splendour in long-gone
Jan 21 2001
NEW New Piccadilly photo special - lots more shots
of the fabulous New Picc interior
that must have launched a thousand imitators throughout the
60s. This is the one to aspire to - The Titanic of cafes! An
interview with the owners is in planning and we'll probably try
to get another bunch of pictures of all the smaller details from
Jan 14 2001
Palma interior specials - Palma #1
& Palma #2. Also, exteriors
Palma #3; a brace of hot new premises - Scotti's & The St John's
Cafe - spotted round town; Julie Burchill's Eastbourne
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