Site News: 2004

Reviews #1
Reviews #2
Reviews #3
Lost Cafes
Seaside Cafes
TV & Film
Top 10
Site News

The New Rock n' Roll

Dec 22 2004

Dudley Stuart John Moore was a musical prodigy; from his early youth he had shown a remarkable ability on the piano and an impressive facility at improvisation. On leaving Dagenham High School he went on to perform as part of the Johnny Dankworth Seven and tour the United States with the Vic Lewis Band. He studied music at the Guildhall before winning a Mackinnon Organ Scholarship to Magdalen College, Oxford. By the late 50s he had established himself as a superlative jazz pianist and entered into a long comedy partnership with Peter Cook. In the 60s he formed the acclaimed Dudley Moore Trio with Pete McGurk and Chris Karan. They performed regularly on British TV, made numerous recordings, and had a residency at Cook's satirical comedy club, the Establishment: "My ideal of jazz is a very heavy beat going on, with very relaxed, melodic work on top. It seems to sort of froth over." The perfect soundtrack for classic cafes everywhere...
- Dudley Moore Trio Special


Dec 19 2004
The bitter end to a bitter year of classic cafe destruction. Centrale - where Malcolm McClaren used to dragoon 1980s Burundi pirateers Bow Wow Wow - is closing on 29th December 2004. Says Classic Cafes' correspondent Patrick Turland: 'The properties on that side of Moor Street (excluding Ed's Easy Diner and the pub) are being demolished, as are some of the properties at the rear in Old Compton St...18th century buildings that should have been listed... The area is to be 'developed' to make away for a block of apartment-hotels, apparently on the basis that they will deter undesirables'. Classic Cafes fan James Watthey
tells us that: "Centrale is planning to re-open at 7 Archer St from the end of Jan 05. The notice in their window says: 'The food will be exactly the same. So will the staff including the 21 yrs veteran chef of Centrale, Manulo. The decor will be familiar also.'"


Dec 10 2004

Original All Night Long LP cover
Pure aural Formica from the bulwarks of Moribundia. Set in 50s London's, All Night Long is a neglected treasure; an atmospheric thriller set over the course of a late night party with appearances by some of the best known names from the jazz world (Charkes Mingus, Dave Brubeck, Johnny Dankworth...). Drummer and dope-fiend Johnnie Cousin (Patrick McGoohan in fine form) plans to set up his own band - and will do anything to realise his goal... The magnificent Harkit Records have re-issued the soundtrack on CD: an amazing swathe of aural Formica that should be added to your iPod Classic Cafes Themes playlist right now! (Click LP cover for Benny Green's original sleeve notes.)

- Harkit Records: Pure Aural Formica


Dec 9 2004

Aberystwyth National Milk Bar, 1935 (There's Posh/Michael Wilson)

NEW "The National Milk Bar idea was the brainchild of Mid Wales dairy farmer, R.W. Griffiths as a way
to market his produce. 'Willie' Griffiths opened the first National Milk Bar in Colwyn Bay in 1933 with
the idea of selling the milk and cream from his farm at Forden directly to the public. It was a big hit
and 'Willie' Griffiths went on to open a total of 17 bars in Wales and North West England ­ all with
their signature black and white chequered floors, bar stools, jukeboxes and gleaming chrome
fixtures. In those days, before health scares and dietary fads, milk and milk shakes were the trendy
drinks. The Beatles frequented the milk bar in Lime Street, Liverpool and teenagers everywhere
followed their example..."

- Welsh Cafes Special


Dec 3 2004

The Corner Cafe, Empress Place SW6
This is hardcore: seeping bitterness, brooding desolation, simmering accidie, curdled sourness ... The Corner Cafe delivers! Almost opposite West Brompton tube, this 1940s Orwellian humdinger sports amazing brown lacquer benches (which should be saved for the V&A furniture collections); 60s Formica tables with a dense dark blue pattern; original steel 40s coat hangers; a speckled red laminate service area; a flesh-coloured curved counter; old tallboy cupboards; stacks of tatty Yellow Pages piled in alcoves and a plethora of behind-the-counter detail (signs, shelves, displays). The Corner Cafe comports itself with all the brackish austerity you might expect of a pre-war dowager. Quite magnificent. Follow up with a stroll through nearby Brompton Cemetery to really hone the experience. (Unfortunately, the owner went tonto after a few test shots; only these few shaky interiors survive... )

- Corner Cafe Brompton SW6 Special


Dec 1 2004
WeBewleys! Bewley's - once described by the Irish poet Brendan Kennelly as "the heart and hearth of Dublin" - has closed, another victim of rising rents and changing tastes in the Irish capital. Classic Cafes fans will want to give Bewley's a great big corporate shout-out as they pursue growth through core strengths in the provision of speciality beverage solutions to the foodservice, hospitality and retail markets: "Given the modern consumer's preference for smaller, more intimate venues... It has been decided, after serious consideration and with great regret, that the famous Bewley's cafés at Grafton Street and Westmoreland Street, Dublin 2, will cease trading after 30th November, 2004. 234 staff, between both cafés, will be affected by this development... Through a well defined strategy, Bewley's is today the market leading supplier of ground coffee products and complete hot beverage service systems to the trade, hospitality and retail sectors... Bewley's ... comprises a diversified international company which is at the forefront of coffee industry developments at home and abroad. For sound business reasons, and after careful consideration, the cafés at Grafton Street and Westmoreland
Street will not form part of Bewley's operations in the future. Bewley's will continue to pursue growth through its core strengths in the provision of speciality beverage solutions to the foodservice, hospitality and retail markets." Two historic cafes closed; 234 staff 'affected'. It doesn't get much better than that.
Benchmarking excellence ... the Bewley's way!


Nov 30 2004

Absolute Beginners - 'two lovers must choose to live by their idealist principles or sell out to get to the top of the fashion world' - nearly twenty years young and every bit as relevant now as it was in the mid-1980s. Colossal set pieces that remain welded to the psyche of a generation! A songbook that puts The Producers to shame! Performances that run the gamut from Absolute to Beginner! And so much more... David Bowie scrambing over a huge typewriter... Ray Davies crooning his way through a 50ft dolls house... Lionel Blair carrying on camping... Sade living it large... Weller having it blue... Berkoff busting his spuds and Patsy Kensit on the razzle... Plus ca change! Here's a production still of the 2is coffee bar built on Julien 'Filth & Fury' Temple's huge Soho shooting set. More pertinently, Temple's pop video for Bowie's title-song featured the glorious AA Restaurant hidden off Carter Lane just south of St Paul's Cathederal. With its stirring deco exterior, this much loved cafe was lost in the late 80s when it became a Chinese restaurant. Some remnants of the original window etchings remain. (NB: in the legendary Absolute Beginners tracking-shot opening New Piccadilly mainman Lorenzo Marioni can be spotted standing in a queue eyeing up some cartoon tarts!)

- AA Restaurant Archive Special: Julien Temple/David Bowie video stills


Nov 3 2004
(notes on life, love, drink, debauchery, fisticuffs and fine tailoring - a bastion of all that is correct in a world where so much is not... ): "It is rare that we find a site that entertains us more than our own... and even rarer to find one which reduces us alternately to tears of nostalgia and indignant rage. Adrian Maddox has built this beautiful site as a clear labour of love. It is a paean to the passing of proper English Cafes in all their Formica-clad, steamed up, slop-serving gorgeousness. Illustrated with breathtaking black and white photographs and written with crisp wit and full rigour, we defy you not to spend an hour wandering around the site and the rest of your life seeking out the Cafes. Adrian Maddox has created something of simple beauty and real social importance. If we could say that we'd die happy."


Nov 2 2005

Regis, Leadenhall Place EC3
Now 80 years old, and the only real classic cafe left in the City, the smart little Regis sits across from the Lloyd's building and the beautiful Leadenhall Market. Regis was sympathetically reworked in the 80s by legendary caff shopfitters the Lemiglianas. Features: exterior sign with period font on wood panel facade; 50s stools along a breakfast bar; chalet ceiling; good lights; old-style clock and a thumping great tea boiler. Expect unrelenting Italiano bonhomie from the chipper crew in charge, and particularly attentive personal service if you happen to be a pretty City girl. Merciless landlords mean prices are way steep but Regis is well worth a gander. (Check Obertelli's round the corner too.)
- Regis Snack Bar EC3 Special #1
- Regis Snack Bar EC3 Special #2

Oct 26 2004
Hot new pix of Eastbourne's Taurus Steak House (just closed due to the onwer's retirement) and Notarianni's next door. Notarianni's is still going strong 'just about, with great little brown-fleck Formica tables and green seating... but the best bit is the exterior with its abstract 1960s frontage.' Go now. 'Notarianni's Milk Bar & Restaurant. 203 Terminus Road. Eastbourne. Open 7 days. 8.30am-10.30pm (Restaurant open 11.30am-11pm.) Light meals. Teas/Coffees. Disabled and children welcome. Seats 40.' (Craig Scott/Daniel Lucas)


Oct 25 2004

Ice Cream Parlour, Birchington (Pix: Fabio Lozzi)

"The Ice Cream Parlour is near the station at Surrey Gardens, Birchington (a small town west of Margate.) It's next door to Stav's Restaurant. A sign in the window says that the owners, Jan and Stav, recently retired from running both businesses after 21 years. The Ice Cream Parlour, established 1946, has apparently changed little since its opening. No Formica, but little Lloyd loom tables; original handpainted signs over the counter; a splendidly voluptuous bikinied blonde cradling a tempting cone; metal and glass ice cream dishes stacked on mirrored shelving; electric blue tiling outside; and a metal and wood panelled counter. The business was due to re-open under new management on 28th September, but three weeks later, nothing had happened. Let's hope the new owners realise what a gem has come into their possession, and leave it exactly as it is." (Richard Gray)

- Ice Cream Parlour Special


Oct 20 2004

The New Piccadilly: 50th Anniversary Photo Special


Oct 18 2004
Joel Bakan, award-winning filmmaker and author of The Corporation: "The corporation as an institution, and in particular, the large publicly traded Anglo-American corporation... does one thing very well: create wealth for its shareholders. But it does that at the expense of other interests ­ human and environmental.

Governments have to recognise that the corporation is a policy tool, not an end in itself. Governments have to ensure an appropriate balance between wealth creation and other interests. They have to immunise themselves to the undue influence of corporations on public policy, and revitalise and re-democratise the systems that protect public interests from corporate harms.
The corporate 'person' (the law recognises the corporation to be a "person") is legally programmed always and only to serve its own interests. In a human, that would lead to a psychopathic diagnosis. Today, pension funds own much corporate stock. The pension funds are legally required to advance the financial interests of the beneficiaries. This leads to the odd scenario where people have little choice but to sacrifice, say, clean air for their children, safe and healthy workplaces, and so on, for their retirements.

We need to regain democratic control of the corporation... we need to work on revitalising the public regulatory sphere, reversing the trend towards privatising and commercialising every aspect of our lives, and reconstituting our international institutions, like the World Trade Organisation in ways that foster fair trade rather than blindly following neo-liberal ideology.
We need to reactivate ourselves as citizens to ensure governments do what they are supposed to be doing. Mine is a call for deepening democracy - there's plenty of room for innovation and creativity and entrepreneurial vigour within that... our democratic institutions should be in control of the corporations... As we move to a society based on a kind of market fundamentalism we ironically come to resemble those totalitarian orders that we think we disdain."
(Rhys Blakely, Sunday Times October 17, 2004)


Oct 17 2004
"Landlords now set such astronomical rents that only multinationals can afford them. But two of the country's richest landowners actively discriminate against the corporates. The Mercers Company, one of London's biggest landlords (it has owned much of Covent Garden and eight acres of the City since the 16th century), forbids chain stores on its streets. It is wooing independent shops by offering them incentives, such as a 15% rent reduction. "If we allow Covent Garden to be another high street, we would be competing with every other street in Britain" Michael Soames, the company's surveyor, said recently.

Howard De Walden, the estate that owns much of London's Marylebone, is also spurning the chains. Andrew Ashenden, De Walden's chief executive, has accused councils of ruining their high streets by favouring the highest bidder and not promoting individuality: "The multiples have become so dominant that they have ruined the high streets and taken away their character," he says. "The high street should be a mix and that is something that most local authorities ignore."

Ashenden has also criticised greedy landlords: "They want the strongest covenant and the highest rent, they want instant results and there's no vision. What they fail to realise is that an old-fashioned butcher is a very attractive tenant these days... the big landowners are in a position to change things... we have the power to make landlords and councils see sense, by voting with our feet and purses... if this country's increasingly dreary high streets want to survive, they, and everyone associated with them, need to change tack, pronto, before it's too late." (India Knight, Sunday Times October 17, 2004)


Sep 25 2004
Ruination! The Metropolitan cafe is being destroyed by its new owners; the latest in a shocking run of classic caff losses this year. Many moons ago Mrs Gurny Bakay took over The Metropolitan after falling in love with everything she felt it represented about her beloved England (she and her husband also lived above the premises). But four months back, after years of tender loving care, the couple had to sell the lease. Despite begging the new owners to leave the beautiful interior intact it is now being ripped out. A burger-bunker rebuild - more in keeping with the 'sink estate' vibe of the Edgware Road - is now on the cards. For this ultimate blasphemy, the Classic Cafes' William S Burroughs Hex Induction Crew issue
malediction: may the great sky-gods of Formica curse every last plastic-moulded table and chair in the gaff... and all the useless lumpen, dysgenic scumbags who eat there. They're Lovin' It.

Metropolitan, Edgware Rd W2 RIP

Joe Strummer and Paul Simonon were regulars at The Metropolitan in the late 1970s! Even though the frontage is unspectacular this is actually one of the most exquisite caffs in London. Just down from where the old much-missed Regent Milk Bar used to be, this longstanding local features masses of seaside coloured lime n' cream laminate; two tone walls; original deco mirrors; flesh coloured chequer-board flooring; a wonderful back serving hatch; brilliantly preserved seating and tables and stylish moderne lettering above the counter. The spirit of the Regent Milk Bar lives on. Unmissable.

- Metropolitan W2 Photo Special


Sep 13 2004

Ashen Italian patriarch Ronnie runs this brilliant parlour caff on the verges of Shoreditch. Features include: original shop pilasters and consoles; achromatic Formica tables; ornate 50s wallpaper; blaring paintwork; proud Thonet chairs; deco wallposters; authentic pegboard menu; clattering dumb-waiter and rat-run ablutions. (Lots of vitrified 1934 LwH Dudson Bros. tableware too). It's very much in the mould of the deceased Tea Rooms in Museum Street W1 (or Don's in Clapton E5) - a hard core classic caff with ambience readings that fizzle into the red on the Pinter-meter. Yes indeed, 36 Redchurch Street E2 is sublime! Antiquated. Beleaguered. Crummy. Decayed. Dingy. Enfeebled. Gimped. Ramshackle. Run-down. Sidelined. Spavine. Weather-beaten... But beautiful. Precious cargo indeed in an area overrun with lofts, Jake and Dinos lookalikes and wannabe St*rbucks junkies. And a much needed antidote to the welter of Nathan Barley Hoxton-tot nu-bar-booze-portals which glut the area.

- Redchurch St E2 Cafe: Photo Special #1
- Redchurch St E2 Cafe: Photo Special #2
- Redchurch St E2 Cafe: Photo Special #3
- Redchurch St E2 Cafe: Photo Special #4
- Redchurch St E2 Cafe: Photo Special #5


Sep 7 2004
Jonathan Glancey 2002: "We have replaced our busy streets with hermetic office blocks, gated shopping precincts and bland chain stores that belong to councils and corporations but not to the people... At the same time we have tended to strip our town and city centres of old street markets and family-run businesses and to pedestrianise what were once lively shopping streets, creating urban deserts."

We live in a global mono-culture where you can participate in the same 'consumer experience' from Los Angeles to Lagos. A global mono-culture where aesthetic, architectural, agricultural, natural, and civic diversity is being lost across the world. A global mono-culture built in: "Corporate Cathedrals [where] the company's deepest values are shared and explored [to build] corporate soul"; where "focus circles for excellent team visioning sessions tell the mythical tale of a company's destiny "; where "the full spectrum of intelligences and learning modalities have been awakened [to help] people align their personal commitment with the goals of the company"...

Don't YOU want to align YOUR personal commitment to your favourite mega-combine's deepest values? Of course you do. So why not take this free personality test: see how many times you can recite
St*rb*cks' brand mantra below before your triple mocha latte turns to retching bile...

1 Exceed the expectations of your own people.

2 Have strong values, stick to them and use them to guide decisions.

3 Ensure there's no gap between your brand values and your actions.

4 Keep reinventing, but never tamper with the core of what you do

5 Reach out to communities through your people

6 Remember that every detail matters.


Aug 22 2004
Clone Towns
. The New Economics Foundation survey 'Clone Town Britain (the loss of local identity on the nation's high streets)' reports that chain stores that spread "like weeds" are turning traditional high streets into "clone towns". This loss of diversity ultimately leads to a loss of choice for consumers as well as a loss of local character. Replacement of locally owned outlets by retail multiples damages the local economy as profits drain out of the area to remote corporate headquarters and local employment is destroyed. The chains have the marketing budgets, political contacts and resources that give them an unfair economic advantage over local shops and services. The consequence is that local businesses get suffocated and our towns end up looking all the same ...


Aug 18 2004

The great Scots-Italian cafe dynasties can be traced back to the mass migrations of the late 1800s. Italians from Tuscany and Lazio (mostly) fled the old country to escape famine, corruption, a crippled economy and the disastrous agricultural condition of their homeland. Fresh off the boat they would sell their wares in the ports - anything from humble statuettes to blocks of ice. Many remained in the port cities of Glasgow, Greenock and Edinburgh, opening shops and serving dairy ice cream to the working classes of Garnethill, Paisley and the Grassmarket. In the beginning this was served direct from the barrows with shouts of "Gelati, ecco un poco" (they thus became known as the 'Hokey Pokey' boys.) With dairy produce and seafood in abundance, Italian cafes subsequently sprang up all over Scotland with full meals, confectionery and cigarettes now added to the menu... (check out: I Like, ScotsItalian and the Virtual Mitchell archive)

More > Scottish Cafe History...

More > Welsh Cafe History...

- Scottish Cafes of the 1900s: Photo Special #1
- Scottish Cafes of the 1900s: Photo Special #2
- Scottish Cafes of the 1900s: Photo Special #3

Aug 13 2004

Oh come let us adore him. These candid shots show work-in-progress on the chief capo of light refreshment himself, Lorenzo Marioni - Mr New Piccadilly! Captured here in the medium of oil paint by artist Nerys Davies, many will know Lorenzo as the televisual figurehead of Britain's greatest endangered caff. But who will dare speak of the man who has made a lifelong study of the Inuit? The man who retains an anthropological passion for the peoples of the Congo? The man who relishes hoar-frosted cabbages? "...When the neon sign declaring EATS goes dark for the last time, it will represent a dying gasp of old Soho - where gangsters and tarts mixed with rockers and foreign royal exiles (and ravioli and chips cost three shillings)... Mr Marioni, whose father Pietro ran the business before him, came to Britain from Italy in 1949. He can remember the impression the cafe's bright colours made. "In the early Fifties this was magic," he said. "The yellows, the citrus, the gold, all inspired by the Festival of Britain..." (Evening Standard, 3 August 2004)

- Lorenzo Marioni - Portrait in Pleasure #1
- Lorenzo Marioni - Portrait in Pleasure #2
- Lorenzo Marioni - Portrait in Pleasure #3

Aug 11 2004
"St*rbucks went on to open an average of more than five stores every month in the UK from 1996 to 2000. Prices paid for the prized high street locations spiralled until St*rbucks forked out an eye-watering £1.5m in a Leicester Square rental deal. As the competition struggled to compete, St*rbucks kept running its expensive sites at a loss, prompting accusations that they were using their muscle to unfairly squeeze out the opposition... Its drive for world dominance meant it was becoming a symbol of globalisation, and therefore a target for protestors. Meanwhile, in 2002 Coffee R*public lost £7.5m. Caffe N*ro struggled on under a debt mountain of £7m..." (BBC Money Programme 12 February 2003)

- BBC News 24's national news report on the plight of Classic Cafes: TX 7 Aug 2004 (Real Player format.)


Aug 4 2004

  Eastbourne Caff City

"Notarianni's Restaurant & Milk Bar in Eastbourne lies in Terminus Road ­ a treasure trove of classic caffs. It has an unusual, and apparently, original grey frontage from its opening back in 1947 but inside only the battered white banquette seating survives from the 40s. Atmosphere is nonetheless richly appealing to moribundia aficionados. At the back of the caff is a collection of photographs of various Notarianni's in their heyday (this was a chain, mainly in the north of England.) The manager told us that a few survive: in Blackpool, Scarborough and other towns."
"Just up the road on the other side is a magnificent branch of a more familiar south coast chain, Macari's, happily retaining many of its original features: Splendid green and red wooden banquette seats, Formica tables, 1960s opening and closing-time clocks and a gorgeous street sign with a full colour knickerbocker glory (a motif repeated on the picture menu in the window.) I especially liked the Horlicks dispenser which pleasingly survives even though Horlicks, surely the signature drink of moribundians, is no longer served. However, the star of Terminus Road is undoubtedly the Taurus Steak House, next to Notarianni's. The sign is obviously 60's but nothing prepared us for the total timewarp interior. The manager told us that it had opened in 1969. And clearly absolutely nothing has changed since... the place mats, cruet sets, faded seating, carpet, the menu, take you straight back to the 60s and a bizarre pebble dash - no doubt very groovy in 1969 - covers one wall as while tall, conical copper lamps loom ominously above tables in one corner!" (Richard Gray)


Aug 3 2004

Don's Lower Clapton Road E5 - illustration by Kavel Rafferty

With its creaky double-fronted exterior and unremitting drab decor, Don's on Lower Clapton Road E5 seems to be perpetually on its last legs. Orders are written in felt-tip pen on an ancient piece of plastic on the counter which is then wiped clean. Says Don fixture and caff classicist Jonathan Hourigan: "The cafe's run by the eponymous Don and his Italian siblings (all in their 70s and from Lucca in the 1930s). They've been there all their lives. The place sits just around the corner from where Harold Pinter was born. Don's looks as if it was once a stables and has an amazing Georgian double-bay at the rear looking onto a garden. Wooden interior, high ceilings, never full! It's open til 2.00 pm most days." Don's chirpy whistling (and the accompanying polka music) is a unique selling point along with the lovely caff cat... "Places like Don's offer something you can't get in your quotidian Costa Coffee: character! Okay,the food isn't up to any high standard but it's run by two tiny little fellas, both about 75 years old, who make great tea to a non-stop soundtrack of 1940s French accordion music. There's something terribly classy about it, even taking into account the nicotine-stained walls, ratty furniture and faintly grubby atmosphere." Pure Pinteresque genius.

The East End where Pinter grew up resonates throughout his work: "It brimmed over with milk bars, Italian cafes, Fifty Shilling tailors and barber shops. Prams and busy ramshackle stalls clogged up the main street - street violinists, trumpeters, matchsellers. Many Jews lived in the district, noisy but candid; mostly taxi drivers and pressers, machinists and cutters who steamed all day in their workshop ovens... it was a very very lively, active kind of world; a lot of people who talked a lot. They talked very fast. It was during and after the war, and there was a sense of release. People were just talking very fast. "

(Kavel Rafferty has exhibited at the Designers Block, The Duke of York, The Victoria, Clerkenwell House and Mid-Century Modern. Here she celebrates the "very personal charm that makes every cafe individual in these times of high street chains." )

- Don's E5 Photo Special #1
- Don's E5 Photo Special #2
- Don's E5 Photo Special #3
- Don's E5 Photo Special #4
- Don's E5 Photo Special #5

More on Harold Pinter, colossus of the twentieth century here...


Aug 1 2004

Greasy spoon caffs are being crushed
by the coffee giants...
by David Smith

"Wrecked by rising rents, it's last orders for all-day breakfast at classic British hang-outs... Dozens of 'greasy spoons' are disappearing. Adrian Maddox author of Classic Cafes says: '2004 is fast becoming year zero for caffs. Every month another one bites the dust or news filters through of a fresh closure looming.' Maddox noted that in the six months since his book was published, four of what he rated the 'top 10 cafes' in London have vanished... The trend is being repeated all over Britain as giants such as Starbucks, Costa Coffee and Caffe Nero spread, providing fierce competition and driving rents beyond the reach of smaller independent operators... Says Maddox: 'The culture and the architecture and the ambience of these places is fast being levelled in a kind of massive cultural, corporate napalming by the big coffee stores. They will gang together, move into an area and have a lot of muscle with the landlords. They will then move their guys in a few streets down, play against each other and destroy everyone else. The chains will not rest until every street in the West is a branded mall... Orwell's nightmare vision in 1984 was of a jackboot stamping on the human face for ever - we now know the future is best represented as a boiling skinny latte being spilt in the lap of humanity in perpetuity.' "

- Full Observer caff feature here...

Jul 24 2004

  The Food Programme: Cafe Culture: BBC Radio 4

"Sheila Dillon traces café culture in Britain from the political 17th century London coffee houses to today's corporate coffee bars, and asks - is there a future for the traditional British caff? Sheila visited the Café Riviera (known locally as Bertorelli's) in Newbiggin by the Sea in Northumberland ­ an art deco styled café that's up for sale. She met local historian Mike Kirkup and café regulars to find out about the café's heyday at the height of the resort's popularity, and the role of the café today as a hub of the community.
Frank Bertorelli, great-grandson of Ben Bertorelli who built the café, explained why he's now reluctantly selling up. And we heard from Ella Clarke who started work in the café when she was 12 years old and is now ready to retire. Sheila went to the site of one of London's coffee houses in the 17th century ­ Buttons ­ that's now a Starbucks coffee bar (Russell St, WC2). Historian Antony Clayton explained the importance of the early coffee houses in politics and debate, and the significance of the 1950s coffee bars of Soho. Sheila met Adrian Maddox of Classic Cafes  and Mariel Loriega or Allegra Strategies who have recently surveyed today's coffee bar market. At the New Piccadilly Café ­ the largest 1950s café left in Soho ­ they discussed the future of the traditional British café, and the allure of the new chain coffee bars. At Alfredo's café in Islington Sheila met with Kevin Finch of S&M (Sausage & Mash), a company trying to preserve and update the British caff - retaining and restoring classic interiors, while refining the traditional menu."

Jul 20 2004
Mr Seb Brennan writes to highly recommend the Tonibell Snack Bar/Ice Cream Bar at 35 Shenley Road, Borehamwood, WD6 1AE: "It's about 100 yds from Elstree and Borehamwood station and is a cracker. All that's left of their 1950s cornet-based empire is this double fronted cafe on Shenley Road: nice facia, leatherette banquettes. Maybe when it gets knocked down to make way for a Chicken Cottage the nice people at BBC Elstree can cart the remains round the corner and re-erect it in Walford." Tonibell was started in 1937 by Italian-born Toni Pignatelli and his Scottish wife. Known as Tonis, it consisted of a small ice-cream manufacturing plant in a shop in High Street, Burnt Oak, Middlesex. The products were sold to the public from the shop window. The name Tonis was changed to Tonibell in 1960 because competitors began using Tonis name and colours. In 1969, when Lyons bought the company, Tonibell had eighteen depots and four franchise depots covering the whole country. In addition they had 15 ice-cream parlours, mainly in the London area.

Interior of Jolyon Restaurant London Wall (part of the Lyons & Co chain)


Jul 15 2004
Caff meltdown - Copper Grill (Liverpool Street), Euro Snack Bar (Piccadilly) and Parma Restaurant (Seymour Place) have all closed in the last fortnight. What better time for the long-awaited St Etienne Caff films to air...


Jun 6 2004

The, er, crusty old Pie Crust Cafe, High Street E15
Pie Crust Cafe, 273 High Street E15

If you ever find yourself stranded on the dismal dual carriageway that leads from Mile End to Stratford (perhaps after a brutal kidnapping... or possibly after stumbling from the Newham Holiday Inn during a seismic nervous breakdown) then the Pie Crust should be your first port of call for light refreshment. A grizzly little caff opposite the Carpenters Rd turning, the Pie Crust looks as though it has just narrowly survived a Luftwaffe attack. Only the hearty sign and ratty net curtains suggest an interior of any merit, but merit it certainly has: Formica refectory tables; 1940s scout-hut oxblood leatherette seating; vintage ceiling fans; two plastic embossed Pie Crust wall-menus overflowing with cheap eats (Rough Guide recommended) with egg chips & beans at £2.00; large Thai exotica murals... and a rear table doubling as a T-shirt stall! Vast portions. Inexplicably happy staff. Moribundia for the masses.


Apr 30 2004

2004 is fast becoming Year Zero for caffs. Every month another one bites the dust or news filters through of a fresh closure looming. For a while now we've known about the incipient demise of
The Copper Grill tucked away behind Liverpool Street station but hoped that plans for the demolition
of the area might get put back. No such luck. Mr Burkeman's family masterpiece closes on Tues June 29 2004. Somehow, the publication of the Classic Cafes book seems to have psychically dislodged many of these places.
Oddly, in August 1972, cult US writer William S Burroughs subjected Soho's first coffee bar The Moka (opened by Gina Lollobrigida) to weeks of para-psychic bombardment - what he termed 'playback' - involving the making of recordings and pictures. Eventually, it closed and was taken over by the Queen's Snack Bar. When Burroughs returned to London from the States in 1966 he had already accumulated a considerable body of 'playback' data: "I have frequently observed this operation: make recordings and take pictures of some location you wish to discommode or destroy, now play recordings back and take more pictures, will result in accidents, fires, removals. especially the latter. The target moves. We carried out this operation with the Scientology Center at 37 Fitzroy Street. Some months later they moved to 68 Tottenham Court Road..." Thirty two years on, Wild Bill's hex induction programme seems as potent as ever. After a decade of Classic Cafes' photographing and archiving old London cafes, the majority of them have gone for good. At present rates of attrition, all of London's classic cafes will be lost within two years.


Mar 18 2004

The culling of key London caffs continues apace with horrific news that the Rendez~Vous in Maddox Street closes Wednesday 24 March 2004. Aurora & Gino are retiring as the lease expires. The Rendez~Vous was one of the greatest finds in central London with its trademark Espresso Bongo-like sign and a domestic living room interior featuring a bay-fronted window, covered tables, excellent wooden chairs, hanging lamps and lashings of warm Formica on the walls. Cafes fan Richard Gray writes: "The Rendez~Vous, with its clientele of solitary office workers... instantly transported me back to the 1950s London described in the novels of Barbara Pym - a deceptively genteel writer who often includes vivid descriptions of eating alone in cafes around Holborn where she herself worked."

Rendez~Vous Special

Mar 15 2004
Simon Reynolds blissed out in Moribundia: "I went through a phase recently of feeling nostalgic for boredom, the kind you felt as a suburban child in the UK in the 70s - the utter sense of privation experienced on a Sunday around 6.00pm when it was just religious programmes... It was almost spiritual, the sense of oppression weighing on the soul... this clinging to the decayed and decrepit, the shabby and bygone, represents a form of revolt through recalcitrance and drag against NowPop and Bling and Cappucino-isation... especially perhaps as the lick of modernising style-culture paint slapped over everything is just covering deep abiding ongoing decay..."


Mar 12 2004

Dino & Giovanni get ready to rumble
Snack Bar, Brooks Mews W1

A hidden gem in a forgotten Mayfair mews behind the Deco splendour of Claridges, this model of British utility is where the first test shots for the Classic Cafes book were done. Brothers Dino and Giovanni run a fine joint, now sadly somewhat altered due to a lorry accident (which damaged the front of the shop) and the ministrations of local health inspectors (which necessitated some ugly internal additions). But never mind. The Snack Bar is the classic plain-style caff: basic decor; straight ahead furnishings; peg menu; a simple counter and... a superb clock of unknown age tucked over the counter. Historically important too - the Snack Bar is also one of only two surviving London cafes originally listed in Jonathan Routh's seminal The Good Cuppa Guide of 1966 (the other is Frank's in Olympia).

- Snack Bar Brooks Mews W1 Special


Feb 22 2004

Cafe Riviera, Quay Wall (off Front St) Newbiggin-by-the-Sea

This just in from Classic Cafes fan John Griffiths: "For Sale notices have gone up on the art deco walls of the Cafe Riviera, Newbiggin-by-the-Sea and its future is uncertain. Frozen in time since before the Second World War, the Riviera Café was developed from a group of cottages which looked out over Newbiggin Bay in the 1930s. Italian shopkeeper Benjamin Bertorelli created the building in stages and it was finally completed in 1937. The café was taken over by his son, Armando, who refused to follow changing fashions over the decades and kept it just the way it was in his father's day. Today it has the same tables, chairs, light fittings and display units that were brought in when it was built. The building remained unchanged, apart from regular decoration throughout the war years, the days of rationing, 1960s fashions, the Beatles era, men walking on the Moon and robot missions to Mars. The ice cream sold was made to a family recipe handed down through the generations (according to family legend, Bertorelli ice cream was a firm favourite of Queen Victoria) and the coffee was made to a blend Benjamin Bertorelli invented... " The Evening Chronicle Feb 14 2004


Feb 19 2004

Alpino, 97 Chapel Market N1

Only the stylish serif typeface above the door indicates anything special but special the Alpino most certainly is. Founded in 1959 this monument has held on to every ounce of its character. The interior is a wonderland of museum-quality tables and shiny, worn wooden booth seating. On top of this, the fluted beige wall panels, teak-veneer Formica, glossed-over 1950s anaglypta, red lino floor tiles, period wall heaters, glorious lamp fittings, coat-hangers and teak detailing make this a no holds barred Top Ten destination. Jeez, even the Alpino's plum-pattern plate n' saucer sets are ceramic perfection. Just ducky! Simon Cheung, the Alpino's owner, is a caff-master of the old school; a gent who really knows how to handle the old place to best effect. NB: For the flaneurs out there, this is a favoured Iain Sinclair stop-off on his Regent Canal walks.

- Alpino N1 special #1
- Alpino N1 special #2
- Alpino N1 special #3


Feb 17 2004

Brucciani's, Morecambe. Lancashire

Built in 1939 (originally as a milk bar) Brucciani's typifies the simple 'high street deco' style popular at the time. The brown wood and chrome exterior boasts black lacquer base panels, porthole lamps above the doors, ziggurat doors, classic deco handles and original menus. The interior preserves extensive wall panels, a slightly reworked counter, Formica tables, red upholstered chairs, wall-to-wall etched glass (Venetian canal scenes), mirrors, deco clocks and coin-slot cubicles in the cloakrooms. Don't visit the north west without taking a look.

- Brucciani's Photo special & Michael Bracewell article


Jan 20 2004

The Tea Rooms, Museum Street WC1 closes!

As of Jan 23 2004 one of the greatest London caffs has shut up for good: the old Tea Rooms marooned off London's Museum Street. This delightful parlour caff was set up in 1961 by Rina and Eugenio Corsini. The wall-to-wall carmine mosaic Formica interior (and accompanying fug of inertia) retained a quintessential, Pinter-esque quality of English drabness. We will not see its like again.

- Tea Rooms WC1 reportage special


Return To Top of Page