Snack Bar Brooks Mews W1 Special


Dino, Snack Bar, Brooks Mews W1

"We're from the south of Italy: 30 miles north of Naples. We came over on the visas in the 50s. Italy was in a terrible state after the war, financially ruined. Took years to recover. People wanted a better future for their children. But our parents weren't ambitious in life, never bought a house in England, they were very plain. I wanted to expand and make a bit more. I wanted to be my own boss and give it a go.

When I was a kid I used to work in the Regent Milk Bar (my brother Giovanni used to work there too). Basil Albert was the owner of the Regent. Italian Brazilian he was. Very generous man, always giving to charities. I was the Sunday tea boy and washer up. This was in 1976. £3.00 a day, cleaning up the tables. I was about ten.

It was very busy on weekends, the day was rushed. Mostly it was English families coming for peach melbas and ice cream sundaes. When it closed down, business was pretty well dead then. The owner neglected the place in the last years.

The Regent opened in 1952 (on the first day they only sold three ice creams). The Metropolitan dates from around same time. The owners are Turkish. I was at the Metropolitan for two years. The chef has been there for God knows how long. They still have the same massive old range in the kitchen. The guy always says: "how are you my friend."

To be honest, when I was working there I didn't appreciate the interior - now I would. At the time I was just going to do a day's work. Now I'm more aware. At the Metropolitan I learnt to serve, cook, use the till after a while I moved to the City as a sandwich maker. Worked there for ten years then I bought the lease on this place: the Snack Bar, Brooks Mews. A supplier knew I was looking for my own place and told me it was for sale - but it was a short lease. I wasn't scared to give it a go so I came to look. Budget-wise it did me fine. I took it over in 1999. Before that an elderly couple had it for 30 years; another couple had had it for about the same time before them! I had to do the front up a bit because it was at the end of its life; I had to make some changes. I had to put the kitchen area partition in so that customers didn't get spattered. All the wall pictures are original as are all the table and chairs.

But there's plans for the Mews now; have been for ten years. Upstairs haven't renewed their lease and I don't think ours will be renewed after 2006. Now you've got to deal with so many health inspectors; so much rubbish... That's why I had to patch this place up; but the lease is so short that I've never had it done properly. We do get people coming round on the back of the book coming out; they have a look, out of curiosity.

The Metropolitan were going to sell the cafe to us. They made us an offer but I wasn't ready at the time. You got all the council estates round there; big gangs, people not paying, walking out, you get the front of the shop put in. I don't need the hassle. Someone once approached me with a knife there. It's the way people are. The owner punched the hell out of someone once. The police came but pretended they didn't know him. Over here I've been happier - apart from sarcastic remarks about the prices..."


Brooks Mews Photo Special #1

Brooks Mews Photo Special #2


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