TV & Film
Joe Moretti: "In 1958 the 2i's was the fuse for the explosion that was to come in the world of UK Rock and Roll... it was a melting pot for musicians... Adam Faith, Joe Brown, Hank Marvin... The 2I's was owned by a nice guy called Paul Lincoln. A wrestler by profession but he loved running a coffee bar... it was just a little café with an old battered piano in the basement in Old Compton street. But it had a soul and a buzz ..."
John Waters: "... the Mod "firms" or street gangs... Each manor had its own caff"s... We congregated in two or three local cafés and pubs... My own particular memories of that era are mainly concerning music... Friday and Saturday nights up West... off to the Coffee Ann in a cellar down the bottom of Wardour St... Early next morning meeting up at the all night café "El Passant" on the Strand (what a great juke box). The thing about the sixties was that everything was so new. The clothes, music, clubs and for the first time we had some money in our pockets to indulge."
Quentin Crisp: "When the class was over he suggested that we should visit one or two of the cafés which he frequented in Charlotte Street. If it had not been for this casual invitation a whole world might for ever have remained closed to me... I could devote two or three nights a week to sitting in one or other of the cafés... my homosexuality was of no consequence... The staff was friendly and unhurried to the verge of immobility. So was the clientele: bookies and burglers, actresses and artisan, poets and prostitutes; and there was an entirely new caste brought into being by the war - deserters..."
Mark Wilsmore: "In the early fifties the Ace Café became the destination for a new breed of bikers - the Ton-up boys. They met in cafés and rock n roll clubs, arranging races on London"s North Circular Road... their uniform was black leather... Government often discussed counter-measures to be taken against these youths now known as Rockers... In the eyes of society at large, however, they remained the very incarnation of all that was evil."
Colin Wilson: "I"d sleep on Hampstead Heath... and cycle down the hill to a little café where I could get tea and bread and dripping for about sixpence, and then go on to the British Museum... (I) was told that a new coffeehouse was opening in the Haymarket, and that they wanted a washer-up... suddenly fate had ceased to harrow me. Most of the other people working there were young drama students, and this was very pleasant... to be around students hoping to become the great actor or actress was tremendously stimulating, and I felt perfectly at home among them, since I was determined to become a great writer."
Adam Faith: "Coffee bars fell into two distinct categories: beatnik - all black polo necks and existentialism; and teeny-bop-beehive haircuts and bobby socks. There'd be a ground floor cafe, with linoleum floors and Formica tables [but] it was downstairs, at night, under the street, that the real action took placethe record industry, fuelled by the skiffle craze, began to explode. But everyone expected it to be a nine-day wonder. The old-timer agents would sit around in their old-timer agent restaurants, shaking their heads, muttering 'It'll all be over in a week or two'"
Christine Keeler: "Eugene (Ivanov) was a Moscow spy who arrived in London on 27 March 1960 to work for Stephen [Ward]. That long-ago day in the smoke-filled Kenco coffee shop when I first witnessed them altogether, all I wanted was some company."
Mandy Rice Davies: "[Ward's] home territory was the triangle made up of his flat in Wimpole Mews, his consulting rooms in Harley Street and his local coffee bar in Marylebone Lane. Occasionally he used another coffee bar favoured by artists who could sketch the nude model provided by the management while they drank their coffee."
"I drifted back to Soho... I wandered around
the streets as best I could. There was no end of loneliness real,
utter loneliness. It dragged in the pit of my stomach. I had
been battered against myself until everything inside me had been
shattered... In the night-town of Soho I was accepted... In 1954...
I visited my family... A great change suddenly came over London
at that time. The American civilisation had caught up with us.
Everything was speeded up and slicked up. A wave of bitterness
and cynicism. The whole surface seemed to be cracking... Cafes
that we knew started closing, the leisurely one where artists
and anarchists argued all day. Coffee bars were opening in their
place. The object was to get you in, make you feel uncomfortable
under the harsh lighting, and then get you out. Skiffle swept
through the streets... the new crop of restless kids who had
been spawned in the war ... We never went anywhere except The
Coffee House at Trafalgar Square where they had bad paintings
on the walls and good girls trying to look bad ... the would
-be writers and the painters had gone the way of all flesh, into
the ground. The toll was endless... They were the unable, the
unadjustable, the nothings, the unmighty fallen, the unsung,
and I was waiting to take my turn. Most of them died alone somewhere,
at night in a lonely room, and they were forgotten within days"
found themselves drifting with uneasy excitement up the Strand
and into Leicester Square... ambling up and down back-streets
till they reached the wholly fascinating land of Soho. Moisture
covered the windows of the cafes into which they scarcely dared
look... they entered an Italian cafe, and in the furthest corner
table ordered small white coffees. They sat saying nothing, scarcely
looking or listening, nourishing themselves on the purest air
of romance... there were other cafes which beckoned sinisterly
and irresistibly and which they had not the nerve to enter. What
went on behind the impenetrable curtain of moisture which covered
their glass fronts?.. Their next step to the heart of the mystery
was to enter a cafe in Frith street... a row of empty tables,
a small old man reading a newspaper at one end, and a fat woman
brooding over a cup of tea at the other... What a mysterious
cosmopolitan aura pervaded their corner of the little Soho cafe!
Stanley took from his pocket a copy of Baudelaire's poems and
began calmly to read... 'Teeming city! City crowded with dreams!'"
"After a time Stanley and David became
disillusioned with the Cafe Mirandella. What was the point of
sitting in there? It was dim, draughty, and empty. Nobody ever
came in, nothing ever happened. But over the road there was a
most intriguing little place with tubular chairs and chromium
fittings and a neat, elegant neon sign outside... 'Terry's'...
one dark, sleek haired man [was] seated on a high stool by the
coffee-bar; and at the corner table, two astonishingly elegant
and ravishingly beautiful young women smoking cigarettes through
brightly carmined lips... It was little more than half a room
and contained only four black topped tables, half a dozen tubular
chairs, and a diminutive bar with three high tubular stools in
front of it"
led the way into an all-night cafe. They threaded their way among
the tables... crooks and ponces, prostitutes during an off-hour,
one or two bookies, a bunch of toughs, a few of the homeless
bohemians form Charlotte Street ... beneath the electric lights
time was excluded over-tailored, brilliantined men lolled about
quizzing the pale. nervous waiters ... a fight ... a cut throat
razor, thrown loose in the struggle, came flying over..."
"Tim's Cafe, whose
entrance was squeezed back about two yards from Fleet Street
proper into a passage way no wider than a child's armspan. Tim's
gave a twenty four hour service... Two men behind the counter
were furiously buttering slices of bread, cutting off thin flakes
of cheese, frying sausages, feeding the tea-urn .... a waitress
hurried swiftly from counter to tables, transferring cups of
tea and plates of food in arc-like, unerring sweeps ... you could
sit in Tim's twenty-four hours out of twenty four, eating, smoking,
reading the papers as they came off the press... It was frequented
entirely by men in overalls, their hands covered with grease,
by lorry drivers, machine operators, mechanics"
"The caf where it started and ended
is still there - it's known as Joe's, of course, although the
owner's name is Horace, and the red and cream paint over the
windows says Regent Refreshment Rooms or something like that.
It has steamy windows with showcards and stickers for cigarettes
and soft drinks, dirty net curtains like a funeral parlour and
usually an old ginger moggie, too lazy to take a swipe at the
flies. Inside, a counter with tea and coffee urns like something
off of Stephenson's Rocket, dodgy lightweight chairs and tables
of the sort that they break in saloon-bar brawls in cowboy films,
and a jukebox so modern that it looks out of date already."
"One of the things I loathed most
about school, the army and regular employment was the feeling
that I was missing something and that in the pubs, clubs, cafés,
dives ... there was some sort of magic practice that I wasn"t
able to conjure with... the base of operation I chose was Soho.
I'd been there before in the school holiday when my brother,
a student at St Martin's School of Art, asked me up for coffee
one day. It was instant magic to me, a sort of Disneyland for
low-lifers. There was a café they used that was full of
artists , poets, amateurs and professional philosophers... It
"I waited in an unpretentious café
at the corner of Dean Street and Old Compton Street called Torinos,
which had been run for fourteen years by Mr and Mrs Minella from
Italy and their son. It was pleasantly old-fashioned with tall,
arched windows... It had wrought iron tables with marble tops,
cups of proper coffee... you could talk for hours over a small
cup of coffee and the Minellas did not mind. They were so anxious
to keep their customers happy they kept their prices low and
were rash enough to allow credit... The goodwill was reciprocated
and the tables were usually crowded. There were dark Italians
huddled in earnest discussions, suddenly bursting into furious
argument... and several pale young artists and poets searching
half-heartedly for jobs..."
"Near to the Oxford Street end of
Soho... is a small green painted shop with a window full of coffee
cups and pots and strainers... The room is twisted and narrow...
Dark hair, dark eyes, sallow-skinned faces everywhere, here and
there a low-caste Englishman, and sometimes, if you are lucky,
a Bohemian in emerald corduroy, lolling broadly on his chair
and puffing at a porcelain pipe. Sit down near him and it is
ten to one that you will be engaged in a wordy battle of acting,
of poetry or of pictures, before the sediment has had time to
settle in your coffee."
"When Fabian reached the café,
he opened the door five or six inches, inserted his wedge-like
face and looked around. The place was full. After the rain-cooled
night air, the atmosphere of the café, heavy with steam
and the fumes of Toscani cigars, struck him in the face like
a damp blanket...The front part of the café was crowded
with shrieking Italians... a smartly dressed Neapolitan, as dark
and miserable as sin, made rings with an empty coffee-cup upon
a crumpled greyhound-racing programme."
"The hot egg spilt into the bread
as I bit hungrily. We were in a transport café on an arterial
road. A gang of boys came in with eagles on their backs and TRIUMPH
painted beneath in luminous white letters. One of them wore a
shirt spotted with blood"
"(milk bars) full of corrupt brightness,
of improper appeals and moral evasions 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."
"A savage novel of the seedy world
of bed-sitters, of all-night cafés, of lives without roots
"Brutal... the seedy-garish world
of back-street London. Gelina is a restless rootless girl, beautiful,
amoral, a modern siren of doom in a jungle of dance halls, caffs
"The espresso bars, dingy "dives",
the broken-down tarts and actors, the virago landladies, the
unwashed sheets - one sees and smells it all"
"He pulled on his big leather motor-cycling
jacket and went out to his bike They met at a café called
Nick's. It was a workingmen's café in the daytime, quite
ordinary, but a at night it was different. It acquired for them
at least an excitement and glamour. It was the café for
the boys on motorbikes. It was like a badge of admittance"
"Then I go into the Black and White
at Fleet Street and sometimes my friend comes. I never go down
to the place near the Embankment. I did go down there once. You
can see what goes on from the window by the top table if you
look. It's always warm in the Black and White, sometimes it's
draughty. They only shut hour and a half. When it's light I go."
"Up out in Pimlico I went up streets
of dark purple and vomit green, all set at angles like ham sandwiches
and there were the peasant masses shuffling along in their front-parlour-curtain
dresses and cut-price tweeds and plastic mackintoshes, all flat
feet and fair shares and I thought, my God, my Lord, how horrible
this country is, how dreary, how lifeless, how blind and busy
"The café was small, a workers"
café, used by lorry drivers and road-mending labourers.
The place was warm and it was cosy with the smells of cooking
and the feeling that the place was so often full of humanity.
The huge chromium tea-container rose gleaming from the counter...
and cups of tea hit the counter top, overflowing and making seas
of orange tea, through which silver and copper coins were wetly
pushed. Outside the main road hummed and roared with traffic"
"I fell into a gloomy and defensive
frame of mind. I travelled to Leicester Square and found a cheap
café where I got egg and chips for one and sixpence. James
Dean had died in a car crash. If a far-sighted destiny would
arrange enough accidents of this sort, the world might be left
in the hands of really intelligent people, and thus be nearer
"The Cellar Club was a coffee bar
down fourteen steps and narrow stairs from the pavement. A dark,
damp and disused cellar before the dawn of the Espresso age,
it had rapidly been converted by two existential artists... Its
seating had been wrenched from the diseased bodies of old buses
in breakers yards. Tables were rickety and assorted shapes and
sizes...They had ridden high on the wave Espresso enthusiasm...Business
had continued to boom. The Cellar Club was a vortex of noise,
frenetic movement, and cigarette smoke."
"Pellicci's is a fine, step-down establishment;
lace curtains in ice-cream parlour windows, shiny vanilla panels
and the name spelled out in generously spaced Univers Medium
lettering... family portraits, mirrors and marquetry, inside
Pellicci's was a key rendezvous - gossip, fashion updates, subsidised
grub - for the firm in its earliest days. Tony Lambrianou remembers
it with affection one of the places that the (Krays) used to
hold their afternoon meets, a post-siesta trance of cigarette
smoke and coffee fug."
"The coffee in the grease caff is
very slightly preferable to the tea: it hits like a hammer, a
mild concussion, instead of permanent kidney damage. The dead
egg slides off a damp white sheet of bread."
"For the really lonely individual
in the city, life becomes a string of disconnected occasions
designed to illuminate and isolate his aloneness. Eating by himself
in a restaurant he feels conspicuous; he catches the eyes of
other lone diners. He calls for his bill with his coffee, knowing
he has no further excuse to stay on ... the cipher man of absolute
gratuitousness, absolute contingency, the shadow of a supremely
lonely shade ... an epigraph from Celine: 'He is a fellow without
any collective significance, barely an individual.'"
"wherever you look in Soho you will see a
restaurant, Trattoria or Coffee House... and bacon and egg cafés...
the decor is loud, shiny and tasteless... they are cheap in every
sense of the word. The frightening thought about all this is
that these are the places of the future..."
"tout, laybout thief - for years this
was Frank Norman"s life in Soho. Now with unabashed candour
he recalls it all and introduces Gregorious, fat Greek proprietor
of the 86 café, a sleazy haunt for pimps and prostitutes,
narks and tortured intellectuals... Low life and high laughs
in London's Soho... a murky fringe world of cheap cafés,
rat-ridden top floor clubs and tart-infested bomb sites drawn
with biting authenticity"
"I spent nearly all my life just sitting
in the 86 for no reason whatever, except perhaps to wait for
someone to come in who would be likely to buy me a cup of tea
or a meal, and at night when the 86 was closed I would either
kip in the Park or go case with a brass..."
"There is a very good Greek Cypriot
place... up the Liverpool Road ... Georgiou's place has a steep
flight of wooden steps down to it from the street, covered by
an awning, and the outside walls have a vitriolite (sic) crazy
mosaic all over them, shiny pastel colours and black. Inside,
the walls have murals which incongruously incorporate the room's
projections and abutments... So there we sit... in this eighteenth-century
cellar, while the smart hairy Cypriot boys preen and look arrogantly
in the mirrors... And we talk, talk, talk, talk, talk. As though
it could make some difference."
"those who are frightened
of foreign food and wish to eat cheaply have big and rather nondescript
places at their disposal... a Lyons' cafe is a thing by itself,
neither cafe in the continental sense nor a British teashop nor
a restaurant nor a confectioner, but a little of each. It is
very cheap, clean and efficient, and it has neat and mostly smiling
waitresses but it also gives you a numbing feeling of being no
more than a number; a million waitresses serve a million similar
pots of tea and pieces of cake to a million customers who ought
to be as alike as the pots. But Lyons' great marvel are his Corner
Houses. The best known is that in Coventry Street, with its six
floors of buffets and restaurants, of marble and mirrors and
its never ceasing torrent of customers the most awe inspiring
is the one in the Tottenham Court Road, really lovely in lighting
and partly in decoration, a dazzling medley of glass, nickel
the churned-up black mud, Shorty made his way to the cafe...
He closed the door and looked around the room. A familiar sour
smell filled his nose.. Sweaty bodies, an open coke fire, coarse
dirty fat used for frying eggs... a ring of chairs by the fire...
over the fireplace... notices...'Customers are not allowed to
sleep in the cafe. Beds are provided at very nominal charges'"
"Moorcock's paparazzo recovers
his humanity by drifting down to his favourite caff, Ray's, a
time-warp oasis in Snatcher's Island, off Drury Lane. A bolthole
discoverable only by strict adherence to the Arthur Machen rules
of psychogeographic meandering. "Ray's was a gourmet greasy
spoon. He had at least a dozen distinctive kinds of grease, every
one of them delicious. And the All-Day Full English had most
of them on it - perfect free-range fried eggs, crisp fried bread,
best back bacon, tomatoes straight off the vine, fresh portobello
mushrooms, Savoy black pudding sent specially from Manchester,
tasty baked beans, Fourmantel's Carlisle pork bangers, Trevithick's
Cornish butter. If you can think of it, Ray had it. These days
he'd be in every restaurant guide in the world, but that was
before a mania for populism blew the whistle on our secrets.
The only people who went to Ray's were people you didn't mind
rubbing shoulders with." Ray's steamy caff provokes a lascivious
taxonomy of Bunter comforts, a memory sluice. The great and the
good are approvingly ticked off as they stagger into Moorcock's
survival module, the ark he is preparing for burial as a millennial
tribute: Ronnie Scott, Humphrey Lyttelton, Johnny Dankworth,
the actor Freddie Earlle. "Jack Trevor Story introduced
me to Billy Strayhorn."