'Classic Cafes: The Book' by Adrian Maddox... out now!
TV & Film
Adrian Maddox (Click for biog)
Click on the book jacket above to see alternative cover design...
The long awaited, large-format
Classic Cafes book by Adrian
Maddox is out now!
passionate, elegiac, surprising, and beautifully illustrated...
a wonderful book... with a well-researched argument to make us
look again at the familiar and to revel in quotidian detail...
Through detail also comes something of the optimism, dynamism
but also distinctly English pragmatism of many post-war cafes
firmly positioned in the vanguard of Festival culture..."
"For Adrian Maddox...
the working man's caff is more a quick-fix pit stop, as he makes
clear in Classic Cafes, his study of mid-20th-century British
Diners. Food is "immaterial" to whether a cafe makes
the grade. Rather, it's the drab grot of cafes that Maddox loves
- the "smudged walls" and "scurvy curtains",
the melancholy and Pinter-esque ambience. Phil
Nicholls's photographs, which accompany Maddox's words, capture
exactly that... the easy-wipe surfaces, the Pyrex vinegar container,
the squeezy bottles of ketchup and brown sauce, the Formica tabletop,
faux-leather banquettes and gaudy tiles... Classic Cafes is motivated
by nostalgia for an era in which identikit coffee joints hadn't
"brutally Starbuck-ed" our high streets... "
"Architecture books are
usually either glossy, shallow, picture-book porn, or indigestibly
laden with cultural theory architectspeak. Some, though, get
it just right... If we are allowed one glossy picturebook, let
it be Classic Cafés, by Adrian Maddox... Once the Empire
was supported on the joy of crouching over a bacon butty and
a piping hot cuppa on sticky Formica, huddled out of the rain
behind steamed-up windows... Come revel in a fading world where
drabness is good and the bubble and squeak is even better."
Maddox... sees creeping homogeneity as a quiet tragedy. He has
produced a thinking person's coffee-table book, packed with atmospheric
photographs... Maddox makes the case for seeing the cafes of
the 1950s and 1960s as salons for a new, de-industrialised, post-imperial
Britain... as hallowed zones in which the dynamics and cross-currents
of city life could be tapped into."
illuminating period quotes... a useful gazetteer... terrific
archive... exquisite photos... an invaluable document... Maddox's
enthusiasm will inspire us to regard [cafes] afresh... make a
wholeheartedly anti-corporate stand for these individualistic
Cafes is a great book... marvellous and thoughtful... written
with much enthusiasm, love and knowledge for the subject: a rare
combination... [It] looks magnificent... and the writing really
gets the job done... beautiful"
us alternately to tears of nostalgia and indignant rage... 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... Adrian Maddox has created something of simple beauty
and real social importance. If we could say that we'd die happy."
"As much about the British condition
as cafes, Classic Cafes takes a look at the phenomenon of the
British coffee bar, and its impact on the country's social scene.
From the rise and decline of UK cafe society to the influence
of pub culture and fast food, the book takes us through the decades
with a tantalising selection of images and artwork from the past
and present. The cafe's associations with the world of music
is also explored, with interesting tit bits on mods and beatniks
and their place in the coffee bars of old. Very rock and roll
and very readable, Adrian Maddox's perky prose makes this a book
for coffee lovers and culture vultures alike."
A wonderful, enthusiastically
compiled celebration of that great institution, the proper caff,
in all its faded glory. Five Stars! (*****)
book, looks fantastic... fascinating"
The first Soho espresso bar, The Moka, was opened at 29 Frith Street in 1953 by Gina Lollabrigida. It became the model for many classic Formica cafes to come. Ten years later, the 1950s cafe scene had reforged 1960s London as the world's hippest city a ferment of music, fashion, film, photography, scandal and avant-gardism.
Classic Cafes is the first ever full study of the vintage British working man's Formica caff and commemorates the faded, yet somehow vivid, attractions of these forlorn environments, documenting an institution perilously close to vanishing without trace or acclaim.
Often dismissed as 'greasy spoons', classic cafes are actually little gems of British vernacular high street design. In an era of retro-kitsch, inert 'theme' brasseries and fast-breeder US coffee-chains, they hark back to a European dynamism that added colour to Britain's post war social and commercial scene.
Part sentimental journey, psychogeographic incursion and alternative architectural gazetteer, the first half of Classic Cafes presents a shadow social history showing how London's cultural ascendancy in the 1960s began life in the classic Formica cafes of the 1950s. The latter part goes in search of the archetypal classic cafe, culminating in a gazetteer that takes in many left intact as of 2003.
Based on the hugely acclaimed website www.classiccafes.co.uk, the book features extensive contemporary large format architectural photos by Phil Nicholls (Melody Maker, Blitz, Vogue, Uncut, Sunday Times, The Independent...) and Peter Anderson (NME). It also features many never-before-seen archive pictures plus comprehensive research covering related books, journals, magazines, films, websites & much else...
Classic Cafes review | Twentieth Century Society | May 2004 | by Dr Philip Carter
"genius... passionate, elegiac, surprising, and beautifully illustrated... a wonderful book... with a well-researched argument to make us look again at the familiar"
Most books are the result of long hours in the library or archive. Authors occasionally emerge for recuperation, but the cafes, restaurants, tea-rooms or diners in which they seek refuge are never just restorative. They are also sites of recrimination. Time spent over coffee is time not spent in the archive. Better get back.
But for the truly enlightened the cafes becomes the resource: a subject of history, aesthetic appreciation and cultural respect. One such genius is Adrian Maddox who puts his research hours into this passionate, elegiac, surprising, and beautifully illustrated study, of the post-war cafe... It is, quite simply, a wonderful book.
[For many] the British caff is synonymous with all things dreary, tatty and potentially unhygienic... Maddox's is a book with a well-researched argument to make us look again at this popular image by setting cafes in the context of their social and design history... [it] shows how closely their history relates to that of European immigration... [how] the Italian coffee-bar offered a controversial vision of the future, simultaneously embraced and criticised by a youthful clientele eschewing niceties, and an older generation raised on the proprieties of silver service.
It was a dynamic which gained added momentum
[via] 1950s Americana, with its potentially alarming synthesis
of rock and roll, the teenager and Wimpy... Where once the cafe
was the locus of beatniks or bikers' ton-up clubs, it is now
a place where conformist twentysomethings meet, on sofas (never
booths), to compare credit-card purchases. It is the Friends-ification
of modern life.
Classic Cafes | Chapter One | excerpt from Esplanade Of Unbroken Dreams
I started collecting classic cafes the vintage British 1950s working-man's Formica variety after a first visit to Barcelona in the mid-1980s. My hotel, the Pension Dali off Las Ramblas, the grand boulevard linking the waterfront to the heart of the city, had no breakfast room so the early part of the day was spent on gumshoe sorties looking for suitable cheap eateries in the old town.
The sheer range of places available was beguiling. Las Ramblas was lined with old-timer cafes, many retaining their aged, gleaming aluminium frontages, Mid-Century Modern signs and period table/chair combinations. Here, you could pause for endless coffees and 'bikinis' (toasted sandwiches) or linger under the wrought-iron canopies of the Boqueria market, packed full with 1950s Googie-shaped trader's kiosks...
Many years before this trip, I'd been led around the markets of provincial northern towns as a child on shopping excursions with my grandmother. These usually ended up in "classic" style Italian family cafes where, basking in the familial atmosphere (and plied with hefty slabs of buttered toast), my grandmother would tell me about her run-ins with Little Richard, Keith n' Mick and The Beatles at the local ballroom where she headed up the catering operations.
The visit to Barcelona rekindled many of these memories. Returning to London after the holiday, I'd re-live the nostalgic charge with breakfasts out at a tiny cafe sitting opposite a main gate on Brixton's Brockwell Park (near the then disused 1930s open-air Lido.) The place was perfect: the cafe's powder-blue Formica interior, quaint counter set-up, front parlour layout and generally neglected mien was exactly what I was looking for.
After this discovery, cafes started to come to me. I couldn't walk down a main road or back street without them beckoning from round corners. I could spot the pulse-racing visual cues at fifty feet: old Univers letterfaces, sun-bleached window menus, scurvy curtains, shabby door frames, lolloping hatstands all clues that further visits might be in order. I started rounding up these strays; gathering material for cod newsletters, never-to-be-made documentaries and, eventually, a website. After dozens of previously invisible locales made themselves known, I came to think of these places as 'classic' in the sense that they retained some or most of their old fittings; evoking a time when the country had seemed somehow to be in better shape, in better spirits.
The really good cafes seemed doomed by their own isolation; you could sense the melancholy condensing on the windows, as customers watched the world outside, things happening elsewhere. Somehow, the massing of all these signs of abandonment suggested a bigger picture. Like blocks of half-glimpsed Mayan temples subsumed by writhing jungle, these battered old outposts implied some greater context, an altogether different type of civilisation.
Later, I discovered how the Contemporary look in European design had engulfed England after 1951, plugging right into the Teen Age. Here was a Britain keying up to rejoin the modern world after the War. The all too swift failure of the attempt had left a legacy of these cafes incidental places full of incidental people subject to an incidental music looping slowly through their lives.
Suddenly I saw something, beckoning again, just around a corner...