Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Goodbye Piccadilly

New Piccadilly Cafe, Soho

London

For the first time since it shut in September last year, I took a walk down Denman Street to see what had happened to the New Piccadilly. I was a bit of a latecomer to this ‘cathedral amongst caffs’, only being a regular visitor for about 3 years. I had been in before that – when I first came to London I popped in for a snack, and found the food neither cheap nor particularly tasty. But the d├ęcor stayed with me and so did the smiling, uniformed waiters. Even back in 1992 the New Piccadilly was an outstanding example of the ‘formica’ type of 50s-style caff, but there were dozens of similar places all over. Suddenly they were almost all gone – victims to rent-hikes, retirement, redevelopment and refitting.

Really, a visit to the New Piccadilly wasn’t about the food (although it wasn’t that bad if you knew what to pick – keeping it simple was the key) it was the time-travel effect of walking through the glass door into 1951. The colours, the light fittings, the curious horse-shoe shaped menu, the fifties menu cards, the tables, the chairs, the stools, the uneven wooden floor, and the ice-cream pink coffee machine, all overseen by Lorenzo, the cravate-wearing guv’nor. It really couldn’t have been further from the bland wipe-clean world of Starbucks. When it closed, Lorenzo reportedly said that he’d put everything in a crusher. Looks like he kept his word.

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