16 February 2007

Hommage to a Caff


Blurbanism ∕ Interiors

Visit this place before it’s too late

Whilst in London recently I paid what will probably be my last visit to New Piccadilly Café in Soho. New Piccadilly is an old-style Italian-run London caff unchanged since sometime in the 1950s. It’s one of a dying breed, and is due to close some time soon because of pending development. A whole city block will be bulldozed by “mafia-style foreign investors” as Lorenzo Marioni, the owner of New Piccadilly, put it to me, to make way for something more profitable and less interesting. “You’ve no idea where their money comes from,” he added.

It’s difficult to know what to say about the place which hasn’t already extensively been reported elsewhere, so here’s my story: I got to know New Piccadilly through my A-level art teacher, the delightful Miss Redrup. We were in London to visit the galleries, and she took us to New Piccadilly for lunch. Miss Redrup was a quietly spoken, petit young lady, and so it was a visceral shock to my 16-year-old self to watch her order and wolf down a foot-wide fry-up with all the trimmings. I have no idea which galleries we visited that day, or which artists we were introduced to, but New Piccadilly stayed in my memory and every single time I’ve been to London since that day 15 years ago, I’ve payed a visit.

It’ll be a huge loss to British culture if places like this are wiped off the map by homogenous global chains of Starbucks-style blah. We’ll miss the red vinyl seating, the dapper uniformed waiters, the yellow formica table tops, the cups of 60p tea, the spotted dick, and the huge sign that says “EATS” in the window.

See these:
Adrian Maddox’s Classic Cafés website
Lorenzo Marioni at the Classic Cafés website
Adrian Maddox’s Classic Cafés book

“Chrome jewels fade to monochrome” – The Guardian
– New Piccadilly at Russell Davies’s lovely ‘eggbaconchipsandbeans’ blog
The Girl in the Café – a film by David Yates starring Bill Nighy, Kelly Macdonald and the New Piccadilly Café

New Piccadilly Café
8 Denman Street
Piccadilly Circus
London W1