As anyone who reads this blog would have noted, I am a big advocate of design and its ability to make function pleasurable.
A cappuccino in a Pyrex cup and saucer, drunk from a saucy piece of Formica in plush and plastic surroundings…it doesn’t get much better. This particular cappuccino was drunk in the inimitable New Piccadilly Restaurant, on its last day of trading last Saturday. It must have been one of their busiest days trading, as people took the opportunity to say goodbye to this 1950s oasis.
Booths with vinyl seats, smooth wooden chairs, cone shaped lamps, horseshoe-shaped menus, plastic strip curtain, plastic flowers and plants, stuffed birds. All such a relief after all those self-conscious London cafes, which rarely last more than a year, if that.
Mind you, the clever clever copies of historic cafes are doing a booming trade across London. S & M Cafes are bursting at the seams of a weekend – all be it with a crowd you suspect would never been seen dead in the Piccadilly. And Hope & Greenwood, the born again sweet shop owners in Dulwich, are branching out into cafes. They will soon be rolling out their British Tea Rooms in Marylebone and elsewhere, designed to be impeccably 1930s revival. And Dover Street has its own faux-diner experience at Automat..
Yet it is such a bittersweet experience, visiting these heritage tearooms and greasy spoons. They are nice places to be in, eat in and be seen in. And the revival of earthy materials like glazed brick, Formica and wood is what gives them an edge. But sitting in a booth where someone sat half a century ago, drinking a beautifully presented cappuccino, with congenial company, it’s hard to beat that.