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 décor 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.