Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Ballad of the Sad Café

With my days of indentured servitude here at the Big Bad Bullshit Business rapidly coming to a close, and with it my opportunities to go hog-wild in my favourite corner of the globe on a daily basis, I thought it was time to grab one last blow-out meal at the New Piccadilly on Denman Street.

The New Piccadilly will soon be going the way of deeley-boppers, videocassettes and Vanilla Ice. Apart from the fact that, y’know, the New Piccadilly is actually good and will be missed. The owner is hanging up his spatula, retiring and selling up.

It’s not just the quality of the food, the reasonably priced menu, the slightly-camp uniforms the waiters wear, the comfort in knowing that you can ALWAYS get a table, or the fact that both formica and cholesterol are in plentiful supply. All fine reasons for going there, but that’s not it. It’s the sad realisation that another part of My London is being shunted out of the real world and into the sepia-coloured contours of my memory.

My grandparents used to have a place like that. When they first came over from Cyprus, they had a greasy spoon on the Parkway in Camden. The floor was sheer geometric perfection, with black and white tiles from the front door to the kitchen. Then they had a place in Willesden in the late seventies / early eighties that I vividly remember. The ketchup dispensers shaped like big, red plastic tomatoes. My grandfather behind the counter cooking up the food, his beaming smile always visible through the fugue of greasy smoke, and my grandmother bussing tables with nothing but a stubby pencil, crumpled notepad and her ever-present hairnet keeping the thick, black strands of Mediterranean hair out of her face. I don’t think I ever saw her without that hairnet on.

I wish I valued the place whilst it was still there. To me it was just the place where my grandparents used to make me food. I remember that my brother and I always used to complain that we didn’t want to eat there. We wanted MacDonald’s…

That place was worth a million Big Macs.

For the record, I had a Mixed Grill (bacon, sausage, egg, chips, peas and steak), bread and butter, two large Cokes and a slice of apple pie with cream. I had a mad sugar jag and a bloated gut for the rest of the afternoon, but it was worth it.  

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