Were I in London tonight looking for a cafe dripping with '50s Soho charm, a congenial host and atmosphere reflecting off the walls, I'd pop quick into the New Piccadilly on Denham Street right behind the crush of Piccadilly Circus.
"Chocolate cake and custard please!" would be my hue and cry.
With its neon-beckoning Eats signage, comfy booths, formica tables, pink-enameled espresso machine and white-clad wait staff, the New Picc stands as "a cathedral amongst caffs", according to its patron saint, Adrian Maddox of ClassicCafes.com.
In a photo diary, I once jotted this: "Stepping through its door is like stepping through a space-time contiuum back to the '50s when Italian eateries like the New Piccadilly ruled London, introduced expresso to the masses and welcomed rock 'n' rollin' teens, revolutionaries, beatniks and displaced Europeans looking for a bit of home."
Two springs ago, I met Colin Pryce-Jones there for breakfast. Admiring the decor, ambiance and grub, he pronounced it a "truly authentic English caff" and had a chat with propietor Lorenzo Marioni, proudly on the premises practically since his father opened the place in 1951.
But there's little joy on Denham Street this summer.
After years of defense against creeping coffee chain congomerates and faceless sandwich takeaways and "wrangling with cabals of developers, landlords and Westminster Council officials", the New Piccadilly closes for good—oh, the grief!—on 23 September, ironically the day after The Rapiers play the next Shadowmania. Mr. Maddox calls it "black September".
"Be sure to visit before the doors close forever", he exhorts. I second that emotion.
NB: A virtual book of condolences is forming on Russel Davies' beloved eggsbaconchipsandbeans blog.
Yours truly behind the New Picc counter with Lorenzo, spring 2005