A Pollo Farewell
What with broadband internet, satellite TV and the like, news travels in micro-seconds these days. But sometimes, news that isn’t actually front page news takes a while longer to sink in. It took a visit to my friend Geoffrey Armes’ web site to see that it took him nine months to learn that one of London’s greatest institutions shuttered its doors last March. Yes, I’m talking about the Pollo on Old Compton Street, hands down my favorite café of all time. Where else would you so willingly suffer abuse at the hands of the waitresses and waiters because the food and the prices were so damn good? Where else would you be sat at the same table as a couple on a first date – and neither party complain? What other restaurant offered a handwritten menu of Biblesque proportions, a page for each form of pasta and its various sauces, rather than listing all the pastas and all the sauces on one page, and granting the diner the intelligence to mix and match? What other cafe made a cappucino that tasted like a cappucino should? Where else could you drink carafes of decent red wine at impossibly good prices? What other Soho cafe made you feel like you were in the London of the movies, not of the conglomerates? In short, what other Italian cafe-restaurant, right through the end of the 20th Century, did not just imitate but actually embodied the Soho of Absolute Beginners?
In the words of Classic Cafés,
The passing of the Pollo, and its compatriots, signals the wholesale descent of Soho into Little Tyneside mode.
The area bounded by the four Circuses (St Giles, Oxford, Piccadilly, Cambridge) is rapidly becoming just another standard-issue British city centre: a dreck strip reeking of piss, blighted by St*rbucks, and heaving with feral packs of drunks.
A lousy pulsing puke puddle at the heart of the third-world capital of Europe.