Bye-bye, Old World

Yesterday in Soho, as part of my campaign to find work in this Age of Austerity, I had a coffee opposite the Lorelei restaurant. It made me smile, but a melancholy sort of smile.  It sits there like a piece of Outsider Art amongst all the bland Costa Cretined chain outlets.

When I was a runner in Soho back in 1988 there were lots of places like Lorelei. Small Mom-and-Pop restaurants, cheap, cheerful. Most have now gone: the Pollo; Centrale; New Piccadilly. The food wasn’t haute cuisine and the menus hadn’t changed since the 1960s. But they were great places. Part of the soul of the Soho village.

Rising rents, trendy wine bars, the Starbucking of Soho is typical of UK high streets. The Lorelei comes from a simpler time, which although a bit grubby was at least honest. It reminded me of Life before that Interweb thingy, when the only contact with, say, non-mainstream music was the NME and John Peel. A time when you had to seek out things for yourself, which made them all the more special.

I realised I’d never actually been for a meal in the Lorelei. My usual caff was the Centrale. But it had always been there. Now, with the Lorelei’s contemporaries pretty much all gone, it’s a living relic. When it goes another piece of Soho will die. It’s not the food that will be missed but the atmosphere, the sense of place.

I feel the same way about it as I do about The Clash or John Peel or Bill Hicks or… take your pick. The knowledge that, once gone, they can never be recreated. Sure, something else will take their place and in 50 years time people will miss that too. But, somehow, I know it wont be the same. The world is better in lots of ways since I was but a lad, but we’ve lost a lot of good shit along the way.

And all this is amplified at the moment with a general feeling of unease and disquiet. Not just because, personally, I’m freelance and work’s been very scarce. More to do with the last few years and the changes that are happening. Things will pick up – Groovy Dave and Sexy Nick’s budget slashing might pay dividends – but the world will be different. We can’t go back. China will be the Super Power. Pensions will be smaller. We will live, and work, longer. Rock is Dead. Compile your own list.

So, the Lorelei sits in that interzone between the grey post-war years, the neon sixties, punked seventies, facile eighties, all the way up to the cynical, harder 21st century. There are many choices available out there but I’m sad that the chance to pick a Lorelei as an option is going.

And you thought it was just a cheap, greasy spoon….

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