Here’s a bit of a worry. The sign says ‘Closed Until Further Notice,’ which if this means what it usually does, would be a real loss, not just to Blackheath Standard but to London’s Greasy-Spoonland in general.

This place was like stepping back in time – those fab chrome strips holding faux-marble wall panels and groovy 1960s swivel seats at the front, black & red shiny panels at the back, formica tables and ketchup bottles. What I liked about it was that it wasn’t self-consciously ‘retro’ – it wore its British-caff heritage lightly.

There always seemed to be “characters” in Gambardella. Builders, families, harmless fruitcakes, slumming toffs, all human life was there. The tea was pleasingly orange, the fried food pleasingly greasy and the atmosphere pleasingly unpretentious. The staff were friendly and up for a joke – often at their own expense. After reeling off all the different varieties of coffee they do, they’d admit it was all so much easier when all they did was instant – so much for the fantasy of the ancient Gaggia in the corner…

They already closed the more modern half of the shop – last year, if memory serves, which doesn’t bode well, but I thought one of the few things that were succeeding in this climate was cafes and coffee shops. Mind you, I guess the small independents have to actually pay tax unlike some of the non-profit-making big chains like poor Starbucks..

Perhaps it’s been closed for a refit, though I really hope not too much of one. It could so easily teeter – either with ill-advised modernisation or an equally dodgy trip down Theme Lane. Gambardella was a real caff, not a plastic imitation of what we might like to imagine 1950s coffee bars were.

If it is closed for good, it won’t just be the Phantom weeping into my PG Tips. Messrs Tilbrook, Holland and Difford, who met for the first time after his placing an ad in the window of Gambardella, will almost certainly join me in shedding a nostalgic tear. Maybe Jools might like to take it over himself. After all, it’s only a cough and a spit from the Holland Arms and everyone loves a nice cup of tea. As Mrs Doyle might say if she was actually relevant to this post, “ah, go on, go on, go on, go on…”

UPDATE: According to Mike, there has been a bereavement in the family. My thoughts and best wishes are with them. I hope that in time we will be able to visit again.

the attachments to this post:

Gambardella closed AB
Gambardella closed AB

8 Comments to “Gambardella”

  1. Jools says:

    Let us hope that the fears are unfounded. I spent a lot of time in there in the 60s and 70s. I used to love their ‘Plain and Syrup’ or, even better, ‘Double Plain and Syrup.’ One or two large lumps of suet floating in a golden lake of syrup. I had lunch with Neil Innes there in the 1960s. Cafe Culture!

  2. Mike M says:

    Hi TGP,
    I understand that there has been a close family bereavement, so I imagine that’s why it is closed.

  3. Oh gosh – how horrid for them – Yes, I can understand why that would close the shop. You don’t need to be serving egg and chips while you’re grieving. My thoughts to the family – and here’s hoping that they will find the strength to continue in time.

  4. Otter says:

    Amen to that. Essential place.

  5. Chris says:

    Absolutely, they’re always up for a laugh and are very close-knit.

    My sympathies to them and look forward to nipping in again when they’re ready to re-open.

  6. David Carson says:

    An irreplacable corner of Greenwich; has reminded me to pop in more often….

  7. Jane says:

    The staff are kindness itself, to everyone who comes in. We go there nearly every week. I am very sad about it and hope they feel able to re-open soon so we can express our sympathy to the family.

    The faux marble panels are Vitriolite tiles.

  8. Vince says:

    Sorry to hear about their loss. They’re a lovely bunch in there and the place is legendary. Have been going for 20 years and it’s still the same staff. Probably because it’s been in the same family since the 1920s.