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.