GRACE AND FLAVOUR

A Soho stal­wart faces clo­sure, and

London Evening Standard (West End Final B) - ES Magazine - - Talk Of The Town -

For rea­sons in­volv­ing sen­ti­men­tal­ity and schaden­freude, the ed­i­tor dis­patched me this week to Hun­gar­ian stal­wart the Gay Hus­sar on Greek Street, to doc­u­ment its fi­nal days. The Gay Hus­sar’s last hur­rah, as it were. Sixty years of serv­ing goulash to politi­cians, artists and pass­ing trade. ‘Oh, it’s ever so sad it’s clos­ing. What an in­sti­tu­tion!’ food­ies have whined, peo­ple who haven’t dark­ened its door­way for years, in­stead fill­ing their faces at 10 Greek Street, Burger & Lob­ster, Bar­ra­fina, Koya, Ar­bu­tus and well, ab­so­lutely any­where else but there. My shrift is short for Lon­don­ers who moan about change, lament­ing a time when Spam frit­ters and small­pox were de rigueur.

And ob­vi­ously, at one point, the Gay Hus­sar was de rigueur, but now it is the op­po­site and, sadly, a restau­rant can’t pay its bills with the love of folk who think it’s re­ally charm­ing that it hasn’t been turned into a Star­bucks yet, but never want to eat cum­ber­some plates of veal goulash be­side a dusty li­brary of po­lit­i­cal bi­ogra­phies. Or want to dine in a restau­rant where the ta­ble snacks are whole red chill­ies and the walls are groan­ing with car­toon sketches of male politi­cians like one big loom­ing trib­ute to cen­turies of chunter­ing Bri­tish pa­tri­archy. Or want to visit a restau­rant where the car­pet has seen bet­ter days and the clien­tele con­sists of tourists with no idea of Lon­don restau­rants and din­ers hu­mour­ing an el­derly rel­a­tive who still de­mands to eat there. If the Gay Hus­sar wishes to sur­vive, which I be­lieve it does, it needs to work out how to keep el­e­ments of its glo­ri­ous, scur­rilous past, then sharpen them up and make them af­fa­ble for 2014. Just a few doors down on Greek Street is The House of St Barn­abas, an an­cient Grade I-listed build­ing titi­vated and re­jigged to make a glo­ri­ous club and restau­rant. It is ter­ri­bly old but pret­tily new. Lon­don loves th­ese places. The Gay Hus­sar could be a gor­geous, bat­tily mad, im­per­fect yet raff­ish feed­ing and wa­ter­ing hole, steeped in his­tory and juicy anec­dotes, evok­ing the sense

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