The number of new restaurants/bars that open in London means that keeping abreast of them is nothing short of a full-time job. In the famously volatile world of hospitality there is even more reason for us to pay homage to the golden oldies. In this feature we search out the unassuming stalwarts of London and give their ancient backs a well deserved patting.
The Big Easy, 332-334 King’s Rd, Chelsea, SW3 5UR- With all the press and adulation surrounding The Big Easy’s opening in Covent Garden it must be a difficult time for the trusted and faithful original. However, if sibling envy is taking its toll on the old girl, she’s doing a stand-up job of hiding it. On a recent post-Chelsea Flower show visit, securing a table was just as arduous as on any other night since its opening 23 years ago. Resigned to wait, we took our usual spot; propping up the bar watching the frozen margarita machine whir and sucking in our guts to allow the throngs of people slide past.
It is trends that often kill off older restaurants, in this case, it is trends that have ensured success. The overwhelming clamour for American food that has been building over the last two years catipulted The Big Easy’s brand into overdrive. As customers stacked up at Pitt Cue Co. and Duke’s Brew and Cue, The Big Easy could hardly hide the smug gleam in its eye as an entirely new client base steamed in through the doors. I mean really, how often does a restaurant land the one-two punch of being both venerable and trendy?
The Big Easy has a habit of getting there first. It is hard to imagine these days, but Chelsea has not always so closely resembled a Tatler editorial. Back in 1991 when they first opened their doors, the West end of King’s Road was actually fairly run down. The micro-district of World’s End was once more substantial, covering an area that was more famous for football hooliganism than it was for pooches in purses and all things quilted. Being ‘made in Chelsea’ used to mean something quite different. These days the restaurant serves as a melting pot; with neuveau Chelsea forced to rub shoulders with both the natives and the Amerciana fetishists; long may the pot boil.