Matthew Steeples celebrates the nicknames of Chelsea’s characters but regrets that the area itself is rapidly being stripped of the very character that made it so appealing
In Chelsea well-known barflies and lavish lunchers have long been given wacky nicknames. Amongst my friends and acquaintances are ‘Steve the Lunch’ (known for planning where to lunch next wherever he’s currently lunching), ‘Charles the Horse’ (known for his prowess on the horse racing betting circuit) and ‘Tony the Suit’ (he was once in tailoring).
Such monikers reveal not only the personalities of the individuals but also illustrate something about the places these bon viveurs frequent. Yesterday, in The Times’ obituary of the legendary restaurateur Michael Proudlock, mention was made of how his customers “had schoolboy nicknames such as ‘Mental,’ ‘Dwarf’ and ‘Mother’ and this reminded me of what this once great area of London has now lost: Character.
Proudlock, Richard Kay of the Daily Mail recalled in this excellently written tribute, “dined out every day, twice a day, seven days a week,” but now, sadly for the most part, such a lifestyle has gone to pot. Disappeared are the likes of Nigel Dempster, Keith Floyd, Sir David Frost and Alan Whicker and gone also are the enclaves that brought so much pleasure. In March 2017, with the closure of La Brasserie – due to the greed of the building’s selfish landlord – an era ended. The customers of “Chelsea’s answer to Cheers” dispersed and what was once a “community of fun loving reprobates” became displaced.
With Poissonnerie de l’Avenue and Como Lario also biting the dust, what is now left? A Kings Road that could be a high street in any town and things like a vegan restaurant on Pavilion Road ridiculously called Wulf & Lamb. How very sad: A place that used to be the haunt of the “cultural cognoscenti” has now been reduced to this.