Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Dramatic dining: Sieges and shootouts

London restaurants where diners got more than they bargained for

 

In the first in a series, we tell the stories of five restaurants in Central London where diners sadly got a little more than dinner. All bar Walton’s are still open.

 

The Spaghetti House siege

The Spaghetti House siege resulted in the main road in Knightsbridge being closed for a number of days
The Spaghetti House siege resulted in the main road in Knightsbridge being closed for a number of days

On the 28th September 1975, three gunmen led by a Nigerian named Franklin Davies attempted to rob the £13,000 takings at Knightsbridge’s Spagetti House. The robbery didn’t go to plan and nine staff were taken hostage and kept in the basement for six days. The gunmen claimed to represent the Black Liberation Army, a Black Panther splinter group, but this was never proven. Davies and his cohorts received long jail sentences.

 

The Carlton Tower drive-by

Earlier in 1975, on the 19th January, the Irish Republican Army fired shots into the Carlton Tower Hotel on Cadogan Place. Fortunately, a table by the window in the hotel’s restaurant, The Rib Room, was placed a right angle to the window and as a result the bullets passed between diners with no injuries.

 

The Scott’s shooting and bombing

Also in 1975, the notorious Balcombe Street gang, part of a six-man IRA Active Service Unit, both bombed and fired gunshots through the windows of Scott’s Oyster Bar in Mayfair’s Mount Street on separate occasions. On the 12th November, the bomb thrown through the restaurant’s window by the gang killed one person and injured fifteen others. The IRA unit returned and shot out the windows on the 6th December but having been spotted by two police officers, they were chased through the streets and a five-day siege commenced in Balcombe Street. In turn, each defendant was given a whole life tariff.

 

The Walton’s bombing

The aftermath of the bombing of Walton's on the corner of Walton Street and Draycott Avenue
The aftermath of the bombing of Walton’s on the corner of Walton Street and Draycott Avenue

On the 18th November 1975, two diners were killed and another 23 injured when members of the IRA threw a bomb into Walton’s Restaurant in Walton Street. The building, on the corner of Draycott Avenue, became the first location of the Itsu sushi chain in 1997.

 

The Harry Morgan’s shooting

More recently, in 2009, a gunman with two pistols chased a man into the New York deli style Harry Morgan’s restaurant in St John’s Wood High Street and fired several times. Diners, who numbered the BBC’s chief economics correspondent Hugh Pym and former S Club singer Rachel Stevens, hid under the tables. Two people were injured and the restaurant reopened a month later after redecoration and revisions to the menu.

 

 

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