CURB CAFE - A MEMORY FROM A BYGONE ERA
By the side of the building which today houses the Zimbabwe High Commission in The Strand in London are two doors. Apparently during the 1950's, if you should open one of these doors, you would find yourself descending a staircase into the bowels of the then named Rhodesia House.
Having descended the steep staircase you would turn left where you would be confronted by a tall wooded sentry box (which served as a reception/cash desk) in which would be situated one of two elderly Victorian spinster sisters (the co-founders of the Curb Cafe). The name Curb Cafe does not give justice to this mecca of a British long lost colonial past.
This particular sister would greet patrons. Often she would take small children by the hand and lead them along the passage way which was an emporium of various exotic colonial tropical fruits stacked high on long wide tables either side. This must indeed have been a sight in those post war years of austerity. Having viewed all these various fruits with the air permeated with a mixed aroma, the sister would select one or two items and hand them to the child as a little welcome gift.
At the end of this underground passage way which acted as a foyer were a series of alcoves both left and right like catacombs inside of which would be an assortment of odd tables, the chairs being substituted for settees and ottomans, the few chairs that were available would creak as you sat down and were somewhat lethal!
Meanwhile, the other sister would be confined to the kitchen where she would be the cook and preparer of the savoir-faire. All the fish dishes (plaice, sole, turbot or halibut usually) would be most delicately and lightly cooked with a customery lemon slice, whilst the desserts naturally consisted of fresh fruit. Most popular of all would be melon or pineapple served with a small bowl of caster sugar. So different from the standard Welsh rarebit and milk-and-a-dash (the dash being a dash of coffee) down the road at one of the J Lyons & Co tea shops.
Nowadays this colonial haven of a bygone age houses the computer room of the Zimbabwe High Commission, accessed from internally with the external side door leading out to the street firmly and securely sealed.
I would welcome any feedback from patrons of this long gone London restaurant with their memories. In particular I would like to know the year that the Curb Cafe opened and especially to know the year that it finally closed? One of the two elderly sisters died and this eventually caused the demise of the restaurant and hence the end of an era.