I was thinking about wine bars the other day. Realised that these are a vanishing breed. When was the last time you ate in one? There seem to be two styles. There's the spit- and-sawdust, oak barrel, vaulted cellar, pin-stripey, Dickensian thing. Hogarthian. Very Inns of Court. Where Rumpole of the Bailey might have spilt claret down his starched shirt front back in the late 70's. And then there's the 1960's groovy wine bar- all spluttering candles in wickered wine bottles, Spanish Bullfighting Posters, chalked blackboards, plummy waiters in black and white striped T shirts, and some dude playing skiffle guitar in the corner. Back in the early 60's, this sort of place was dead trendy- but I reckon by the early 90's they had really gone out of fashion. The world's a sophisticated place, and things had moved on.
I'm trying to think how many of these are left in London. I mean genuine examples, not those pastiche French cafés. Grumble's (Pimlico) was established in 1964 and is still going strong. The Troubadour (Earl's Court), admittedly more of a coffee bar, was founded in 1954. There's also that bizarre bistro, L'Autre in Shepherds' Market ("Mayfair's Oldest Wine Lodge"). Originally serving Polish food to the sound of Greta Garbo 78's, it expanded its repertoire to include Mexican food- accomodating the Mexican Embassy nearby.
The food in these places was invariably Mediterranean. The post war boom meant that European travel became accessible to the middle classes for the first time, and the affluent Conran generation wanted the food they had sampled in Italy, France, Greece and Spain back home: garlic mushrooms, taramaslata, olives, coq au vin, deep fried camembert, goulash, paella, beef stroganoff, piperade, l'escargots, garlic bread- all washed down with a cheeky little Spanish Red.
And then there was Nick's Diner in the Ifield Road, opened in the early 60s' and the haunt of fashionable Swinging London. It features in Joseph Losey's The Servant; one of my all time favourite films- there's that wonderful sequence with James Fox: camel hair coat, upturned collar, cigarette, striding past a grainy Woolworth's, Davey Graham's haunting "Rock Me Mama" filling the cold night air...