MANZI’S: CARRY ON NO LONGER?
Sometimes the meals you don’t have can be as memorable as the ones you do.
If you ask anyone in London, with any level of restaurant sentience, what they think of when you say the word “Manzi’s” they will, no doubt conjour up an image of Barbara Windsor in her prime seated between the Kray Twin’s and Ronnie Knight drinking champagne before heading up to see Frankie Vaughn kick up his heels at The Talk Of The Town.
It was that sort of place and, in its pomp, in the late 50’s and early 60’s it was THE place to be seen for everybody from the stars of the day to royalty.
In recent years, it has fallen so far off the radar, most people have never even heard of it. But, those who have visited recently still argued that it served some of the freshest fish in town and the best seafood. It also had an hotel above which at least one person I know regularly chose to rest his head when visiting from NYC.
So, yesterday, when pondering on where to go for a Saturday lunch, I thought of Manzi’s. Just the place for a Dover Sole and a glass or three of Sancerre. I called to check when they were open and a chirpy young lady told me Midday and said I would not need to make a reservation.
This is where it gets strange.
After a morning’s shopping, I arrived to find the door open, but no one around. I went inside and the dining room was certainly not set for lunch or any meal for that matter.
A man in work overalls appeared and asked if he could help me. I explained that I had spoken to someone and they said they were open at Midday. “not here, mate?” he replied “ it’s closed”
“what, closed for lunch?” I asked.
“nope” he shrugged “closed for good” and he shuffled off leaving me to my own devices. I stood in the empty and slightly sad dining room with its grubby chequered table cloths and up turned chairs and imagined what it must have been like in its glittering heyday.
I haven’t got to the bottom of it yet. Apparently, further investigation on the web says "closed for refurbishment". I hope so or this would be a genuine “end of an era” moment. No Ivy Group to save this old girl like J Sheekey’s, no Marco to waltz in and take over the building and turn it again into a glittering hang out for models and footballers. Rather, expect it to be an identikit Cantonese restaurant within weeks. The obvious fate for such a piece of real estate so close to Chinatown.
Time waits for no restaurant, I suppose, but I can’t help feeling that London would become just that little bit less interesting by exactly the amount of one shop worn, old showgirl of a restaurant’s worth if Manzi’s were to pass and somewhere Ronnie and Reggie would begin to revolve slowly.