Food for Thought: the last vegetarian gasp of alternative Covent Garden

April 3, 2015

The food might all have been orange and tasted vaguely like butternut squash, but the closure of this landmark Neal Street restaurant after four decades is another blow to independent London

The Covent Garden of the early 1970s was an area in flux. Deranged, on-off schemes by the GLC to demolish half the streets when the fruit and veg market moved out meant that buildings were abandoned, as everybody prepared for the shift south to Nine Elms. It also provided an opportunity, however, for interesting enterprises to flourish in the newly unwanted spaces.

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A strong-willed Australian called Margot Boyce-White saw potential amid the decline. In 1971, she took over an old banana-ripening warehouse on Neal Street and opened a vegetarian restaurant. She was soon getting rave reviews in the alternative press. Time Out’s Book of London in 1973 warned of the new establishment that “Thursday night is Folk Night and now and again there’s a Poetry Night”, but it was worth the risk: salads were 15p and hot dishes 40p.

Related: Is this the final chapter for London’s independent bookshops?

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