'Classic Cafes: The Book' by Adrian Maddox... out now!

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The long awaited, large-format Classic Cafes book by Adrian Maddox is out now!
Packed with hundreds of new photographs by
Phil Nicholls (& Peter Anderson), masses of eye-popping archive and extensive new research, this is a deluxe collectors' item to cherish forever! Read an excerpt; pore over The Financial Times rave review; thrill to The Times critique; check the out-takes; gasp at the legend of Booth 4b... Order now from The Book Place.


"cultural studies of the best kind... sumptuous... beautiful... breathtaking... well-judged... deeply evocative... crisp... vibrant, loving... Cinematic... a tribute of a quality the humble caff deserves... buy a copy and head for your local to enjoy it."
xxxxxSam Carpenter, Royal Institute of British Architects

"genius... passionate, elegiac, surprising, and beautifully illustrated... a wonderful book... with a well-researched argument to make us look again at the familiar and to revel in quotidian detail... Through detail also comes something of the optimism, dynamism but also distinctly English pragmatism of many post-war cafes firmly positioned in the vanguard of Festival culture..."
xxxxxDr Philip Carter, 20th Century Society/Oxford University Press

"For Adrian Maddox... the working man's caff is more a quick-fix pit stop, as he makes clear in Classic Cafes, his study of mid-20th-century British Diners. Food is "immaterial" to whether a cafe makes the grade. Rather, it's the drab grot of cafes that Maddox loves - the "smudged walls" and "scurvy curtains", the melancholy and Pinter-esque ambience. Phil Nicholls's photographs, which accompany Maddox's words, capture exactly that... the easy-wipe surfaces, the Pyrex vinegar container, the squeezy bottles of ketchup and brown sauce, the Formica tabletop, faux-leather banquettes and gaudy tiles... Classic Cafes is motivated by nostalgia for an era in which identikit coffee joints hadn't "brutally Starbuck-ed" our high streets... "
xxxxxAlastair Sooke, Daily Telegraph

"Architecture books are usually either glossy, shallow, picture-book porn, or indigestibly laden with cultural theory architectspeak. Some, though, get it just right... If we are allowed one glossy picturebook, let it be Classic Cafés, by Adrian Maddox... Once the Empire was supported on the joy of crouching over a bacon butty and a piping hot cuppa on sticky Formica, huddled out of the rain behind steamed-up windows... Come revel in a fading world where drabness is good and the bubble and squeak is even better."
xxxxxTom Dyckhoff, The Times (Christmas books choice)

"Adrian Maddox... sees creeping homogeneity as a quiet tragedy. He has produced a thinking person's coffee-table book, packed with atmospheric photographs... Maddox makes the case for seeing the cafes of the 1950s and 1960s as salons for a new, de-industrialised, post-imperial Britain... as hallowed zones in which the dynamics and cross-currents of city life could be tapped into."
xxxxxSuhkdev Sandhu, New Statesman & 3AM

"historical background... illuminating period quotes... a useful gazetteer... terrific archive... exquisite photos... an invaluable document... Maddox's enthusiasm will inspire us to regard [cafes] afresh... make a wholeheartedly anti-corporate stand for these individualistic architectural classics."
xxxxxStephen Drennan & Annabella Pollen, Insight Brighton Guide

"Classic Cafes is a great book... marvellous and thoughtful... written with much enthusiasm, love and knowledge for the subject: a rare combination... [It] looks magnificent... and the writing really gets the job done... beautiful"
xxxxxKen Hollings, author of 'Destroy All Monsters'

"reduces us alternately to tears of nostalgia and indignant rage... a paean to the passing of proper English Cafes in all their Formica-clad, steamed up, slop-serving gorgeousness. Illustrated with breathtaking black and white photographs and written with crisp wit and full rigour... Adrian Maddox has created something of simple beauty and real social importance. If we could say that we'd die happy."
xxxxxTim Hayward, Two Chaps Talking

"As much about the British condition as cafes, Classic Cafes takes a look at the phenomenon of the British coffee bar, and its impact on the country's social scene. From the rise and decline of UK cafe society to the influence of pub culture and fast food, the book takes us through the decades with a tantalising selection of images and artwork from the past and present. The cafe's associations with the world of music is also explored, with interesting tit bits on mods and beatniks and their place in the coffee bars of old. Very rock and roll and very readable, Adrian Maddox's perky prose makes this a book for coffee lovers and culture vultures alike."
xxxxxCaroline Shaw, Small Beans

A wonderful, enthusiastically compiled celebration of that great institution, the proper caff, in all its faded glory. Five Stars! (*****)

"Great book, looks fantastic... fascinating"
xxxxxJoni Tyler, architecture.com

Book Info

The first Soho espresso bar, The Moka, was opened at 29 Frith Street in 1953 by Gina Lollabrigida. It became the model for many classic Formica cafes to come. Ten years later, the 1950s cafe scene had reforged 1960s London as the world's hippest city ­ a ferment of music, fashion, film, photography, scandal and avant-gardism.

Classic Cafes is the first ever full study of the vintage British working man's Formica caff and commemorates the faded, yet somehow vivid, attractions of these forlorn environments, documenting an institution perilously close to vanishing without trace or acclaim.

Often dismissed as 'greasy spoons', classic cafes are actually little gems of British vernacular high street design. In an era of retro-kitsch, inert 'theme' brasseries and fast-breeder US coffee-chains, they hark back to a European dynamism that added colour to Britain's post war social and commercial scene.

Part sentimental journey, psychogeographic incursion and alternative architectural gazetteer, the first half of Classic Cafes presents a shadow social history showing how London's cultural ascendancy in the 1960s began life in the classic Formica cafes of the 1950s. The latter part goes in search of the archetypal classic cafe, culminating in a gazetteer that takes in many left intact as of 2003.

Based on the hugely acclaimed website www.classiccafes.co.uk, the book features extensive contemporary large format architectural photos by Phil Nicholls (Melody Maker, Blitz, Vogue, Uncut, Sunday Times, The Independent...) and Peter Anderson (NME). It also features many never-before-seen archive pictures plus comprehensive research covering related books, journals, magazines, films, websites & much else...



Classic Cafes review | Twentieth Century Society | May 2004 | by Dr Philip Carter

"genius... passionate, elegiac, surprising, and beautifully illustrated... a wonderful book... with a well-researched argument to make us look again at the familiar"

Most books are the result of long hours in the library or archive. Authors occasionally emerge for recuperation, but the cafes, restaurants, tea-rooms or diners in which they seek refuge are never just restorative. They are also sites of recrimination. Time spent over coffee is time not spent in the archive. Better get back.

But for the truly enlightened the cafes becomes the resource: a subject of history, aesthetic appreciation and cultural respect. One such genius is Adrian Maddox who puts his research hours into this passionate, elegiac, surprising, and beautifully illustrated study, of the post-war cafe... It is, quite simply, a wonderful book.

[For many] the British caff is synonymous with all things dreary, tatty and potentially unhygienic... Maddox's is a book with a well-researched argument to make us look again at this popular image by setting cafes in the context of their social and design history... [it] shows how closely their history relates to that of European immigration... [how] the Italian coffee-bar offered a controversial vision of the future, simultaneously embraced and criticised by a youthful clientele eschewing niceties, and an older generation raised on the proprieties of silver service.

It was a dynamic which gained added momentum [via] 1950s Americana, with its potentially alarming synthesis of rock and roll, the teenager and Wimpy... Where once the cafe was the locus of beatniks or bikers' ton-up clubs, it is now a place where conformist twentysomethings meet, on sofas (never booths), to compare credit-card purchases. It is the Friends-ification of modern life.

Maddox's antidote is to get out and explore those British institutions that remain... The aim is to look again at the familiar and to revel in quotidian detail. It's something the book does to excellent effect thanks to Phil Nicholl's often intimate photographs, ranging from the cover's pear-shaped salt cellars to the unchanging specials boards or lone, dangling coffee mug.
Through [this] detail also comes something of the optimism, dynamism but also distinctly English pragmatism of many post-war cafes firmly positioned in the vanguard of Festival culture...



Classic Cafes | Chapter One | excerpt from Esplanade Of Unbroken Dreams

I started collecting classic cafes ­ the vintage British 1950s working-man's Formica variety ­ after a first visit to Barcelona in the mid-1980s. My hotel, the Pension Dali off Las Ramblas, the grand boulevard linking the waterfront to the heart of the city, had no breakfast room so the early part of the day was spent on gumshoe sorties looking for suitable cheap eateries in the old town.

The sheer range of places available was beguiling. Las Ramblas was lined with old-timer cafes, many retaining their aged, gleaming aluminium frontages, Mid-Century Modern signs and period table/chair combinations. Here, you could pause for endless coffees and 'bikinis' (toasted sandwiches) or linger under the wrought-iron canopies of the Boqueria market, packed full with 1950s Googie-shaped trader's kiosks...

Many years before this trip, I'd been led around the markets of provincial northern towns as a child on shopping excursions with my grandmother. These usually ended up in "classic" style Italian family cafes where, basking in the familial atmosphere (and plied with hefty slabs of buttered toast), my grandmother would tell me about her run-ins with Little Richard, Keith n' Mick and The Beatles at the local ballroom where she headed up the catering operations.

The visit to Barcelona rekindled many of these memories. Returning to London after the holiday, I'd re-live the nostalgic charge with breakfasts out at a tiny cafe sitting opposite a main gate on Brixton's Brockwell Park (near the then disused 1930s open-air Lido.) The place was perfect: the cafe's powder-blue Formica interior, quaint counter set-up, front parlour layout and generally neglected mien was exactly what I was looking for.

After this discovery, cafes started to come to me. I couldn't walk down a main road or back street without them beckoning from round corners. I could spot the pulse-racing visual cues at fifty feet: old Univers letterfaces, sun-bleached window menus, scurvy curtains, shabby door frames, lolloping hatstands ­ all clues that further visits might be in order. I started rounding up these strays; gathering material for cod newsletters, never-to-be-made documentaries and, eventually, a website. After dozens of previously invisible locales made themselves known, I came to think of these places as 'classic' in the sense that they retained some or most of their old fittings; evoking a time when the country had seemed somehow to be in better shape, in better spirits.

The really good cafes seemed doomed by their own isolation; you could sense the melancholy condensing on the windows, as customers watched the world outside, things happening elsewhere. Somehow, the massing of all these signs of abandonment suggested a bigger picture. Like blocks of half-glimpsed Mayan temples subsumed by writhing jungle, these battered old outposts implied some greater context, an altogether different type of civilisation.

Later, I discovered how the Contemporary look in European design had engulfed England after 1951, plugging right into the Teen Age. Here was a Britain keying up to rejoin the modern world after the War. The all too swift failure of the attempt had left a legacy of these cafes ­ incidental places full of incidental people subject to an incidental music looping slowly through their lives.

Suddenly I saw something, beckoning again, just around a corner...

The Financial Times: Classic Cafes by Lesley Gillilan

The Times: Classic Cafes by Bob Stanley

Sunday Herald: Why I'd give anything... by Stuart Murdoch

Adrian Maddox: Author biography


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