West End landmark Gaby’s Deli set to close
Loss of legendary venue comes as latest blow for independent scene in Soho
12 October, 2018 — By William McLennan
Gaby’s in Charing Cross Road
A LANDMARK West End restaurant is to close as the eponymous owner retires – six years after plans to replace it with a chain restaurant were overturned by a high-profile campaign.
Gaby’s Deli in Charing Cross Road has been serving Jewish and Middle Eastern fare in the heart of Theatreland since 1965, garnering a legion of loyal fans drawn to its unpretentious air and reasonable prices.
But owner Gaby Elyahou has now retired on health grounds, with the family-run business seemingly unable to find anyone willing to replace him.
On Wednesday information circulated online suggesting that it was to close because of a rent hike, but yesterday (Thursday), Mr Elyahou’s nephew Menhem Kojman said the imminent closure was due to his uncle’s retirement.
“We won’t do another campaign,” he said. “Nobody wants to take over, the kids don’t want it.”
The final day would be on November 4, he said. A campaign was launched in 2011, which drew support from the likes of Simon Callow and Vanessa Redgrave, persuaded landlord Gascoyne Holdings to step back from development plans and extend Mr Elyahou’s lease.
Mr Kojman said: “The landlord let us stay six more years, which is fair enough.” He said November 4 would be a “sad day for everybody” and they were unsure if they would mark the date with a closing party.
“Maybe we will have one, we’ll see how it goes,” he said. News of the closure was lamented by customers, with one writing on Twitter: “Great place, been at the heart of Charing Cross Road and Theatreland for decades, gives the area variety and a sense that not every shop in central London is a cookie-cutter clone.
“We need to preserve the independents.” Sara Nathan, a former TV journalist who led the Save Gaby’s campaign, wrote in the Extra in 2011: “The deli, just by Leicester Square station, has been at the centre of my London life for longer than I can remember.
“It’s where I go before the theatre, to meet the family, or when I am working in town. I know the welcome will generally be warm, the falafel in pita tasty and the apple strudel tempting.
“It stands out in London’s Theatreland like a good deed in a naughty world: New Yorkers may have many such delis to choose from but Londoners have very few.
“Unique, individual businesses are becoming such a rarity in central London and Gaby’s is one of the best. It oozes continuity and gemütlichkeit – of belonging, of cheerfulness and inclusion.”
She warned: “London is becoming a clone town. Is that what we – Londoners and visitors alike – really want?”