A pickled onion and cola - culinary delights from the 60’s

A PICKLED onion and a bottle of cola do not sound like the height of culinary delights, but were a feature of a night out for one Kindred Spirits reader in an Ipswich coffee bar in Ipswich during the 1960s.

Memories of restaurants, tea rooms and coffee bars were featured recently.

Arthur Westley of Cedarcroft Road, Ipswich said “The cafe in the picture of St. Matthews Street featured in a recent Kindred Spirits was Westley’s Restaurant.

“I grew up there with my brother and two sisters, it was run by our mother and father Joe and Vera Westley, we lived there from 1946 until March 1962 when we closed prior to demolition and development of the street and widening of the road.

“Although called “Cafe Snax” it was a restaurant serving anything from beans on toast to a full three course meal, open seven days a week and only closing for Christmas Day. “My father also had a small market garden supplying fresh vegetables etcetera in season and later a smallholding where I helped to rear chickens, which also supplied fresh meat and eggs.

“We also supplied Rush’s fish shop nearby among others with birds. My mother and father where close friends with Vera and Fred King who ran the Rainbow Pub.

“The picture in Kindred Spirits was dated December 1963 and our restaurant had been closed for over a year and was waiting demolition with the rest of that side of the street.

Most Read

“My parents were offered what became Hedley’s Grill on the Norwich Road side of Berners Street, due to the years we had traded in the street, but father decided he needed a career change so became a jobbing builder for a number of years before they both finished their working life running the Black Lion Hotel in Long Melford, both are sadly no longer with us.

“The grill still trades under another name. Mr. Hedley used to be a manager at the Milk Bar on the Old Cattle Market, my mother worked there for a while after we closed down. Other businesses in St Matthews Street I remember were Kay’s Store, later it was Aristocrat Cleaners, a shoe repair shop, a laundrette, the first in Ipswich I think, the Lord Palmerston public house, The Milk Bar another snack bar, Ransomes Toy shop later Howe’s Showroom, The Maypole, Seager’s the Pork Butcher’s and Wiggin’s the Chemist, the Wool Shop and Baxter’s Butchers.

“I share with my brother and sisters many happy memories of our lives in St. Matthews Street and our share of sad ones.

“It was a hard life, but we never went short and have always remained close. Whilst it was doubtless necessary to make many changes in the town at that time I feel that many fine buildings were torn down, replaced with concrete monstrosities.

“Other local snack bars I remember are the Two Ages, Classic Caf�, the Rickshaw Coffee Bar and the Ponderosa Cafe in St Nicholas Street, where I used to meet my girlfriend, now my wife, for lunch on a Friday when I worked for Portia Gates around 1964.”

Rod Cross added “I was greatly impressed by the number of caf�s and coffee shops in Ipswich during the 1960s that readers were able to recall. However, there were some notable omissions.

“For me my favourite was the Gondolier. This was Ipswich’s first espresso coffee bar, having been opened by the famous glamour model Sabrina in 1956, and was in Upper Brook Street, opposite the Buttermarket.

“If you went there on a Saturday morning, in around 1963, and it would be a struggle just to get down the stairs to this teenage heaven, let alone make it all the way across to the counter. It was absolutely packed.

“If you eventually were able to obtain an espresso in its clear glass cup, it was advisable to make it last at least an hour before doing battle a second time.

“Toying with the dish of brown granulated sugar on the table provided a welcome diversion. Another of my favourites was the Rickshaw in St Nicholas Street, nearly opposite the Hippodrome.

“Being a little off the beaten track, it was less popular than the Gondolier, but was the archetypal 60s coffee bar.

“It was dark and very slightly sinister inside, with lots of stainless steel and a massive juke box, probably a Wurlitzer.

“I used to visit on a Wednesday evening after playing snooker in town and would have an ice-cold coke and, rather bizarrely, a large pickled onion.

“The latter would be fetched from a giant jar next to the shiny coffee-making machine. A similar-sized jar of pickled gherkins stood alongside. On reflection I’m not sure where pickles fitted into the coffee bar experience, but we never questioned it at the time.”

“When the Bowling Alley opened in London Road, a new dimension was introduced to the coffee bar scene.

“Previously all eating and drinking establishments in the town tended to close at 10.30 pm, or 11.00 pm at weekend.

“However the Bowling Alley and its coffee bar remained open all night providing an exciting new venue for those with their own transport.

“Nowadays with drive-in takeaways and motorway services, a coffee can be obtained at any time of the day or night, but back in the 1960s this was a real innovation.

“It was a small, but significant example of the way that life in post-60s Britain was changing forever.

“Sadly it may well have also marked the beginning of the end for the traditional coffee bar, very much a symbol of the times.”

John Harold of Norwich Road, Ipswich, recalls visiting The Classic on Woodbridge Road, Ipswich and The Mikado in Northgate Street. John said “The Classic had a mini juke box on the wall costing six-pence a play.

Does this feature bring memories for you? Write to Kindred Spirits at the Evening Star or e-mail info@kindred-spirit.co.uk