Coup De Tat

By Kaufman Last edited 141 months ago
Coup De Tat

We were upset to learn that the tobacconists Bonds of Oxford Street are no longer Of Oxford Street. The premises that they occupied for the entire childhood of one Londonista has been invaded by a shop that sells handbags. Bonds have been relegated to some backwater trading estate in SW16. Sentimental adolescent memories are attached to that purveyor of fine tobaccos, cigars, and pipes of all distinctions, shapes and sizes; we bought our first cigarette holder there. We felt sophisticated.

In this month's Profanisaurus we found:

coup de tat n. Fr. A sudden and unexpected takeover of a previously classy high street by pound shops, Wilkinson's and scratter-filled amusement arcades. 'Head for the hills, everyone. There's been a coup de tat in Leamington Spa.'

More examples of this phenomenon made themselves instantly apparent. The Old Parr's Head on Upper Street, a once-favoured pub, is now a women's fashion shop. Centrale, formerly of Moor Street, Soho, has been wantonly demolished to make way for a block of luxury flats. Camden Town has tried to tart itself up by dumping a glass and steel obscenity in the middle of the market and calling it a restaurant. We shudder to think what will happen now that Elephant & Castle is 'up-and-coming'.

Harold Wilson said, 'He who rejects change is the architect of decay.' (Grumpy Old Men being commissioned by the BBC was a prime example of this.) Change is necessary and called for, undoubtedly, but it really should think about what exactly it is going to do with itself before it dives in at the deep end. Didn't Oxford Street once have class? In between the Tyburn business losing trade and before the onslaught of the tat merchants of more recent memory. But according to a recent poll (probably conducted by Time Out), 'proper' Londoners can be identified by whether or not they prefer to avoid Oxford Street like the plague.

There were once (and may well still be) hidden gems tucked away between the multiple all-purpose seasonal card shops (still nigh-on impossible to find Chanukah cards come that time of year, by the way) and the quality sports footwear retailers and the mobile phone emporiums and the repellent general tat shops. (Who keeps these people in business? Surely all the tourists in the world have bought a silly hat with a Union Jack on it and a postcard of a pair of boobs with mice faces drawn on them by now?) If change is really what is wanted, you could do a lot worse than to mostly demolish Oxford Street as it is and start again from scratch.

We’ve just heard that the only decent restaurant on Essex Road has gone out of business. We want to cry.

Image from Estherase's Flickr photostream

Last Updated 30 August 2006

Paul Mison

"We’ve just heard that the only decent restaurant on Essex Road has gone out of business. We want to cry."

I feel that way every time I'm around the Thames in the City now, as I see Mondial House and Draper's Gardens shrouded, ready to be demolished, out of sight and out of mind. Not that you heartless bastards give a damn about them; no, they're just dull old disliked sixties buildings to you, and the tedious boxes that replace them, complete with the Starbucks you'd probably complain about above, given long enough, esconsed in the obligatory "riverside retail spaces", they're nice enough for you, despite being clone architecture.

Anyway, the Montmartre wasn't that good. Go to Le Mercury on Upper Street instead, or the Eritrean place opposite Sainsburys.


Thank god, thought you were talking about Zigni House (the Eritrean mentioned above). If that goes, then we're in trouble...

Paul Mison

I got worried and took the bus home via Essex Road to check, but Zigni House is still open.


Say goodbye to anything that's not glossy and corporate on Oxford, Bond and Regent Street because the plan for the area seems hell bent on getting rid of anything that's not 'world class high street' - including it would seem the buses... People seem to be forgetting that what makes london great is that it's not a trading park clone town like every other british city.

The end cometh pending planning permissions and further government lobbying


Central-ay, woe-oh-oh-hoh, Central-ay...
How great was this cosy, reasonable, brisk, lovable place. So great the wankers couldn't let it had to be doomed. Still, for those needing a quick but reasonable nosh, there's always Hakkasan nearby...