Harrington: Covent Garden building that lost its stripes

TGI Friday’s leaves striking Bedford Street building and former workhouse site for good

Friday, 22nd April

TGI friday

The former TGI Fridays in Bedford Street

CALL me a snob, but I was always rather put off ever putting a foot inside the giant TGI Friday’s in Covent Garden, which has now closed its doors for good.

It’s hard to put a finger on why, but possibly it was the garish red and white branding and the thick atmosphere that made you feel you were still being treated to an American sundae for your seventh birthday – aged 42.

Others, I’m told, adore the chain, which can chart a history back to 1960s New York and will still welcome diners who want their cartoony stacks of cooked cow in Leicester Square and elsewhere.

The building it leaves behind in Bedford Street – opposite the old offices of The Lady magazine, whose staff I’m sure were forever popping over the road for sticky ribs… and not just on Fridays – is a brilliant behemoth.

JD Wetherspoon is currently fitting it out into a new public house and you will find no snideness from me on that front.

Fire strikes in 1984

Regulars to their pubs will know a magazine is left on some tables which explains in great, angry detail why all the mean things that journalists have said about them during our national Brexit meltdown are unfair.

Harrington does not want to appear in the next edition, so let me tell you their idea of using such sweet tomato sauce on the pizzas is perfect with a cheap pint of fizzy ale.

Anyhow, the building, where the road meets Chandos Place – a rarified central London street in itself, home as it is to such unusual treats as Nando’s and Caffè Nero – is striking for its monumental blast of terracotta, a sort of celebration of the Italian renaissance.

It was constructed on the site of an old workhouse, which historians have laboured to link to Charles Dickens in some way; when we think of workhouses, we do after all think of Dickens.

Instead, people got a new department store run by the Civil Service Supply Association – or the CSSA. Any ornate interiors were lost in a fire in the 1980s but the façade outside still looks super today.

Dare I say it, it will look even better without the red and white stripes.

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