I am a writer living in Melbourne who loves to devour culture and the arts. Visit me at www.pumptheatre.com.au
Published January 14th 2011
The Troubadour means many things to many people. For some it's the spiritual home of London beat poetry, or 50s folk music, for some it's where they've been to some of the best gigs of their life, and for some it's their local pub/ bar and cafe with a twist. If you stick to the facts then the Troubadour was where Bob Dylan played his first London gig – in a space that also hosted Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon and Hendrix, it's where the team behind Private Eye held their pre-Private Eye meet-ups and first distributed their rag, where the Black Panthers held their meetings and where Ken Russell brought Oliver Reed etc.
Conceived in the 50s, not too much about the Troubadour has changed since then. It's still raffish and bohemian, continental and a bit revolutionary. Its walls are hung with vintage treasures: street signs, teapots, rabbit traps (or not?), old pots and pans, stained glass and other interesting whatnots. The chairs and tables are wooden benches – for ease of fitting in extra guests – and the menu will keep you fed between breakfast and the wee hours. Think bistro style, with a healthy, veggie-friendly edge, but they also do crowd pleasing burgers - to the owner's own recipe – fish and chips and omelettes and veggie lasagne and the like. Often you'll find the best options on the list of daily specials, so make sure you ask if you're not given them when you sit down.
Downstairs is the Troubadour Club – which still holds true to the ethos of having the best up and coming musicians playing. And best beat poetry (Monday nights is poetry night.). And some decent DJ nights when there's nothing live on. If you drop by for dinner you're more than likely going to find people auditioning in the basement – and you never know which future name-to-watch you might meet there.
Here's the club/ cafe's full history if you're interested, but what still holds true today is the ethos which is: come any time, eat and drink whatever you like whenever you like and stay as long as you like. If you really like it you can even stay here overnight in the garret, which is an authentic Arts & Crafts suite that sleeps four – right where you're not not expecting it. They also have a garden attached to the cafe/ restaurant that's almost as secret, it's a quiet haven in the middle of one of London's busiest hubs - but you wouldn't know it.