A review of the Le Matelot restaurant found in Bon Viveur's London & the British Isles (Dakers, London 1955). Bon Viveur was a pseudonym for Fanny Cradock and her husband the fly-whiskered Johnny. They later became celebrity TV chefs. The use of the word gay at the time tended to indicate merry, jolly, insouciant, zany etc., although the restaurant went on into the 1960s (possibly later) and is referenced at The Lost Gay Restaurants site. The girl in the coral jeans and exposed midriff sounds distinctly modern and the whole scene described might be something out of the 1961 Tony Hancock movie The Rebel. The owner roaming the restaurant in horns is not something you see in current London eateries.
You will either be enchanted by this small restaurant or embarrassed. It is unique. The proprietor, Dr. Hillary James, is a psychiatrist by day and a restaurateur by night.
On Christmas Eve he wears horns. We keep a regular date there on Christmas eve now. The staff are young, gay, inconsequential and yet highly efficient and courteous. But Le Matelot is informal. Witness,the extremely pretty young Miss who, on our first visit, plonked down our ratatouille, remarking casually, ‘mon Dieu quel Plonk' (anent the garlic). This same nymph, wearing coral jeans, exposed mid-riff, holly in her fair curls and mistletoe in her buttonhole, nonchalantly removeda champagne cork, poured the wine (not for us - we dislike drinking champagne all through a meal) and tossed the cork back down the restaurant to a colleague in a South American hat, a printed silk blouse and a pair of somewhat startling pants. ‘Corky,’ he said - quite untruthfully, as he smelled the cork. Then both grinned at the contented customer and continued to carry in dishes _ of Avocado Vinaigrette (3s.), Coquilles St. Jacques (3s.), Corn on the Cob (zs. 6d.), New England Grilled Gammon with Sweetcorn (6s.), Poulet Henry IV (5s.), superb Stilton cheese (2s. 6d.), and Dames Blanches (2s.) for the sweet-toothed.
It is a delightfully uninhibited, scatty little place, brimming with custom, canopied with fish-nets, discreetly lit and gay, gay, gay, in our stuffed shirt old town. We hope you’ll like it as much as this year’s crop of B.V. recommended regulars.
Name: Le Matelot
Address: 49, Elizabeth Street, S.W.1
Tel.No.: SLOane 1038
Proprietor: Dr. Hillary James
Hours of Opening:
Luncheons (Monday to Friday): 12.30 to 3 p.m.
Dinners: 7 to II p.m.
Saturdays and Sundays: Dinners only
Licensed for the sale of Wines