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Landin in Scotland The battle to save the Battlefield Rest

THE lunching left has justifiably been in pre-emptive mourning this week at the proposed closure of one of its most iconic hangouts — the Gay Hussar in Soho, London.

Famed as the favourite restaurant of Michael Foot and for many a political plot, the Hussar is adorned with portrait cartoons sketched by the Star’s own Martin Rowson.

He’s one of a number of prominent journalists and lefties behind the Goulash Co-operative, which failed in its attempt to buy out the Hungarian restaurant several years ago — but is now back for a second helping.

I hope to toast the co-op’s success next weekend from Goulash, Aberdeen’s own — and cheaper — Hungarian eatery, when on the road for the SNP conference next weekend.

But while saving one famous establishment might offer hope, it will take more to fight the increasing disappearance of characterful restaurants and coffee housing — especially of the continental variety — from Britain’s high streets.

Landlords certainly have no sympathy. Gaby’s Deli on Charing Cross Road was threatened by the Marquess of Salisbury in 2012. The Hussar is threatened by a 30 per cent rent hike from Corus Hotels.

In Glasgow, a much-loved establishment is in crisis thanks to the city council. The Battlefield Rest, on Glasgow’s Southside, has been slapped with a 400 per cent rise in business rates.

The Italian establishment, on a traffic island once occupied by a news kiosk, has been owned by Marco Giannasi for 24 years, and does delicious cheap lunches. Its outdoor coffee tables have come to life this week as the Gla-celona sunshine arrived on Clydeside.

When I dropped by the staff were in fighting spirit — but their worries are far from over. An appeal against the rate rise has been delayed till August, but Giannasi says trying to keep up with rising costs has proved a “complete nightmare.”

“If this goes ahead, I’ll have to be cutting something massively,” he explains. He doesn’t want to put prices up. The Rest’s affordability has always been key to its character — and long may this continue.

 

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