Le Macabre

The jukebox had an appropriate playlist: Chopin’s Funeral March, Drac’s Back by Billy DeMarco & Count Dracula, Monster Mash by Bobby “Boris” Pickett and the Crypt-Kickers, but we always played Cat Stevens’ – Lady D’Arbanville:

Your lips feel like winter
Your skin has turned to white

Le Macabre Coffee House was at the western end of Meard Street, near the junction with Wardour Street, in London’s Soho.  Just around the corner was Hammer House, home to the horror film specialists, Hammer Films.

“You could always tell you were in Meard Street, because ladies’ legs tended to dangle out of the windows. With vocal commentary”Russell Davies.  In 1970 they had either moved on or I was unaware – in those far-off  days, there was only the one girl in my universe.

The interior was witch-dark, the tables were in the shape of coffins, the ashtrays were Bakelite skulls and skeletons adorned the walls.  It was a delight to a pair of teenagers with an unhealthy interest in Dennis Wheatley – The Devil Rides Out, To the Devil a Daughter, The Satanist – they were nothing if not obvious. I guess we were early goth. 

I don’t remember the quality of the coffee, but Starbucks would do well to emulate the atmosphere. 

She lived in Sydenham and I worked in Manchester.  Until I contrived to move south, I travelled between the two, often hitch-hiking.  Setting off early evening meant the motorway slip roads were less populated with like-minded travellers.  There was an etiquette loosely based on first come first served, although lone girls and couples were more likely to be singled out by the eagle-eyed driver.  The late departure meant arrival into London in the early hours – breakfast was free milk from the doorstep and heat from the Euston Station concourse, until moved on. Police searches were common but never threatening – my limited baggage space might include some freshly laundered underwear, sent south by my girlfriend’s mother.  No great deal except when searched – it seemed to amuse the constabulary.  No officer, they are not mine – do they look as though they would fit?Each to his own, laddie.

The lack of sleep lent those long weekends a dream-like quality.  Le Macabre was the perfect place to maintain a chimerical state of mind.

(This post inspired by a tweet from Rob Baker – author of two excellent books about London: Beautiful Idiots and Brilliant Lunatics and High Buildings, Low Morals)


  1. sustainabilitea · January 15, 2022

    I enjoyed this, Robin, and the underwear bit made me laugh.


    • northumbrianlight · January 15, 2022

      Thanks Janet, always good to make people laugh. All such a long time ago.

  2. Aviationtrails · January 15, 2022

    I take it the coffee shop has long since gone? It sounds like a typical Soho meeting place!

    • northumbrianlight · January 15, 2022

      Yes, but I have no idea when – the Street View image (which is dated 2018) shows the building encased in scaffolding, so I can’t tell what is there now … probably a Costa 😉

  3. J.D. · January 15, 2022

    Simply fabulous. I knew you had a goth side, Robin. Hilarious about the undies.

  4. Chris Barker · January 16, 2022

    Two years before I arrived in London, September 1972, and spent a couple of months living with a doctor’s family in South Woodford, commuting to the City of London Poly for business studies as an articled clerk. Luckily I failed as a Chartered Accountant, but your portrait of London brings back memories of an impecunious existence, walking as much as possible to save money, drinking rather than studying, yearning for a place with a proper bed – for longer than a few months at a time. I wish I had known of Le Macabre, but a friend and I would spend too much in the arcades of Leicester Square or my Students’ Union bar, walking back to my flat in Newington Green (much better than the horrible flat at Gants Hill) in the early hours. Another friend bought some acid which we popped while seated on a park bench in Islington. It wasn’t acid, so the trip didn’t happen. I frequently wondered how my life would turn out 🙂

    • northumbrianlight · January 16, 2022

      That sounds a familiar story CB – it’s amazing how well we turned out in the end 😉 Reminds me of the opening quote from GITW #1 – “Everyone agreed it would be a miracle indeed if the boy survived”

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