Matthew Steeples remembers the late, great Arthur Woodham, the owner of Arthur’s Cafe in Dalston and La Brasserie’s best customer at the bar on a Saturday afternoon
Arthur Woodham told me: “I don’t drink in my manor” each and every Saturday. We sat together at the bar at the sadly now defunct La Brasserie in South Kensington and whilst he drank Smirnoff Vodka (he’d certainly never tolerate anything else; especially “that poison” Grey Goose), I had my rather oversized gin and somewhat limited tonic. We chatted about all sorts of nonsense, encountered many a mad drunk and occasionally Arthur’s delightful daughter, Elaine, came and took him home in her taxi.
The pair of us (and many other equally drink-friendly ‘bar fly’ friends) sat enjoying the very best (and cheapest) drinks in SW3 and observing the restaurant’s best and worst customers also (Arthur was particularly amused by ‘The Crossword Couple’ – a pair he described as “bloody bores” due to the fact they shared a cocktail and complained about the music). We laughed and we chatted and Arthur regaled me with tales of the East End’s greatest and grimmest. He informed me the Krays were “ponces” and he told me all about his renowned establishment, Arthur’s Cafe in Kingsland Road, Dalston.
Sadly, I visited Arthur’s business on only one occasion. Arthur refused to take payment from myself and my two friends but he gave us the greatest experience. He didn’t serve toast after 11.30am and he didn’t serve chips before 12 noon. Here was a man with a mantra but here also was a gent with a heart. Arthur was a truly lovely man and he was the best company many could have imagined.
Many articles have been written post his passing about the food and drink he served but I’d like to say this: Arthur – I hope you’re having as many Smirnoffs as you want in the sky. You were a true gentleman and I am honoured you were my friend.
Arthur Woodham died aged 91 on 7th January 2018. He leaves behind his wife Eileen, two children, two grandchildren and three great grandchildren.
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