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Great London Cafes – Bar Italia

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22 Frith St, London W1D 4RF

If you are looking for an authentic Italain Cafe in London, Bar Italia in Soho is the place to head for, it was opened in 1949 by Lou and Caterina Polledri.
In post war Britain it became a important social centre for Italian Community and was one of the rare places you could find a good quality coffee in London.
Bar Italia quickly became an institution in Soho and has been visited by many celebrities over the years.
Still owned by the Polidari family, it is still a little part of Italy with Italian Football shown on the big screen at the back of the cafe and football shirts and pictures of sporting heroes dotted all over the walls.

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The red and white formica is an integral part of the Bar and there are still original pieces from 1949. The Gaggia coffee machine has been there fifty years.
It still produces great coffee and the seats outside are very popular for watching the world go by. Almost directly opposite is the legendary Jazz venue Ronnie Scott’s.
Bar Italia has the appearance of a classic Italian cafe and offers a reminder of little piece of London history when Italian cafes introduced a post war coffee culture.
Bar Italia is not the only claim to fame for this building, in 1926, John Logie Baird gave the first public demonstration of television here.
The blue plaque above the front door commemorates this event.
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London Department Stores – Selfridges

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Selfridges

Location – 400 Oxford Street, London,W1H 6HB

Selfridges is a large department store on Oxford Street, it is the second largest store in the UK, Harrods being the largest.

Selfridges was founded by Harry Gordon Selfridge who was born in 1856 in Wisconsin, in 1879 he started work for Marshall Field and Company a famous Chicago retailer. In a rags to riches story he started as an errand boy before working his way up the ladder, he married into a wealthy Chicago family and amassed a fortune which he used to build his London store.

Using American building methods the store opened in 1909. Harry Selfridge bought over a number of American retail methods and added a few of his own, he is credited for putting the perfume counter at the front of the store which was copied by stores around the world.

He also believed shopping should be fun so used the store to highlight technologies of the day for example Louis Blériot’s monoplane of 1909 was exhibited at Selfridges, and the first public demonstration of television was by John Logie Baird from the first floor of Selfridges from 1 to 27 April 1925.

In the 20s and 30s the roof with its terraced gardens, cafes, a mini golf course was a popular meeting place. After the war these were closed down but have recently been revived.

Up to the Great Depression, Harry Selfridge retail wise could do no wrong, however in the years leading up to the Second World War he began to get in debt, partially attributed to his lavish life style. He was ousted from the Selfridges board in the 1941 and died practically penniless in Putney in 1947.

Selfridges is known for its wide range of luxury goods, numerous designer clothes, a extensive food hall and has a number of restaurants and bars.

General Opening Hours

MONDAY             9.30 – 21.00

TUESDAY             9.30 – 21.00

WEDNESDAY      9.30 – 21.00

THURSDAY         9.30 – 21.00

FRIDAY                9.30 – 21.00

SATURDAY         9.30 – 21.00

SUNDAY             11.30 – 18.15*