Mystery & Memories of The White Elephant on the River, London

This is going to be a bit of a long post without many photos, but fascinating, so stick with me!

One cold February day in 2010, when the sidewalks were strewn with dried up leaves left over from the Autumn months, I went for a walk along the Thames. I came across a building with boarded up windows, white columns out front and a tattered roof. It looked like a place that was host to many stories – once grand, now neglected.

I took a photo, as I tend to do while I’m walking around London, and I posted it on the blog I was writing at the time – Little London Observationist. It’s been almost a year since I stopped writing there, but still, the simple post I shared in the link above continues to encourage comments.

Villa White Elephant on the River

I didn’t give the building much thought until I saw the buzz that this photo seemed to generate. The comments started to unravel the history and the stories of a place called The White Elephant on the River (which may or may not be the building in the photo. One comment suggests this is a building down the street from the famous White Elephant on the River and was possibly owned by the same person.).

Google searches don’t seem to bring up any additional information, which I thought was fascinating given the prestige it seemed to have according to some of the comments. It seems this old club/restaurant was in its hayday during the 1960s and 70s and was frequented by quite a few celebrities.

Photo: Thanks to Rosemary DeLaney for spotting this one online!

Google does tell me that this same address is now the site of expensive flats like this one sold for 3.6 million.

One of life’s little luxuries is to be given a special glimpse into the past and so I wanted to share some of the stories about this place from that old post. I don’t know how much is true or whether they are all talking about the same place since there seem to have been different branches of the club / restaurant, but read these and tell me you’re not intrigued too!

  • Graham shared that it was once a place to see and be seen, but the food wasn’t all that impressive.
  • right_writes agrees with graham and adds it was very posh. He says, “It is also almost opposite Dolphin Square, a 1930s housing development, that the very fashionable and poshest people used to live in… eschewing “old buildings” like the two-up, two-down properties in Chelsea and Fulham. My wife used to provide visiting nursing services to a lot of very wealthy old people that lived there during the early 1980s… By this time, these wealthy people were living in utter squalour.. Presumably, they just hadn’t noticed as they became more feeble.
  • Neal noted that he has a cookbook from the restaurant with celebrity recipes in it (which seems to be this one or possibly this one).
  • Thanks to Graham Lubin for scanning these images of his cookbook:

White Elephant on the River Celebrity Cookbook

White Elephant on the River Celebrity Cookbook

White Elephant on the River Celebrity Cookbook

White Elephant on the River Celebrity Cookbook

White Elephant on the River Celebrity Cookbook

White Elephant on the River Celebrity Cookbook

  • Pablo notes he remembers going to a party there in 1991.
  • Paolo lived on Oakley Street in SW3 and worked there as a waiter in summer 1991. He said The White Elephant was frequented by wealthy people giving gratuities of up to £500. Sunday brunch was £25 and always full. Orchestras played and there was dancing. At the time, staff were all Italian except for Brazilians who washed dishes. The three owners had taken over the business from an elderly lady who sometimes came to eat there.
  • John Gormley says he was there in 1979. Ray Ellington was the resident musician and everything was extremely expensive. His host was an arab prince out to impress. It was the haunt of royals and celebrities. The evening he was there, a famous face could be seen at nearly every table and each table had at least three waiters. A 5-course meal was about £200 a head plus drinks and service – a night to remember. John still has two hand leather bound his and hers address books with 9ct gold edges and white elephants on the front – unused in their boxes. Each has Ray Ellington’s autograph in each. They were bought for everyone at the table for £75 each.
  • Lynne remembers it being a fantastic restaurant in the early 80s.
  • Valter, who is Italian, worked as waiter there in 1977. He notes that the
    exact address is: 129 Grosvenor Road London SW1V 3JY. He still has his work suit and brown tie with a small white elephant on it as a souvenir. He also noted that live music was played by Ray Ellington, sometimes with Rosemary Squires. Each night famous people came to meet and dine here with a beautiful window view over the Thames. Some names include
    Shirley Bassey, Rod Stewart with Britt Ekland, some Arab Princes and many others. There were also BBC celebrities. He says the staff were mainly Italian with a Greek cook.
  • Leslie V says the resident band was called Graffiti and then they had another band called Italian Dream.
  • At the time of her comment, Helen’s mum was mum dating the drummer from that time…
  • Alice remembers that in the later 1980s, her dad was asked to re-upholster the furniture to a very high standard because Frank Sinatra was booked to play a private concert there. He worked long hours every day all week in order to get the job done in time for the concert. Although he was proud to be asked to do the work, he remarked that he found it a bit queer that he was never once offered a cup of tea or glass of water in the whole time he was working on the site.
  • Leslie V says that the restaurant Alice was referring to is the The White Elephant in Curzon Street, W.1 (owned by the same person). Frank Sinatra only went to that club and the refurbishment was done there. He never went to the The White Elephant on the River. Leslie’s husband worked at both the White Elephant On the River (129 Grovensor Road) and the Villa Elephant on the River (which used to be the rival Villa Dei Cesare), for 30 years. He met all the famous people mentioned in these comments and many more.
  • old bag says went there many times with her then boyfriend. She notes the interesting people, fine food, music, dancing and enjoying herself.
  • Margie Ranieri says: “In August 1976, this 23-year-old from Westlake Village, California had a bursting piggy-bank that allowed me to take a trip to London. The first day I took the train to Windsor Castle where, unbelievably, I met my best friend’s mother-in-law and her youngest son from my hometown who were in London to visit her brother. He took us to lunch at The White Elephant on the River. I have a photograph of us standing at the front entrance under a canopy of white with the name in green-gray lettering. I recall the River Thames was quite low from an ongoing drought.”
  • Geoffrey Phillips says him and his wife had their wedding reception there on November 25, 2001. It was a magical evening with superb food and service.
  • Bob Andrews had a memorable night there. Georgie Fame stood in for Ray Ellington who was unwell and it was a brilliant session. He recalls Bernie Winters in there with his dog.
  • Mr Jazz Drums played drums with Ray Ellington and Georgie Fame. He remembers it as such an exclusive eatery with simply the best sophisticated music in London. Ray Ellington and the band eventually moved on to the Rooftop Restaurant at The Park Lane Hilton.
  • Christine Manley enjoyed several memorable nights wining and dining here. She remembers great food and fantastic service. She says she must admit it was also nice just sitting at the bar and having a drink before dinner.
  • Ian Menzies says the picture is of the Villa dei Cesari as it used to be. He went there often in the late 60s and early 70s. There was always a great atmosphere and the Italian cuisine was superb.
  • Elena commented in 2013 to say she just rented her apartment at 128 Grosvenor Road – previously the White Elephant on the River restaurant.
  • Julie Shani Shelton worked for a fashion magazine in London in the late 70s and mixed with the rich and powerful. She says it was not uncommon to see Joan Collins in the powder room, Janet Street Porter guffawing at some bore’s jokes or the waiters accidentally spilling Spaghetti carbonara over legs after their hefty dance sessions.
  • Betsy Cohen says “I too recall those heady days. At the time I was a young socialite, recently left Bedales, and mater and pater despaired of me. I decided to run orf to London and party. I was probably the prototype to all these frightfully gorgeous wildchilds of the day Mandy Smith e.t.c. Anyways dahhlings, I decided to go there one night with Georgie Allen. Oh lorks, what laughs we had. Rod Stewart leered at me, Diahann Carroll glared and Katherine Hepburn farted and followed through, running to the toilet and clutching her knick knacks dahhhhlliiinggsss x.”
  • LJ says this is the ‘old’ Villa dei Ceseri which was renamed Villa Elephant On The River, but is owned by the same person who owned the original Elephant On The River (129 Grosvenor road) which was sold for an obscene amount of money in the late 90s and flats were built. His father was the General Manager for both restaurants.
  • Kim was as a loyal customer for around 20 years at both The White Elephant Clubs – on Curzon Street in Mayfair and this one on the river. Both were excellent in food quality and service. She saw Mohammad Ali, Don King and Tyson at Curzon and many royals at the River.
  • CCF agrees there’s a lot of confusion between the pictured place which is Villa dei Cesare, later called Villa Elephant on the River at 135 Grovsvenor Road and the White Elephant on the River at 129 Grosvenor Road. He thinks the 129 restaurant shut first in the early 190s and the 135 restaurant changed its name to add Elephant on the River to cash in on the fame of 129. He thinks 135 shut around 2002. One of these was used for interior shots as a casino in the film The Long Good Friday.
  • James Hook went here after a Fleetwood Mac concert at Earls Court.
  • Nour ElNile worked for the government of Nigeria in the 1980s and was a few times tasked with taking large groups of Africans there. They were all either in insurance or diplomats or politicians. Service was excellent, food was good, the view over the river were enchanting.
  • Barbara Lake spent many a happy time here, dining and dancing the night away in the mid and late 80s. She also remembers Ray Ellington and Rosemary Squires were at the Rooftop Restaurant at the Hilton.
  • Alessio worked here as a commis waiter from June – September 1996. It was open every evening except Monday and for Sunday brunch. Pay was about £140 weekly including tips. It was an elegant place with orchestra every night and an excellent wine cellar. There were three owners, two of which were Italian. He remembers Brazlians who washed the dishes.

Scroll through the comments below for more memories!

It seems that this place deserves to have its stories told, which is why I wanted to re-open the conversation. I invite any of you who have been to this place to share your own tales in a comment here. If you have any photos, send them to me at littleobservationist@gmail.com and I’ll add them to this post with your credit.


Did you know I sell photography prints of London?
Feel free use the code ELEPHANTPOST for £3 off in my Etsy shop.
Thank you for reading and sharing your memories here.

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  • Reply
    April 14, 2015 at 12:57 am

    I’m from Louisville, Kentucky and had dinner at the White Elephant on the River in London in the mid 1980’s. Our bill was around $1500.00 for four and it was worth it! I was 28 years old and married to my husband who was an attorney. We met a barrister while dining and he invited us to a private casino in London. As we were leaving the restaurant, out of nowhere, our waiter, who was young, wrapped my fur around my shoulders he whispered he was coming to New York in couple of weeks. I just smiled. Odd, huh? Well, that same evening, my husband was gambling and I went in to another room to watch the American World Series Baseball. There was an older gentleman sitting with me having tea and watching the game. We exchanged business cards as I was leaving. He said he was coming to New York in a couple of weeks, too. Oh, well. A few weeks later I’m in the middle of cooking dinner and the phone rings. It was him! He wanted to fly me to New York to have dinner with him! What a hoot. I smile every time I think about that night.

  • Reply
    April 14, 2015 at 8:58 am

    Has anyone ever seen a copy of the White Elephant Cookbook. I used to have a copy. It was quite lavishly produced. In it, celebrity regulars shared their favourite recipes. My memory is probably failing me here but there was a recipe for ‘Curry Chicken Knockers’ by, I think Roger Moore, although it could be someone else! I actually made this dish a few times.

    Would have been around the early 80s

    • Reply
      April 16, 2015 at 8:43 am

      Curried Chicken Knockers! p.34 by . . . .wait for it . . . .Oliver Reed !!! 🙂

      • Reply
        April 16, 2015 at 8:44 am

        He also did ‘Prawns Mergertated in Sherry !!!! 🙂

    • Reply
      Stuart Livingston
      August 12, 2015 at 7:00 pm

      I have a copy of the cookbook. I worked at the White Elephant on the River six nights a week for four years playing drums with Mike McKenzie and Johnny Hawksworth. In fact we opened the place in 1972 when Stella Richman and her then husband Alec Hyams owned it.

      I have loads of stories of great nights with famous people there and fond memories of the staff, Domenico, Orlando et al. I’m now 65 and live in the Gold Coast Australia.

      • Reply
        July 13, 2016 at 6:22 am

        Hi Stuart my name is Pino, remember you in the band with Mike and Jonny , I was a waiter for about five years there I’m now 61 and still work in the restaurant business in Washington DC, I’m so happy to have heard your story about the white elephant on the river, you took me to some great memories; I always tell the story about your band, for example Mike Mackenzie not knowing what else to sing , he would repeat a song saying that it was as a request for a lady at the bar, and we would look and see that the bar was empty Lol , thank for the memories

        • Reply
          Stuart Livingston
          August 31, 2016 at 2:25 pm

          Hi Pino….I remember you well. I think I have a photo somewhere of all the staff outside the front entrance on Grosvenor Road. Great memories! Mike died a long time ago, Johnny Hawksworth moved to Australia around 1980 and died here a few years back aged 85. His crazy wife Pauline passed away two years ago in Sydney. She used to phone me all hours of the day and night and talk about the old days.
          Love to hear your story sometime.

          • Fabio 'ndrizz Mantellini
            December 3, 2017 at 7:08 pm

            Hi stuart my name is fabio. I’m interested in the photo. If it’s possible can you send me the pic. Looking forward to an andwer. Thankyou.

        • Reply
          April 23, 2020 at 5:45 pm

          Hi pino, I remember you vero well you were a maitre there, I am Donato and worked there on the Piccadilly, remember? in 1983 for about a year, Salvatore and Fernando also were there. I remember that you had a little book with all the autograph of the celebrities that we had the fortune to meet there. Glad to having heard from you. If you have any photos of those years I would appreciate them. Please do not esitate to send them to me. Best wishes

          • Boushra
            May 21, 2020 at 9:16 pm


            I have two copper pans that have markings of the white elephant. I was trying to find out more about them when I came across this article. My dad was a chef I think he worked here.Thats how he came about having these copper pans.
            The I initials B B are marked on both of them
            However not sure who this is.

            Very interesting read.

          • Claire
            January 14, 2023 at 11:12 pm

            Hi Donato, I was 16 on a college trip to London when I met Salvatore a waiter at the White Elephant club. He used to come to Staffordshire to meet me and I came to London. I wonder if you still have contact with him? I would like to thank him fo being such a gentleman and respecting me, a very young naive 16 year old. He was so very sweet and lovely. He was so much older than me but I was bowled over by his sophistication. I hope he has has a good life. I still have the little pink address book he gave me in it’s little box. I remember how beautiful his suits were and his shirts too. He was always immaculately dressed.

        • Reply
          Susan Cope
          November 6, 2020 at 6:00 pm

          Hi Stuart.You and I also worked together at the White Elephant on the River mid 1970’s and I almost emigrated to Australia in the 70’s….for £10
          I still have your wooden drum stool.
          I remember Neil Sedaka came and sat beside me as I played ‘Solitaire’ requested by Dara….his daughter. I should have invited him to sing his own wonderful song! He just sat quietly beside me on the stage. Xx

        • Reply
          Susan Cope
          November 6, 2020 at 6:06 pm

          Hi Pino. I remember you at the White Elephant on the River I sang and played keyboard there…..mid 1970’s.
          I remember I took you home one night as we were going to the same area.I was driving but relying totally on you to guide me because of the unbeleivably thick fog!!!!!!

        • Reply
          October 5, 2021 at 9:15 pm

          Hello Pino…I’m Fernando,friends Celso ..remember …?? from Brazil ,I workwed in 1991..

        • Reply
          October 5, 2021 at 9:35 pm

          Ola Pino sou Fernando do brasil ,trabalhamos juntos no Elephante,amigo do celso..Lembra?

        • Reply
          October 6, 2021 at 12:48 am


        • Reply
          October 6, 2021 at 8:46 pm

          Ola Pino.. aqui Fernando amigo Celso, trabalhamos no elephant em 1991/1992 remember?

        • Reply
          March 12, 2024 at 8:58 pm

          Ciao Pino .
          Mi chiamo Adamo e ho lavorato alcuni mesi al w. elefant come aiuto cameriere nel 1974.
          Mi piacerebbe
          ricevere foto di quel periodo.

      • Reply
        myron kazanjian
        March 22, 2017 at 11:29 pm

        In the 1980’s I took 2 of my nieces to a restaurant called, I thought, Elephant on the Thames, in London. Do you remember if this was a different restaurant from White Elephant on the River? I would love to know.

        • Reply
          April 23, 2020 at 5:49 pm

          In 1983 when the restaurant was bought from Mrs. Stella Richman, it had to drop the word “white” and it became The Elephant On The River.

      • Reply
        Susan Cope
        November 6, 2020 at 6:18 pm

        Hi Stuart.I also worked with you at the White Elephant on the River mid 1970’s.
        Neil Sedaka sat next to me on stage one night as I played his wonderful song ‘Solitaire’ requested by his daughter Dara.
        I still have your wooden drum stool which I chose when you were leaving for Australia and giving various possessions away.I decided not to emigrate almost at the last minute.

        • Reply
          Stuart Livingston
          November 13, 2022 at 4:56 am

          Hi Susan,

          I hope this finds you, it’s a very belated reply as I haven’t looked at this for a few years. We have a lot to catch up on after so long so I’ll give you my email address – livingstonmusic@ozemail.com.au
          Best Stuart.

        • Reply
          Stuart Livingston
          November 13, 2022 at 4:56 am

          Hi Susan,

          I hope this finds you, it’s a very belated reply as I haven’t looked at this for a few years. We have a lot to catch up on after so long so I’ll give you my email address.
          Best Stuart.

    • Reply
      Paul Hoff
      September 24, 2022 at 5:17 am

      I have a copy that I bought in 1982. I still use it! The Zsa Zsa Gabor goulash is great! And the rigatoni starter flamed with vodka! Jannson’s potatoes….. lots of good food. I went to the Curzon Street restaurant throughout the later half of 1982 and returned to Tokyo with an appreciation for Mayfair and all the good dining in London.

  • Reply
    Barbara Lake
    April 14, 2015 at 6:16 pm

    Thank you Steph for including me in this fascinating piece.

    The White Elephant Cookbook written by tv executive, Stella Richman in 1973 is available on Amazon. Also on other sites.


    • Reply
      April 15, 2015 at 10:28 am

      Thank you for sharing your memories! I’m curious about this cookbook…

    • Reply
      April 16, 2015 at 8:55 am

      she was the partner of the owner, Victor Brusa who died in 1965, 5 years after opening the White Elephant in Curzon St. . .profits went to the N.S.P.C.C (according to the book)

      My book is 2nd edition 1979, 1st was 1973! 🙂

  • Reply
    David Hill
    July 21, 2015 at 11:05 am

    I was probably their best customer. Certainly ate there every week through the 80’s and 90’s. Some corrections. The Elephant on the river was the sister restaurant to the White Elephant in Curzon street. It was never the white elephant on the river….simply Elephant on the river. When the owners discovered that the property value far out wayed anything they could make by serving food they sold up for redevelopement. One of the owners was “Orlando” who explained all this, plus I think he had had enough by then.

    The last Manager was Mario, and he had an idea to approach the owner of the (competing)restaurant Villa Cesari, just a few yards away that was also now closed, to move the Elephant there. Originally it continued to be called the Villa Cesari, but then evolved into Elephant…Villa Cesari. Unfortunately the woman owner wanted huge rents, there was economic downturn and people didn’t want dinner dance anymore and after a good effort, it closed…around 2002. Many sad eyes on the final night. I am still in touch with the band members, The head waiter works at the Aubrigine at the complete Angler in Marlow…Mario…? I don’t know but would love to find out.

    The head Chef was Angelo (his special dish was Angelo Prawns)
    Memories are the huge plate of Giant prawns presented, when you only found out the cost after you had finished, because they were priced each…!

    Always fresh salad and olives when you arrived.

    I have so many tails of this place. I personally sang live on stage with Mariah Carey….a popular place for her and her backing singers when she was in London.

    On the last night I took a full set of crockery….I’ll see if I can find them.

    Very sad loss indeed…;(

    • Reply
      October 16, 2015 at 8:40 pm

      Hi, my name is Luca and I worked at the Elephant on the river as comis waiter in 1993 – 1994 and I have so many beautiful memories as well about this place. I could not resist to reply to you and say how happy I am you have writen this article. I still have some pictures with the italian band used to play there. I remember all the people you mentiont on your artical manager Mario, Orlando, Domenico and fantastic chef Angelo. I remember the night when Mariah Carey came with backing singer and many other celebrities ….what a place it was! With a beautiful view of the river and concord was passing every night.

      • Reply
        Henry Coronica
        February 16, 2023 at 9:06 pm

        Ciao Luca, I’m Henry from Italy and worked at Villa dei Cesari as comit waiter in 1993 and 1994!

    • Reply
      Stuart Livingston
      August 31, 2016 at 2:39 pm

      Hey David…. a correction for you. It was indeed called the White Elephant on the River (see second photo above) and yes it was the sister business to the White Elephant in Curzon street.
      When I worked there in the early 70’s Stella Richman & her then husband Alec Hyams ran the place, Dominico was the MD, Orlando the head waiter and Mario a waiter. Later on Dominico and Orlando became the owners and Mario the Manager. I saw him there some 30 odd years later when in London on business. Tempus Fugit!

      • Reply
        Mrs Jill Powell
        October 17, 2018 at 11:16 pm

        Yes, we used to go to The White Elephant, Curzon Street as well and I recall sitting near Peter Ustinov one evening, surrounded by 3 lovely ladies. The 60s were wonderful!

    • Reply
      May 21, 2020 at 9:24 pm

      Hi David I have a self to copper pans that have the marking of the white elephant and I’ve been trying to get some information about them and I came across this article my dad was a chef But I don’t know if he worked at the white elephant or he source them somehow and I have two copper pans which are still in good condition with the markings BB on them. Not sure who this was.

      Very interesting.

  • Reply
    Gordon Dix.
    August 23, 2015 at 12:32 am

    White Elephant(on the river). What super memories !. My wife Thelma and myself were very frequent visitors during the late 60’s and and throughout the 70’s. Lots of fun and superb service together with entertainment second to none. Thanks to Ray Ellington and company.Can never forget the Giant Prawns !!. Every time one returned the plate got larger, as did the bill!!. Wish we could return to those FABULOUS times.White Elephant, we miss you.

  • Reply
    Belinda Wright
    October 5, 2015 at 2:25 pm

    can anyone remember when the Elephant on the River moved from its original home into the Villa Cesari…I trying to pinpoint the year…I know that it was definitely in its new home at Villa Cesari by December 1999 because I had my post 40 th birthday bash brunch there …but when did they close the doors on the original restaurant….

  • Reply
    April 27, 2016 at 12:11 am

    Hi, I now live in a flat at 129 Grosvenor road and I learned to tell cabs to drop me “where the White elephant used to be” and every cabbie still knows it. Very interested to read these stories. If it’s not too much to ask – I have started collecting some souvenirs from the White elephant – if you have something spare and/or are willing to part, would love to chat. Cheers

    • Reply
      June 8, 2021 at 8:33 pm

      I have a Valentines Day 1998 menu. Happy to post to you

  • Reply
    Janet Piller
    March 11, 2017 at 12:33 am

    My husband and I were both American journalists assigned to our different bureaus in London in 1976-1978. As Bureau Chief, he had a membership to the White Elephant. I remember this is the first place I have ate artichoke vinagrette (which I loved immediately), though I wasn’t sure how to eat it! The food was amazing, arriving in covered metal serving dishes and chafing dishes. The dessert trolley was equally amazing. They made a chestnut mousse that was incredible. It was very elegant, very reserved. I loved frequenting it.

  • Reply
    Hayley Rowe
    July 9, 2017 at 9:13 am

    I don’t know where it came from but I had a sudden memory of The White Elephant on the River and Villa dei Cesari. When my mum was dating her second husband we would drive to London from Basildon for a day out on a Sunday. We would drive along the Embankment and it became a ritual of mine to look out for both restaurants. I would desperately seek out the White Elephant afraid I miss it as we drove past and quickly to follow would be Villa dei Cesare. I was about 12 at the time and knew nothing about either restaurant but I just loved to see them. It was so lovely when I googled it to come across all these comments and details, a real trip down memory lane. Thank you.

  • Reply
    christian bonett
    August 28, 2017 at 4:12 pm

    I worked there for about a month as a musician (bass and vocals) and bandleader with Michael Goode (drums) and Ian Clyne (piano) in late 1972 or early 1973. Decor was tres rococo. It was almost devoid of customers at the time. But one night we did attract a couple of paying customers who had a couple of drinks at the bar and then left – Michael Caine and Roger Moore! Memories…

  • Reply
    David Blackburn
    December 15, 2017 at 8:07 pm

    I lived opposite in Churchill Gardens from my birth in the late 60’s and saw the ‘original’ clubs closure. It was always so glamorous, through binoculars we would watch celebrities go in, “who is it? – it’s Princess Margaret …it’s Shirley Bassey, …it’s Frank Sinatra”. We watched a young band go in with a dramatic looking female lead filming a video, only to find out later it was Culture Club and the girl was a boy – George!

  • Reply
    January 13, 2018 at 7:41 pm

    I wonder why nobody’s mentioning Antonio & Luigi as co-owners together with Domenico & Orlando? Angelo Mario Oliviero where are you know?

  • Reply
    Sal Macaluso
    January 20, 2018 at 6:30 pm

    My daughter and son-in-law are leaving for London (from Philadelphia PA America) tomorrow and it caused my mind to flashback 33 years to the weekend my wife and I spent in London. My wife was thumbing through a magazine in our hotel room with listings of local restaurants. She pointed to a listing that, as I recall, had a very small picture of the logo of an elephant and the words “The White Elephant on the River”.

    I remember thinking, what a curious name for a restaurant, seeing how “white elephant” is a what one would call “a possession that is useless or troublesome, especially one that is expensive to maintain or difficult to dispose of.” [from dictionary.com]. We called the # and made a reservation for the next night.

    My wife has a knack for selecting restaurants in this arbitrary way that turn out to be the most expensive in whatever city we are visiting; this was probably her most crowning of that achievement! I have described this place for years since as, “Like being invited to an extravagant wedding where you are a guest, but no one is getting married.” I don’t remember the food being extraordinary, but there was a live band and dancing, and a party like atmosphere that drew everyone together as if we were all especially invited and therefore united by that fact.

    My favorite memory of that night was that there was a young prince who was there with his younger sister, I have no idea (or don’t remember) what country they were a prince and princess of, but they were dark skinned, perhaps from Saudi Arabia, with a Middle Eastern accent; they were about about 19 & 16. My wife and I were 29.

    We were all dancing, he with his sister and I with my wife, when he came over to me and asked,
    “Excuse me, may I ask you a favor?”
    “Of course”, I said.
    “Would you mind dancing with my sister?”, he said,
    “I would be delighted, “I said”, did you want to dance with my wife?”
    “No, “he said”, I want to dance with her.” and he pointed to a beautiful blond haired blue eyed American girl on the other side of the dance floor..
    My wife and I danced together with his sister for about 20 minutes before he got up the nerve to ask the girl to dance, but he did finally ask her. It was a special night and a memory that I am delighted I was able to share.

  • Reply
    July 1, 2018 at 5:48 pm

    It was incredible to be there all the time it was elephant on the river then closed down and all the stuff went to work in the white elephant next door both still were good food and stuff where amazing all the time

  • Reply
    Geronimo MakeAmericaTrumpFree
    August 4, 2018 at 12:39 pm

    The old Villa del Cesari on the Pimlico embankment circa 1982 used to have a menu in LATIN—I wonder if anybody still has one !

    • Reply
      ros taylor
      February 24, 2021 at 8:55 pm

      I don’t have one but I do remember that the menus where parchment scrolls with fake Latin names and the waiters were dressed in togas. it was the first time I tasted quail and thought it was extremely decadent but I loved it.

  • Reply
    August 8, 2018 at 11:57 pm

    My father was Alec Hyams. My name is Sandra Hyams (Car) He divorced my mother Luigia (Canovo) Hyams in 1967 and married Stella Richman 1966!! . I was 4years old and my brother was three.Me my brother and my mum went to both the restaurants frequently. I remember seeing Bob Monkhouse at the club in Curzon street. I think my mother also performed there. She was a singer. I had my pictures done at the Elephant on the river for my entry to the Royal Ballet school!
    I had no idea that Stella Richman and my father owned the club then…I don’t think I ever saw her and I had no idea that my father was seeing her!

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    Mrs Jill Powell
    October 17, 2018 at 10:52 pm

    I used to go there regularly in the early 70s with my manfriend. I distinctly remember dancing to Ray Ellington and Graffiti. I had a gold Calibri lighter which I used to leave on the table with my cigarettes whilst we danced. One evening it was stolen! We reported it of course, but no-one admitted to seeing anything. Horrible experience. However, I do remember sitting opposite a very young David Essex on more than one occasion, with more than one lady friend. He was….and still is…absolutely gorgeous. Happy Days, I was young and beautiful then.

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    November 3, 2018 at 10:25 am

    Hello everyone, I enjoyed reading all of your lovely memories of the White Elephant. I happened upon a an ashtray recently that I had found some thirty years ago and started doing a little research on it which brought me to this post. I have always liked it as it had printed inscription on the back saying “ This is not stolen, it is a present from the White Elephant, and The White Elephant on the River” it always intrigued me so was hoping that this was the right place to maybe get some information on it. It is a small white ceramic dish with a black and white print of a white elephant on it. Does anyone remember why these were given out at all??
    Thank you to anyone in advance who can shed some light on it.

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    Peter Benedict
    January 23, 2019 at 5:52 pm

    I worked at the White Elephant in Curzon Street in the late sixties I was assistant reception manager my boss was named frank upstairs on the next level was the Banco room a casino for casino staff in London I was at work the day that Sean Connery was made James Bond, I met Sean when he was a nobody and he would hang around the steps outside and I used to ask him to move away My boss Frank would say to me go and ask that pest to move away from the steps, When my boss was at lunch Sean would give me some pennies and his little black book with phone numbers and i used to ring up on the public phone box in the hallway to arrange his girl friend from a list of about ten and would say yes Sean it is this one at the usual place and give him the time. I always wish that I asked him where the usual place was But i never did. I could go on for ever about the film stars I met, but I think the best was Una Chaplin the wife of Charles Chaplin a Real lady,

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    Joanna Walsh
    February 10, 2019 at 12:26 pm

    I used to go to the Villa dei Cesari in the 1970’s with my father. It was owned then by (I think) Mario & Angelo and they hired him for public relations. Whenever we went they would make me home made crisps which I would sit and eat while they discussed business. Then we had a meal, always avocado & shrimp cocktail for my appetizer. The dessert cart was the highlight, I wanted one of everything! I loved the place & I think I still have a matchbook from there.

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    Mrs Wendy J Edon
    April 27, 2019 at 6:46 pm

    Hello – reading through all these comments made me look at the pile of books waiting to be unpacked as I’ve recently moved home and I remembered the book a lovely friend gave me many, many years ago as a present. It is The White Elephant Celebrity Cook Book – second edition 1986. Over the years I have cooked many of the dishes in the book – one of my all time favorites being the Swedish Gravlax from Christina & Humphrey Burton. So many of the celebrities are no longer with us but their contribution to this book lives on and is a joy. If anyone would like any of the recipes I would be happy to send them.

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      Gina Pickersgill
      August 18, 2023 at 10:28 am

      Hi Wendy, I’d love a copy of the book please. Gina

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    May 5, 2019 at 7:24 am

    o good memories, i was squatting that villa for underground parties in about 2006 2007, was one of the biggest rave in town

    • Reply
      February 22, 2023 at 12:49 pm

      I was there for one of them! Around 2006ish

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    Laylow FM – News
    August 26, 2019 at 1:51 am

    […] — Villa Dei Cesari, Pimlico. We’re mightily impressed that Sherwood can distinguish between the taste of a fridge and a freezer. The restaurant is gone, but some have fond memories of it. […]

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    September 27, 2019 at 2:56 am

    You can see this building on the 1983 video for Ooh To Be Aah by Kajagoogoo at 22 seconds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ir_hgbRJTsI&list=PL6oCQqv2KW6WTjSBpavnnkILla2nhwwrV&index=101

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    Shirley Dyson
    December 29, 2019 at 3:44 pm

    I used to do film extra work in the mix 60’s and often look back on the wonderful memories I have from that era including a very memorable evening at The White Elephant, Curzon Street. It was during the summer of 1964 and I was a very young 21 year old, working on a film called The Liquidator starring Rod Taylor. I had the good fortune to be invited out by this handsome gentleman, sadly no longer with us. We had a table for 8 and if I remember rightly, the walls were mirrored and at one stage it was noticed that a blond gentleman in a corner on his own was staring in my direction for a while. I knew who he was but Rod Taylor didn’t and asked ‘who the guy was, continually staring in our direction’. It was Michael Caine who earlier in the week had been eyeing me at the studio where he was filming ‘The Wrong Box’. I now understand that he has obviously always favoured dark-haired ladies!! The reason why I checked The White Elephant out today is simply because I watched a really interesting programme yesterday about Michael Caine’s career and it brought a lot of memories back. I would love to see pictures of the interior if that is at all possible. Now I am going to order a copy of the Cookbook! My age now – 76 and still enjoying life!

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    Janet Piller
    February 4, 2020 at 6:03 pm

    They also had a chestnut cream dessert that was amazing!

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    Samira R
    April 4, 2020 at 8:54 am

    Once upon a time as a young 18yr old and struggling student in London, after the Iranian revolution of 1979 I ended up working as a waitress for 2-3 years in a restaurant in Fulham Road (called UP ALL NIGHT!). After 2-3am we used to get all kind of customers who had finished their night shifts all over London. A group of young Italian boys always used to arrive together and they were from “the white elephant on the river”… one of them was my first love in London! Salvador Miccoli. If you read this Salvador, just to let you know I wish we stayed in touch after you left to work on a cruise ship going towards Mexico. Miss you and hope life is treating you and your loved ones kindly. Wishing you well. Take care, Samira xx

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    April 13, 2020 at 9:03 pm

    Hello everyone. My name is Fabio and I’m the nephew of one of the owners of the “ The Elephant on the river “ in 129 Grosvenor Road which is the restaurant and entrance in the second picture. I have been roaming the internet for a while and unfortunately I have not found much about “ The Elephant on the river “. If anyone that sees this has any memories and / or pictures could you kindly send them to the e-mail address below so I can get to know more about the beautiful times that were passed there. I thank all of you in advance.


  • Reply
    Glenn Mason
    July 4, 2020 at 5:13 pm

    In the seventies I visited The White Elephant twice, once on a Company outing and the second to impress my girlfriend at the time. To me this was living the high life and loved the whole experience. The ambience was terrific and to me the food was good, alas though our relationship had moved on, I was only 20 then.

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    July 5, 2020 at 10:39 am

    For many years during late 60’s/early 70’s my dad Carmel checked guest memberships for The White Elephant at 28 Curzon Street. My mum often drove him to work in the evenings taking myself and sister with them. I’ll never forget the delicious cheesecakes my Dad would bring out for us and have a good collection of the clubs plates. Dad often spoke of the multitude of celebrity guests he got to know.
    Would love to hear from anyone who remembers my dad.

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    July 13, 2020 at 11:59 pm

    Oh this reminds me of my 21st birthday party at VdeC in 1968 …fantastic place ! when the band played Happy Birthday for me ….aaaagh ! I was in the cloakroom …..never got over it ! Loved the menu on ‘parchment’ tied with pink ribbon ….

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    Dale S Estes
    September 2, 2020 at 5:09 am

    Hi, My Name Dale Estes around 1963 , My father Bob Estes And Myself Dale Estes Were Invited To Dinner With Jack Lipman And His Beautiful Wife. I Will Never Forget How Beautiful The Inside The Restaurant Was Flowers Everywhere. Well, I Was 13 Years Old At the Time. All I Can Remember How Excellent The Stuffed Lobster Was ! Mr. Lipman New The Owner And Dinner Was Quite An Affair. So After Dinner And Desert The Owner Said ” We Have Quite A Surprise For You !” How Would You Like Some Real Napoleon Brandy The Germans Didn’t Get Too. Quite An Experience For A 13 Year old. Yes And The Brandy And Dinner Were Unforgettable !!! Proof Is I Am Still Talkin About It 56 Years Later. I Have Thought About That Night Often Over The Years ! My father Said The Owner Copied The Restaurant Mchenry.s TAIL O’ THE COCK 44 South La Cienega Blvd In Beverly Hills . Both Are Gone Now ! But If Walls Could Only Talk !

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    Phillip Wale
    September 8, 2020 at 5:49 pm

    I remember the White Elephant very well, my widowed Mother and her partner at the time were regulars, I went there a few times as a treat also – in fact I looked up this article when I found my Mother’s membership card which has Expiry June 1981! what a shame I cant post a Picture – even the cards were exclusive being half the size of a regular credit card in Blue & White

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    January 1, 2021 at 4:25 pm

    In the sixties we used to dine at ” Villa Dei Cesari on Special Occasions, still have a booklet from those times, and later my husband was assistant manager in 1974 my son was born the time, my husband worked very hard like the rest of the staff, he was very fond of Mike Mckenzie, last tine we dined there was around 1992, an old friend Angelo Casatie was chef then, Also have John Wayne autograph from 1974

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    Tom Gates
    January 5, 2021 at 1:41 pm

    In the late 70’s I worked as a coffee trader for a company called Socomex which was owned by Mario de Botton and his son Alain. We had some very profitable years and in 1978 the company’s Christmas party was held at the White Elephant in Curzon Street. The following year the party was held at the White Elephant on the River where Ray Ellington was the cabaret.
    2 marvelous restaurants which still evoke great memories for my wife and myself

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    valerie Ashford
    February 5, 2021 at 4:07 pm

    I have been recently sorting old letters .photos as you do in Lockdown, when l can across a article in a magazine about Larry Lamb, only to realize Larry was my mystery man in the late 70s who would drop into London on business and take me to the White Elephant, we would Dance the night away there, the atmosphere was a Dream for a young girl being swept off her feet by this tall dark handsome man. when a friend told me Larry Lamb was an actor and asked me if it was him that l had spoken about our beautiful romantic evenings l said NO!! couldn’t be ! now aged 71 lve found it was Larry . if you ever read this …thank you for the lovely memories you made me feel the Woman l always wanted to be. but sadly never got the chance in my lifes Loves.

    • Reply
      Lynette Carlson
      March 13, 2021 at 3:29 pm

      Valerie was this before Lady colin campbell or afterwards, Larry took me there too and to Quaglinos. Seems like hes played us all sweetheart. He was a delicious rogue.

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    Noelle Pache
    March 13, 2021 at 3:41 pm

    I loved this place.
    At the time. 1985 i was a successful fashion model, modelling for Elite.
    Far away from my childhood home in Lyon i was staying in St Georges sq, sharing a poky flat, witha dancer and another fellow model.
    One nighr Elite held a party and all of the models had to be present to add extra glamour to the proceedings.
    It was immensly glamarous. Lysette Anthony was there and shot me dirty looks all night, just because the guy she was with kept staring. Nick Berry former actor in Eastenders asked me out, i declined as he was so up himself and not very attractive with bad breath. I danced all night and was asked to dance by a marketing executive from Sony. Today we are still married 36 years later with two great kids and 1 grandchild, in lovely Denham Bucks.

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    Ruth De Barry
    March 25, 2021 at 11:13 pm

    I promoted The White Elephant in to 90′ it was wonderful.

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    September 25, 2021 at 11:38 pm

    During the.seventies we went to both the White Elephant in Curzon Street and ‘on the River’..my cousin’s husband was related to Stella Richmond..they were memorable times for both the food and the celebs! We were introduced to Robert Wagner. Natalie Wood amongst others..we saw both Bob Monkhouse and Frankie Howard performing on a couple of New Year’s Eve dinners with Ray Ellington playing. Sunday Brunch was always fascinating..my daughter was only 6 or 7 at the time but 40 odd years later still has clear memories of The White Elephant.. The restaurants were meeting places for the rich and famous…we ate several times in both…just lucky to be somewhat tenuously related! It was said that the car valet would have to pay a fortune to have the pitch outside The White Elephant on the River! Wonderful times.

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    October 24, 2021 at 9:24 am

    I worked for Thames TV in the Publicity Dept in the late 70’s. Parties were organised at The White Elephant to entertain young sales execs from advertising agencies. We booked the club exclusively and provided entertainment. The young execs took full advantage of the free food and drink. I remember it felt like a very exclusive and glamorous venue.

  • Reply
    Marc Germani
    November 2, 2021 at 9:20 am

    My grandfather Orlando Germani was one of the owners of the elephant on the river he still lives pretty much opposite where the restaurant used to be in St. George’s square he’s now 84 , he was telling me a story about Ray ellington yesterday which made me stumble on this page , reading all your comments and memories has been great. My grandfather has Alzheimer’s now , if anyone has any photos of him or of the restaurant I know that would make him very happy to see . He still remembers all the important bits but his health has been a bit down recently so anything you have would be fantastic . Thank you all! My email is : marcjosephgermani1@gmail.com

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    Barry Monks
    December 10, 2021 at 1:24 pm

    During 1978. The Ray Ellington Quartet alternated with a band called Coco – featuring future Bucks Fizz vocalist Cheryl Baker. When Coco went off to do the Eurovision Song Contest with ‘The Bad Old Days’, my band, Tin Pan Alley, were lucky enough to get the gig for two weeks. Ray and his band were an absolute joy to work alongside. He used to sing the song ‘People’ to the celebrity-packed dance floor, substituting the lyric, “People, people who EAT people . . .’ No-one noticed. He would drink Crystal champagne because Dom Perignon was, “too gassy!” I introduced a band member to Ray’s drummer [whose name escapes me]’ who, after a short chat, turned to me and said, “Nice chap; not a c***t like you said.”

  • Reply
    Massimo Amatiste
    December 29, 2021 at 11:52 pm

    Ciao a tutti ,io ho lavorato al White Elephant Club di Curzon Street nell’estate dl 1984 Facevo il Commis al Sommelier in sala eravamo tutti Italiani mi ricordo Luigi che era un maitre di sala poi c’era un ragazzo siciliano uno pugliese che facevano i camerieri di sala poi c’era il direttore La nostra divisa la comprai da Mark&Spencer scarpe lucide pantaloni neri la camicia era a righe bianche e blu la cravatta blu con l’elefantino bianco al centro e poi il gilet una divisa c’è la forniva il White Elephant.
    Il periodo che ci sono stato io sono venuti a cena: Spesso Roger Moore con la moglie italiana che beveva Verdicchio di Jesi , poi una sera sono venuti Robert de Niro Meryl Streep e John Savage avevano girato insieme Il film Il Cacciatore , una sera venne Al Pacino il direttore ci disse di non chiedergli l’autografo perché aveva un incontro importante di lavoro, un pomeriggio in sala c’era Mr. Connery 007 sul libro degli autografi mi ricorderò sempre quello di John Lennon c’era scritto semplicemente ” Peace”
    Questi ricordi li porto sempre con me non li dimenticherò mai è stato un periodo meraviglioso buona vita a tutti.

  • Reply
    Massimo Amatiste
    December 30, 2021 at 12:49 am

    Ciao a tutti, io ho lavorato al White Elephant Club di Curzon Street era il 1984 il personale di sala eravamo tutti Italiani Io ero Commis al Sommelier era un posto straordinario la nostra divisa era scarpe nere lucide pantaloni neri calzini assolutamente neri camicia a righe verticali blu e bianche la cravatta blu con l’elefantino bianco al centro poi il gilet non ricordo se era blu scuro o nero è passato troppo tempo, una divisa ce la forniva il White Elephant, e una la dovevamo comprare da Mark& Spencer nel periodo in cui c’ero io In sala mi ricordo Luigi il Maitre poi i camerieri uno era Siciliano di Catania uno Pugliese lo chef era Italiano mi ricordo un addetto al lift poi all’Entrata fuori c’era Mark col cappello a tuba Ovviamente il Direttore , Mi ricordo della Signora Stella Richmond e di suo figlio.
    Personaggi famosi a cena ho visto Maryl Streep Robert De Niro John Savage Al Pacino Mr Connery “007” con la moglie, Spesso c’era Roger Moore con la moglie che era Italiana e beveva Verdicchio di Jesi .
    Mi ricorderò sempre dell’autografo sul libro del White Elephant Club di John Lennon c’era scritto “Peace”
    Ricordi meravigliosi e indelebili che porto sempre con me e non dimenticherò mai.

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    June 18, 2022 at 8:27 pm

    My dad Bernard Shuck was a regular at the White Elephant on the River. People may remember him from advertising/ TV crowd.

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    June 21, 2022 at 10:01 pm

    I had a pretty successful shop in the Fulham road selling gas coal fires. David Jacobs was one of our customers!!! I rocked up to the White Elephant club, they took my car and parked it for me. Never saw it again. Only joking. Fantastic food, with a live band that got us up , and dancing the night way. Wonderful memories. Peter.

  • Reply
    Claire Marsden
    December 31, 2022 at 11:04 am

    Hi my name is Claire the reason I am writing this is that I recently found a tiny pink boxed address book that was from the White Elephant. It was given to me by one of the waiters Salvatori di Bartolo. I was only sixteen when I met him on a trip from college at the dico on Leicester square. He took me to an all night restaurant. When I returned home he still kept in touch, he would come to see me and I would go to London. I was very young and naive but he was a perfect gentleman. One day he produced a signed Rod Stewart gig programme as a gift. He used to look so smart in beautiful suits with silk shirts. He even wanted me to go to Italy to meet his family. Knowing him left me with a permanent love of all things Italian which has lasted decades. I hope he is well and happy somewhere in the world. I would like to thank him for the respect he showed me as a very young girl in a big city. He was truly an Italian gentleman.

  • Reply
    March 12, 2023 at 10:43 am

    i’d like to send you a short clip (1986) of the “Elephant” from ITV channel, but I don’t know where to send it

  • Reply
    Edward Bailey
    October 15, 2023 at 1:03 pm

    My wife and.another couple visited in the early eighties. Saturday night after the festival of remenbranc at the Albert.Hall.I remember being greated at the door by rwo large gentleman 3 yards in the club ther were 2 more,the a cloakroom attendtent. We entered the club and was show to a table.My first impressions were wow this is.posh . A Northan working lad aga28 had never seen anything like this before. Another thing that I observed was ther were no pumps on the bar,as a larger drinker at the time I thought this going to be expensive. In spit of my reservations we thought in for a penny .As I remember the food was fantastic in addition ther was a live band performing and the dance floor was open.to all.It must about 2am as we left to the left of the club ther must of been 10 at least diplomatic cars with chofers waiting for their diplomats to be transported homer were ever.Great memories.

  • Reply
    Angus Kerr
    November 30, 2023 at 3:42 pm

    Good days – Mario and Alain de Botton owners of Socomex a coffee and cocoa trading company held fantastic end-of-year parties. We were lucky enough to enjoy The Elephant on the River.
    Noted and earlier post I was there – Tom lets make contact.
    January 5, 2021 at 1:41 pm
    In the late 70’s I worked as a coffee trader for a company called Socomex which was owned by Mario de Botton and his son Alain. We had some very profitable years and in 1978 the company’s Christmas party was held at the White Elephant in Curzon Street. The following year the party was held at the White Elephant on the River where Ray Ellington was the cabaret.
    2 marvelous restaurants which still evoke great memories for my wife and myself

    • Reply
      Simon Carse
      January 17, 2024 at 2:48 pm

      Dear Angus , (and Tom,) This is Simon Carse. Angus you came to my mind when I received an email from an Ian Kerr (any relation) about some Fintech software. I remember speaking with you when at RJ Rouse and in one conversation you mentioned you were in the middle of having some land at the bottom of your garden developed which made think it was a big garden. Dear Tom, I recall you set you a company called Cagbond with another Tom whose name evades me. Did you originally work at Nestle in the early seventies with Tony Miller and Arthur Cherry, think that Chris Dorfman took over and when he went to Goldscmidt & Charterious,

  • Reply
    Daniel Ashby
    December 14, 2023 at 2:04 pm

    Hi everyone. My name is Dan Ashby, I’m an investigative environment journalist. I’m looking to try to find out about an alleged attack that happened opposite the White Elephant Club in late December 1971, or early 1972. Apparently four attackers broke the ribs of a man using iron bars, as he was getting out of his car, close to Hawkins House. The man’s life was allegedly saved because bouncers from the club intervened. We are trying to ascertain whether this attack happened, and any details of it, which could be important to a story we’re looking into. Does anyone remember it? Or does anyone know any bouncers from the 1970s, who may remember?

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