Will Mario’s new life be sufficiently super?

I get asked regularly about Mario’s. Mario’s is the long-closed Greek restaurant on the corner of Broadhurst Gardens and West Hampstead Mews. It may soon be remembered only from photos.

The outer wall is straight. The building less so!

It’s now an overgrown empty building on the corner of a block that is slowly crumbling. The freeholders use it as a workshop occasionally. I even saw a pool table in there once.

Mario’s has been closed, I guess, for about five years. It used to be a friendly neighbourhood restaurant and if you got take-away, they’d always throw in some chips or a free salad. One of the last times I went, David Soul (Hutch from the original Starsky & Hutch) was at the table next to us.

Despite being a large restaurant in a good location, the premises has been empty ever since Mario went back to Cyprus (where I hear he runs a very successful restaurant). It’s too big for most independents to take on – especially given the structural repair work needed; while the chain restaurants with deep pockets would always prefer somewhere on West End Lane, oblivious to the lively atmosphere on Broadhurst in the evenings, and the proximity to the tube station.

When the freeholder died some years ago, I understand that his sons inherited not just the Mario’s site, but the entire block, right up to (but not including) the ENO building that used to house Decca Studios (of Beatles rejection fame). Unfortunately, despite owning a rather valuable piece of real estate, the sons had no cash with which to repair it.

The whole block would be redeveloped

Full-scale redevelopment was therefore always on the cards, and appears to have taken a significant step closer to fruition. This week I received an e-mail:

We are preparing plans to re-develop the site to improve the quality of the ground floor commercial accommodation and the residential units above. The existing building is in a very poor state, both internally and externally. We believe a new build scheme will improve the area. We are having a public exhibition on the site between 4pm -8pm on 16th October 2013 to display a number of plans.

I have no inside knowledge on what the plans are in any detail, but I’m looking forward to finding out. I hope that the height of any new building would be in keeping with the buildings in the immediate vicinity.

This land falls just outside the West Hampstead growth area, so there is less presumption in favour of development. Nevertheless, much as it will be a shame to see the old red brick building vanish, with its faded advert on the side, and tenants who’ll need to find somewhere else to live, it will be good to see new life come to what was once a stalwart of the West Hampstead dining scene. I wouldn’t say no to another really good Greek restaurant.

The writing is indeed on the wall for this building
(Visited 1,210 times, 1 visits today)
  • Les Coote

    I lived in a two up two down apartment, part of 163 Broadhurst Gardens. It was attached to the Catos hardware shop at the front of which my Dad was the manager. We moved there When I was four, sixty five years ago, in 1950. There was no bathroom and we had a coal house internally, which held a galvanised bath on the inside of the door; the bath was used once a week on sundays, in the kitchen. When filled from a large copper boiler me and my three sisters shared the same water and Mum and Dad had the luxury of sharing a fresh lot. My Dad dragged the bath to the back door and emptied it out in what we laughingly called the garden, actually a bit of yard that could support nothing because of the seepage of oil from the tanks that was sold in the shop. the My parents slept on an open up sofa bed in the sitting room and us four nippers had the two upstairs rooms as bedroom.
    The place was falling down then; the place used to shake as the LT trains and steam expresses (later Diesel) thundered past a few yards away. On the opposite side of the road windows overlooked the Rail lines.
    What was Marios was at that time Hammets the butchers on the corner and next door Bergs sweetie and tobacco shop.
    We left there in 1963 and moved to hampstead proper.
    I now live in Essex.
    I walked down Broadhurst gardens a couple of years ago and apart from different names on the shops, little had changed.

  • Tom in London

    If you look carefully at the corner of Mario’s you can see an original old shop sign (from the time before Mario’s). If this building really does get demolished, I suspect there may be interesting things to salvage.

  • WH dweller

    Lovely insight into how the street used to look! Tom, is there any update since 2013 on what is being done with the building and with Marios? I live near by and it always seems such a shame that the space is going to waste.

    • As I understand it, the plans are still to demolish and rebuild (a necessity given the state of the building), but I think financing might be an issue, hence the delays and the need for the current reinforcement work. It will almost certainly still be flats on top of 2-3 retail/eating premises, probably with one extra floor on top.