End of an era: La Brocca changes hands tomorrow

La Brocca open for brunch on the Locke's last day

La Brocca open for brunch on the Lockes’ last day

Tonight will be the last time David Locke presides over the bar at ever-popular wine & sports bar La Brocca.

After an incredible 24 years of being open 7 days a week, this West Hampstead institution that’s as well known for its jazz as its rugby nights (and early mornings), will be changing hands.

The Urban Leisure Group, which owns both The Gallery and The Alice House in West Hampstead as well as five other bars, is taking over as of Monday morning. Hezi Yeichel, from Queens Park-based ULG, told us that the company “plans to run La Brocca in a similar way to as it is now”, and will be keeping the pizzas going. The name La Brocca will also continue for the time being.

David and his wife Edda, who have run the place since its inception are not being forced out. They are retiring. David, to the surprise of many, is 71 and the time has come for a change of pace. He is understandably emotional about the end of an era, but will have many fond memories of the bar from England’s rugby world cup win to many of the jazz nights that have livened up West End Lane over the years.

Back in 2011, when West Hampstead Life spoke to David on the bar’s 20th anniversary, he told us, “The jazz is a love but it doesn’t make me money. You want to know how to make a million pounds out of jazz? Start off with two million.”

Simon Whiteside (right), next to David Locke

Simon Whiteside (right), next to David Locke, Chris Lowe on trombone and Dominic Howles on the bass. Photo via Eugene Regis

Today, local jazz maestro Simon Whiteside who has played regularly at the bar for years, put together an impromptu surprise concert for David.

Simon said afterwards, “La Brocca has been a wonderful bar & beanery for many moons supporting jazz musicians by providing a venue where it felt comfortable & inspiring to play. David & Edda have run a great place for more than 20 years and I’ve been privileged to be part of the music scene there. In that time La Brocca has seen births, deaths, marriages & jazz careers born & built. I’m glad I was able to play a tune today in honour of one of the true arts venues founded & run on family principles.”

In the short-term, David and Edda are off to their second home in Cyprus for the summer. Tonight, we can expect a few glasses to be raised in their honour. They have most definitely played an enormous role in making West Hampstead the place it is.

And what of the enormous bull’s head that adorns the wall upstairs? “We only had it on loan,” says David. “It’s going back to its owner”. Just another big gap that the new owners will have to fill as we say farewell and good luck to the Lockes.

David Locke in 2011. Photo Moya Sarner

David Locke in 2011. Photo Moya Sarner

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  • Lauren

    Under normal circumstances I would be excited to see the change as change often brings improvement, excitement, hope for the better. But not in West Hampstead. Closure of a place means that another hairdresser or estate agent will be open. The area would do with a bit of glamour. Instead, the ‘town’ is being converted into Edgware Road with more Lebanese, Turkish and kebab shops. There is no one decent place to have dinner, maybe apart from Mill Lane Bistro, where quality still prevails. If you want nice meal you need to visit Hampstead. Why can’t they open a place like Beach Blanket Babylon in Notting Hill? Instead, the best West Hampstead bar is The Alice House. Really???

    All the best to David and Edda.

    • Have to say I disagree with quite a lot of this. First up, as the article says, Brocca’s not being replaced by an estate agent or hairdresser but will continue as a bar/restaurant of sorts. Second, I think the opening of one (apparently quite good) Lebanese place is hardly turning us into Edgware Road. Third, I think there are a few good places for dinner – would argue that One Sixty, Guglee, The Wet Fish Café, and The Petite Corée are all up there with Mill Lane Bistro as good places to eat. I’m not sure where I’d go in Hampstead aside from Jin Kichi. Fourth, I’m confused that you seem to be criticising the Alice House being “the best bar” and say you want somewhere with sofas and cocktails. Personally I prefer The Gallery to the AH, but both of them DO offer (some) sofas and cocktails. I agree that a more “sophisticated” wine bar &/or cocktail bar would be a good addition to the neighbourhood – it’s a shame Frida’s bar never really took off – but I don’t think West Hampstead is doing too badly.

  • Alastair

    A great shame, had some great times in La Brocca. But at 71 reckon David deserves a retirement! I Just hope the new owners try to maintain its charm and don’t turn it into another generic bar like the Alice House/Gallery……….