Blooms: The kosher icon that got marooned in the past
Celebrities wax nostalgic about Bloom’s, which has closed, but agree that the poor food and bad service had lost its charm.
The Whitechapel Bloom’s proudly proclaimed itself “the most famous kosher restaurant in Great Britain”. It closed down in 1996
Actor, director and playwright
● "I went to the one in Golders Green quite recently and I thought it was very good. It was pleasant and homely and nourishing and full of those flavours that we like. I'm surprised it closed down in such a Jewish area. I used to go to Bloom's in Whitechapel. I didn't like it as much there, I thought it had a very bad atmosphere. It was sleazy and indifferent - there was no commitment to the food. Last time I was there, I wanted to sit and eat at the counter and they gave me chicken soup in a paper cup. I was disgusted, and I thought it would be best to bury this place - it doesn't represent the joy of Jewish food."
● "You didn't go to Bloom's for the food, which was lumps of teutonic meat, and was vastly overpriced. You went for the pantomime rudeness of the staff.
"It's such a shame that it's gone. It's a bit like Radio 3, you never listen to it but you're sort of glad it's there. There's sadness because it really was out of its time.
You didn't go for the food. You went for the pantomime rudeness of the staff
"I reviewed it for the Evening Standard years ago, and took my wife and my parents and it was just such a typically Jewish evening, bickering with the staff and across the table about what was too hot and what was too cold. The food was never going to be brilliant. It really is the world's worst kind of cuisine. I think if a chilli was ever found in Bloom's, a fire alarm would go off and everyone would have to be disinfected."
● "Bloom's was past its sell-by date. All food has to move with the times. If you go to the restaurant at Bevis Marks, it's Jewish food but it's superb. Bloom's was stuck in a time warp. It's only fine if you still want to eat chicken soup, borscht or chopped liver, or egg and onion. It has left a hole in Jewish food because Jewish restaurants now have become very Israeli and Lebanese in their cooking. Now if I want a decent salt beef sandwich, I would go to Selfridges.
"The staff were hilarious, thin-faced and harassed. It was part of the remit, they had to be like that. Even the staff in Israel aren't like that any more."
● "Bloom's was a treat after visiting my Auntie Bertha and Auntie Lily. We used to go and eat salt beef sandwiches with that delicious kosher mustard. I don't know if they count as sandwiches because the meat to bread ratio was so large. That was the joy of them.
"But as me and my brother got older, we started asking to be taken to McDonald's. Now I feel personally responsible for Bloom's going under. I haven't been in years. I do feel like I pushed it over the brink.
"There's that Proustian quality of chicken soup with lokshen. It instantly connects you to your childhood, to barmitzvahs you went to, to Shabbat dinners. Of course, the staff were terribly rude but that was the point. It was a completely un-English experience."
● "I used to go quite a lot to eat chopped liver and chicken soup. The food was terribly variable. But I never minded the waiters - they were very funny. Of course, it was more like being served by taxi drivers than the maître d of the Ritz. It did deteriorate over the years, there's no question. There are three things about running a restaurant. Good food, good value and good service, and if Bloom's can't do that, then it has to go. I am sad that it went the way it did. In a way, the old East End closing of Bloom's was more historic. It should have gone in its prime, instead of slowly deteriorating."
● "When I was three years old, it was my favourite restaurant. I would eat chicken soup with lokshen, salt beef and latkes and a strudel. It made me the fine figure of a woman I am today. I'm still probably carrying those latkes around with me now.
"Bloom's was always an energetic experience, dodging the waiters carrying soup, catching a boiled gefilte fish in your hand with carrots flying everywhere. It made you feel like you were getting some exercise, a bit like It's a Knock Out, when, in reality, you were probably consuming more cholesterol than a sensible person should eat in a year. The food was an affront to man and beast really, but it was always my fall-back restaurant. I'm very sad it's gone."
● "I would always take some gentile girlfriend to Bloom's, as part of breaking it to them that I was Jewish. And I would explain, here's a latke, yes, it's supposed to taste like that; this is how you pronounce kreplach, kneidlach, tsimmus.
"I once took a blonde, Swedish-looking girl who did really well, ordered everything perfectly and I was so proud of her. But then she turned round and said: 'And can I have a glass of milk, please?' I was so mortified, but looking back I do think it was terribly sweet.
"I did once write a review which said: 'The gefilte fish are terrible - as they should be.' That's exactly how I feel about it. I'm furious with myself for not going one last time. There ought to be a shivah for Bloom's, we should put a plate of salt beef on a low chair. It's going to be replaced by some God-awful kosher Chinese or Indian place. I'm an old Ashkenazi at heart. I don't like that Israeli stuff, I'm suspicious of it. It's Arab food as far as I'm concerned. I don't want falafel and hummus at a Jewish restaurant."
● "I went through the pain of Bloom's closing when it closed in Whitechapel. I worked on a stall in the East End as a kid. I was only about 12 or 13 and got up early on cold winter Sunday mornings to work on this watch stall. And if we had a good day, we could go round the corner, by Aldgate East, to get a really great salt beef sandwich. That's how I will remember Bloom's. It's a taste that lingers in my buds, of a good day. And of taking warm bagels home. Yes, the staff were grumpy and rude, but that was all part of the package."
● "It's like an elderly relative that's died, and had lost it towards the end of their life. You remember the good times - although actually I can't really remember any about Bloom's.
"I always found rudeness of the service absolutely baffling. If I'm being really cruel, it was a gift to antisemites. If people went there and found it funny that they were abused, then they're mugs. What is the point in spending money on it?
"It was heroically overpriced for what was essentially peasant food. Pickles and salt beef were just substitutes for the real thing, and we used to need chicken fat to get us through the winter. But not at bourgeois prices."
Interviews by Jessica Elgot