Another legend bites the dust as that old dinosaur of London's Chinatown, the Wong Kei Restaurant (cue sinister gong), gets a makeover.
If you relish dining out as a theatrical experience, the fabled Wong Kei, in the British capital's Soho district, dubbed by some as "the rudest restaurant in London", has been the go-to venue for shocking disrespect. For decades, we Brits have had our masochism confirmed every time we have stepped inside. Surely only those with a public-school background could truly appreciate being yelled at by staff and told where to sit with all the charm of a hungover sergeant major.
It didn't seem to harm business. The beautiful Edwardian building, with its architectural fusion of baroque and art-nouveau styles, was never empty. Much of its trade appeared to comprise unsuspecting tourists who'd stumbled in off the street and beery lads eager for that authentic experience of a tongue-lashing from exasperated waiters, like some sort of manhood ritual.
Not only were diners not made welcome, they were barely tolerated. Heaven help the punter who asked to be seated at a table on their own or who left a derisory tip. For the price of a plate of noodles, you got to participate in a Pinter-esque play - with a walk-on/run-away role if you were lucky. It was the culinary equivalent of sitting in the front row of a Dame Edna Everage show - you were fortunate if you got out with your dignity intact but if you were picked on, you'd at least have the adrenalin rush of an extreme sport.
One anecdote involved a tanked-up patron groping a waitress and then being chased by a cleaver-wielding chef. He barricaded himself in the loo until his escape was negotiated: he had to make a fulsome apology and give the offended waitress an enormous tip. Oh, how the customers must have enjoyed that spectacle! At least he had a story to dine out on, only perhaps not in that particular eatery - or postcode.
Now the Wong Kei is going all respectable, with a major refurbishment and a change of management. Has the ongoing gentrification of London claimed another victim?
The place belongs to a bygone age, when The Canton, a canteen-style restaurant also in Soho, stayed open 24 hours a day and was a favourite among clubbers and night-workers. Thanks to Westminster Council, though, it now keeps normal opening hours.
Soho has lost yet another bit of character.