The inspiration for Astoria came from all the cafes we had visited throughout Europe. Our idea was to open a place that looked like it had been there forever. Old, established and part of peoples’ everyday routine. Given that the site for Astoria was in a brand new building we had to work quite hard to get the look we were after. However despite this we have had many customers over the years who have asked what was here before the cafe. So I guess they think it is an old space.
During our time in London we, along with all our New Zealand friends, spent pretty much all our money on travel – hence the appeal of not paying rent. However, unlike most Kiwis who made their way round Europe taking in the Munich Beer Festival and the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, we trawled round the grand old cafes of Europe. Our best buddy Richard would usually travel with us. He was the official photographer on these trips, documenting the fantastic cafes we discovered along with the awful 80s outfits we wore. All these trips were done on the smell of an oily rag sadly so we never got to go all-out and partake in elaborate meals or drink great wines. We did however get to soak up the atmosphere of these grand establishments which was fine by us.
Our trips included Portugal where we discovered the gorgeous Cafe Majestic in Oporto and Brasileira in Braga, which provided the inspiration for the outdoor lights at Astoria. We also did a fantastic trip through eastern Europe not long after the Berlin Wall came down to Istanbul, Sofia, Bucharest, Budapest, Prague, Vienna and Berlin discovering wonderful old cafes wherever we went. A memorable highlight was having afternoon tea at Demels, a very old cafe and bakery in the centre of Vienna. Here we spent 60 pounds on cakes and coffee and it was worth every penny. The fact that it was on Janice’s credit card and it took a month to pay back was a small price to pay for the experience of being in one of Europe’s grand old cafes for the afternoon.