Hard Rock Cafe, London

Back in the seventies, Eric Clapton – the original guitar god, founder of Cream and Derek & the Dominoes, creator of the immortal “Layla” – liked to eat at this quirky American diner in London called the Hard Rock Cafe. Founded by Isaac Tigrett and Peter Morton, two enterprising and music-loving Americans, Hard Rock Cafe was an instant classic.

Clapton got to be friends with the proprietors and asked them to save him a regular table, put up a brass plaque or something. And the young proprietors said, Why don’t we put up your guitar? They all had a chuckle, and he handed over a guitar, and they slapped it on the wall.

No one thought much more about it. Until a week later, when another guitar arrived (a Gibson Les Paul, by the way). With it was a note from Pete Townshend of The Who which read: “Mine’s as good as his. Love, Pete.”

The young proprietors put it on the wall. After that, the guitars never stopped coming. Today there are more than 70,000 guitars, drums, pianos, harmonicas, microphones, shirts, pants, scarves, shoes, handwritten lyrics, cars, bikes, a bus and assorted rock memorabilia.

Situated just minutes away from Hyde Park, where the Hard Rock Calling annual summer concerts have become a tradition, the Hard Rock Cafe is a must for anyone in London remotely interested in rock n’roll.

I  had dinner there last Sunday night which meant the place was choco-block but I didn’t mind. That meant I had extra time to explore it at leisure and take as many photos of rock memorabilia as I possibly could while waiting for my table.

Eric Clapton

Eric Clapton’s Fender Lead II guitar. He gave HRC this guitar to mark his favorite seat. This is the guitar that started the Hard Rock Cafe’s memorabilia collection.

It also meant an unmatched atmosphere of continuous classic rock n’roll being played on the many TV screens scattered around the place and the noise of happy people celebrating birthdays.

The rock n’roll memorabilia alone is worth a visit. There is plenty of it and for every taste. It is everywhere, as it should be. And when I say everywhere, I mean it. There is even memorabilia displayed next to the toilettes (Beatles figurines and a complete Elton John set including a purple wig in case you’re wondering).

Compared to other restaurants in London, it is not as pricey as you might think.

The California Burger

Although 99% of the people waiting for well over an hour to get a table go there for the memorabilia (me included), I was pleasantly surprised by the uncomplicated, albeit excellent food.

Portions are abundant, my burger (as well as all the others) was huge, with Ranch dressing, fresh cucumber slices, lettuce, tomato, freshmade Hard Rock Guacamole and topped with Monterey Jack cheese.

The chips were extremely crunchy, crisp and hot. I know it may sound obvious but you’d be surprised to learn that such a simple thing is not always achieved, even in some good restaurants. So all in all, I was perfectly happy with my meal. Although the restaurant also has a generous choice of starters and desserts, I can say that with only the main meal you will be full for the rest of the day. The perfect accompaniment for this of course was a cold pint of beer.

Across the street, you have the Hard Rock  Store, where you can easily go broke if you’re not careful. I was surprised at the rock n’roll themed clothes’ extremely good quality. With T-shirts and sweatshirts designed by Bono, Bon Jovi and Shakira among others, they are certainly one of a kind.

This is just a sample of the great music that helped my digestion.

If only all my meals were as memorable…


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