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An Eccentric Restaurateur

This is the entrance to Langan’s Brasserie; one of those London restaurants which has acquired something of a cult status:

Situated just off of Piccadilly on Stratton Street, Langan’s was opened in October 1976 by Peter Langan; a charismatic entrepreneur from Ireland.

Peter’s new venture was in partnership with none other than the actor, Sir Michael Caine (a figure who, as regular readers will know, has cropped up in a number of my recent blog posts- Sir Michael is clearly one of London’s most influential sons!)

Peter Langan was a genius businessman; flamboyant and controversial.

One of his more bizarre stunts was to crawl across the restaurant’s floor, biting the ankles of his customers. He was also famed for putting out a fire in the eatery’s kitchen- with a bottle of vintage champagne.

In a particularly notorious episode, a customer discovered a cockroach and subsequently presented his find to the restaurant’s owner. Peter Langan responded by eating the offending creepy-crawly! (This was of course, many years before the bug-munching antics of ITV’s I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!)

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Sitting in the heart of Mayfair, Peter Langan made sure that his restaurant was becoming of its plush location.

The walls of the restaurant are decked out with some fine examples of 20th century art- including works by David Hockney, Lucien Freud and Francis Bacon. Peter had acquired many of his valuable paintings at his previous establishment; Odin’s (still open, on Devonshire Street), where he maintained a policy of accepting artwork in lieu of cash.

To this day, Langan’s upholds a policy of encouraging new art; maintaining a wall by the bar upon which up and coming artists can display their work (even ‘wacky’ children’s entertainer Timmy Mallet– a surprisingly good artist- has exhibited his canvases there!)

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Peter Langan liked to play as hard as he worked, and was a shockingly heavy drinker. So bad was his alcoholism, that he could often be spotted during service… fast asleep beneath one of the brasserie’s tables.

Perhaps inevitably, it was this out of control boozing which led to Peter’s death in December 1988.

After a huge, drunken argument with his wife (in which she threatened to leave him), he set fire to his house and perished in the subsequent blaze.

He was 47 years old.

Peter Langan, 1984 (photo owned by the National Portrait Gallery)

Although Peter Langan died almost 25 years ago, and Sir Michael Caine sold his share of the business in 2003, Langan’s Brasserie is still going strong today.

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5 responses

  1. Fascinating stuff! These are the tales of London I find most interesting…it’s the people who make the places.

    1. Thanks for the kind comment. There are so many stories like that in London, I often wish I knew all of them! I found out about the tragedy of Peter Langan from a passenger in my taxi; it is the best job in the world for discovering such anecdotes.

  2. I bet! I wish more people would share these stories in the city.

  3. I met Peter Langan once at the bar in Beverly Hills CA restarant. My friend knew him well since they were both restaranters, Peter in London, Sam in San Francisco. As we waited for our table, I found Mr. Langan polite in an eccentric way and was sad to learn of his passing about 6 years later.
    I could tell he had fun.

    1. Many thanks for sharing that, Donna.

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