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Gina’s Restaurant Portraits

January 22, 2012
by the gentle author

Gina has been cooking meals in Spitalfields for fifty years

Last Sunday, Spitalfields Life Contributing Photographer Colin O’Brien commenced a new project – making portraits of the customers at the celebrated Gina’s Restaurant in the Bethnal Green Rd. Here you see the first results of this novel endeavour and there will be more to come over successive Sundays.

Gina Christou and her husband Philip first opened up for business in Brick Lane in 1961 and, although the location has shifted a couple of times, many of the customers have been coming to their restaurant ever since. Today, after more than fifty years serving meals to the people of Spitalfields, Gina and her husband Philip are in semi-retirement. Yet since they live above the restaurant, they continue to open just on Sunday for lunch, out of loyalty to their long-term customers, very many of whom are old friends now. And it is a devotion that is gratefully reciprocated by those for whom weekends in the East End would be unimaginable without Sunday roast at Gina’s.

In Spitalfields, no-one else can match Gina & Philip’s half century of service, and so these pictures are both a tribute to their perseverance and also a celebration of the lively social scene that has grown up around this beloved restaurant which becomes the centre of the world every Sunday.

Brian Welch - “I’ve been coming to Gina’s for thirty years.”

Julia Sparks - “I’ve been coming to Gina’s for thirty years.”

Don Aylan - “I’ve been coming to Gina’s for eighteen years.”

Caroline Duffy - “I’ve been coming to Gina’s about twenty years.”

Chen - “I’ve ben coming to Gina’s five years.”

John Plummer - “I’ve been coming to Gina’s for seven years.”

Tudor Davies - “I’ve been coming to Gina’s for twenty years.”

Tony Briggs - “I’ve been coming to Gina’s for thirty years.”

Sandra Benson - “I’ve been coming to Gina’s for ages … years and years.”

Ernie Taylor - “I’ve been coming to Gina’s about forty years.”

Maurice - “I’ve been coming to Gina’s for thirty weeks.”

Jake Hamilton - “I’ve been coming to Gina’s since I was ten, one year.”

Stephen Coughlan - “I’ve been coming to Gina’s for fifteen years.”

Del Martin - “I was born in Fuller St, Brick Lane. I’ve been coming to Gina’s for forty years.”

Karim Ali, waiter - “Today is my first day at Gina’s.”

Photographs copyright © Colin O’Brien

You may also like to read about

The Story of Gina’s Restaurant

The Fly-Pitchers of Spitalfields

5 Responses leave one →
  1. Chris F permalink
    January 22, 2012

    The empty chair at the end was a clever twist… Sort of inviting new sitters or a suggestion of finality…

  2. January 22, 2012

    Wonderful series of photographs! I have walked passed Gina’s a million times in my meagre 15 years in the EAST END and have considered embarking on a similar project but this has outdone my ideas and vision in quality and sensitivity…When is the exhibition/book coming out?

  3. Alan permalink
    January 22, 2012

    Yes, the empty chair is sweet – like there is a place for you here too, or soon this will be gone.

  4. Tara permalink
    January 23, 2012

    Agree. Must come and fill the chair to keep things rolling

  5. January 24, 2012

    So much character in these portraits, wonderful!

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