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Gina’s Restaurant Portraits by Colin O’Brien

July 22, 2012
by the gentle author

Please join me at the opening of Commonplace, an exhibition of photography by Spitalfields Life Contributing Photographer Colin O’Brien at the crypt of Christ Church, Spitalfields next Thursday 26th July from 7-9pm. Over this coming week I will be publishing stories that I have done in collaboration with Colin, accompanied by his photographs that span an extraordinary career extending from 1948 until the present day.

Gina has been cooking meals in Spitalfields for fifty years

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 on Sunday for lunch, out of  loyalty to their long-term customers, 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 and 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 in the Bethnal Green Rd 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 been 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

Commonplace, Photographs by Colin O’Brien 1948-2012, runs at the Crypt of Christ Church, Spitalfields, 28th July – 26th August. Open Tuesdays, Saturdays & Sundays 1-6pm. Colin O’Brien will be talking about his work on Sunday 29th July 2pm.

4 Responses leave one →
  1. July 22, 2012

    love the full-length portrait to capture the whole person. Fabulous people.

  2. July 22, 2012

    I remember being struck by this piece when you first published it. I hope Gina’s serving up a right good spread today and for many Sundays to come!

  3. Marina B permalink
    July 22, 2012

    Wonderful portraits of real people. Very moving.

  4. Tudor Alcwyn Davies permalink
    September 6, 2012

    There is a photo of me taken at Gina’s Cafe in Bethnal Green Road. This is a ‘proper’ East End Cafe having used it for over 20 years, great food at very reasonable prices. Do not miss Gina and Phil’s Sunday roasts and make sure you do not have a breakfast otherwise you’ll never finish their generous portions!! Long may they continue serving great food.

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