Cranks introduction

Cranks vegetarian restaurant leaflet 1960s

Shelf Appeal is vegetarian and has been in London just long enough to remember the Cranks café/restaurants. There is always deep joy to be found in any eating establishment that labels itself ‘vegetarian’ because you can, in theory, eat anything they sell. Having one vegetarian option when you eat out is depressing. It’s a peculiarly macho thing, having lots of boisterous meat (and nothing else) on a restaurant menu. Especially in London.

Anyway, Cranks was out of London by 2002. And they closed the doors on their one remaining restaurant in Totnes, Devon, last year. The brand might still be found on triangular sandwich packs, I’m not sure. The name is owned by the people who own Nando’s.

This leaflet is from Cranks in its early days, probably the mid-1960s. It is a masterly publication, beautifully illustrated by John Lawrence, with crisp calligraphy by Donald Jackson and full of interesting things to read about health foods. John Lawrence was (and is) in the canon of great illustrators. His style is solid and traditional but never boring. He packs his paper real estate with so much detail one needs return journeys to get it all.

Cranks was started by David and Kay Canter and Daphne Swann, with a salad bar at 22 Carnaby Street, London in June 1962. David Canter was secretary of the Craftsmen Potters Association and was working on their first retail premises about the same time as Cranks was born. It is no surprise then that Cranks had Winchcombe pottery on the tables and Ernest Gimson-designed rush seat chairs for the vegetarians to sit on.

It has to be said Cranks represents the brown vegetarian movement: organic, pulses, wholemeal flour and the like. What the press called ‘old fashioned’ when the restaurants closed. Yet a lot of what they did is back in food fashion. I found a photo of Cranks 2 from the 1960s. Cranks 2 is listed on the back of this leaflet as ‘the same vegetarian health foods by speedy self service.’ The queue looks suitably office worker-y and pretty trendy, waiting (with interesting looking carrier bags) for soup and a roll, perhaps. A seeded wholemeal roll, of course.

Cranks Two restaurant Carnaby Street 1960s

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