In 1938/9, Robert Aufrichtigís immediate family successfully secured their freedom from Nazi-controlled Austria in the form of visas to Britain. Making a new life in England were wife, Henrietta [Jetti] Edelstein, elder brother Friedrich Aufrichtig, his wife Frida Kohn [Kirchner], sister Martha Aufrichtig, her husband Viktor Leibel, and parents Karl Aufrichtig and Irma Wodak. Martha, Karl and Irma arrived in England 29 June 1939 just over two months before the outbreak of WW2. They were subjected to the strict guidelines governing the type of work each was permitted to undertake - e.g. generally womenfolk were admitted to Britain on domestic visas and could only be employed as cooks, housekeepers or housemaids.

                                      

      Robert Aufrichtig                                                                          Henrietta [Jetti] Edelstein

                                      

     Karl Aufrichtig                                                                               Irma Wodak

                                      

     Friedrich Aufrichtig                                                                      Frida Kohn [Kirchner]

                                      

     Martha Aufrichtig                                                                          Viktor Leibel

Gertrud Aufrichtig

In the two eventful years that followed both Karl and Irma died, Robert had been interned in Australia, and Jetti was expecting their first child. Against this background Robert and Jetti persevered with plans to set up their own business, doing so in the then Jewish quarter of London's East End. Because of prevailing restrictions at the time, it is believed that an arrangement was made with Mrs Rosie Brass, an Eastern Europe Jewish immigrant who had arrived in England some decades earlier, regarding the opening of a restaurant in 1940 at 2 Umberston St, Stepney. Rosie Brass, who had befriended Robert and Jetti soon after their arrival, was an exceedingly good cook and worked at Umberston St, staying with the family many years thereafter.

The cafť was an immediate success, appealing both to fellow Continental Refugees who made it their local meeting place, and patrons of the Grand Palais Yiddish Theatre situated diagonally opposite at number 133-139 Commercial Road. 

Sign displayed on top of the building

 

Grand Palais Banner used on posters advertising productions

In 1942 the premises were shown as ascribed to Gertie Aufrichtig, a first cousin of Robert, and listed as occupying both numbers 2 and 4 Umberston Street. The following year they were credited to Mrs Jetti Aufrichtig and from 1944 to Robert Aufrichtig.

 

   Commercial Road opposite Umberston Street c.1947

During 1947 the business moved a short distance west to 17 Commercial Road, situated just yards from the renowned Scottish clothing store, Gardiner & Company Ltd whose imposing building with clock tower lent its name to one of London's busiest junctions. Known as Gardinerís Corner, it was the point of intersection of five major thoroughfares: Commercial Road, Whitechapel High Street, Aldgate High Street, Leman Street and Commercial Street.

 

  Gardiner's Corner, shortly before World War II. The 6th 

building on the left would later become Robert's Restaurant

 

  Gardiner's Corner, facing down Commercial Road c.1950

In 1951 the premises was identified in the street directory as Robert's Restaurant and run as a family business with Jetti, Fred, Martha, and even the children helping out on occasion. During its first years the restaurant was an outstanding success, especially as Blooms, the subsequent main competitor, had not yet moved to Whitechapel High Street. On Sundays in particular, queues formed outside as a result of the extra custom generated by Petticoat Lane, which at that time had primarily Jewish traders. 

 

  Petticoat Lane beigal seller who became a regular supplier

However, by the late 1950ís, with the drift of the Jewish population, including the Continental refugees, away from the East End, business declined. The restaurant remained at that site until October 1962, when it became a victim of a compulsory purchase order prompted by plans to develop a new road and traffic system for the area. This also marked the move to North West London of all the remaining Aufrichtig family living in the East End.  

The Grand Palais closed its doors for the last time in 1970 and Gardiner's survived until being entirely gutted by fire in 1972. Today, some of Londonís heaviest traffic now travels directly over what once was 17 Commercial Road; Petticoat Lane traders are predominantly Asian, and 2-4 Umberston Street is back in the catering trade as a Bangladeshi restaurant.

 

Advertisement featured in the Stepney Borough Council Guide 1953 

Late Forties business card

 

Robert at the Restaurant entrance

 

 

1940 Street Directory crediting Rosie Brass

as proprietor

1942 Street Directory crediting Gertie Aufrichtig

 as proprietor

1943 Street Directory crediting Jetty Aufrichtig

as proprietor.

NB: Mis-spelt as Anfrichtig

1944 Street Directory crediting Robert Aufrichtig

as proprietor

1945 Street Directory crediting Robert Aufrichtig

as proprietor

1947 Street Directory showing Perkins Cleaners

taking over site

1947 Street Directory including first listing

at Commercial Road

1949 Street Directory listing under proprietor

 Robert Aufrichtig

1951 Street Directory with first listing as

Robert's Restaurant

1963 Street Directory with final listing for

Robert's Restaurant

1950 - Robert Aufrichtig and sons 

Ronald and Charles Aufrichtig [Roberts] 

pictured outside original restaurant frontage

 

Robert in readiness for one of the many Barmitzvah and wedding receptions 

held at the restaurant. Pictured in the rear are Freda Kohn [Kirchner] and

 family friend Rosie Gottlieb

 

 

Jetti & Robert shortly after the 1947 opening of the new restaurant

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1954 following refurbished exterior

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Martha with a welcoming smile

 

 

Gardiner's Corner c.1959. Viewed from Aldgate High Street with Commercial Road 

diagonally right. Robert's restaurant was situated approximately 100 yards down. 

The above picture was taken following the dismantling of trolley bus wires.

 

Memories of Robert's Restaurant