Bloom, Solomon [Sidney]
- David Feldman
Bloom, Solomon [Sidney] (1921–2003), restaurateur, was born on 1 January 1921 at 58 Brick Lane, Spitalfields, London, the son of Morris Bloom (d. 1951), and his wife, Becky, née Krisman. His father had arrived in London from Lithuania eleven years earlier. A latecomer who managed to enter the country despite the impact of the 1905 Aliens Act (which had staunched the flow of east European Jews to Britain), Morris Bloom was a master sausage maker who had learned to pickle meat in Lithuania before emigrating. In London he established himself in the food trade and a year before Sidney was born he opened a shop in Brick Lane, in the heart of the Jewish East End, from which he sold salt beef. He flourished in a modest way, providing kosher food to a Jewish clientele. He opened a snack bar attached to the salt beef business and, on premises close by in Wentworth Street, he later established a meat products factory.
Sidney Bloom was educated at Raine's Grammar School but did not continue there beyond the age of sixteen; at that point he entered the family business. His work for the firm was interrupted by the Second World War, for the duration of which he worked in a munitions factory. On 21 June 1942 he married Evelyn Radzan (d. 1990). The daughter of Adolph Radzan, a watchmaker and jeweller, she was eighteen years old at the time of their marriage, and worked as a shorthand typist in the Ministry of Food. It was a good match in more ways than one. Evelyn in time became the public face of her husband's restaurant, meeting, greeting, reassuring, and schmoozing the customers as need arose, while Sidney supervised the kitchen. There were two children of the marriage, a daughter and a son.
In 1952 Bloom opened the establishment that soon styled itself 'the most famous kosher restaurant in Great Britain'. The family owned vacant premises on Whitechapel High Street and Bloom moved the restaurant there. His father had died a year before, and the new restaurant was named in his honour M. Bloom (Kosher) & Son Ltd. It provided east European Jewish food—gefilte fish, chicken soup with lockshen, salt beef, and potato latkes—and tea and coffee without milk, as the rules of kashrut, which demanded the separation of milk and meat, required. The East End still housed a sizeable Jewish population in the early 1950s, though the community was ageing and in numerical decline as growing numbers moved to the suburbs of north-west and east London. However, by day the resident Jewish population was swollen by others whose businesses and workplaces remained in the district—city traders, stallholders, shopkeepers, and manufacturers in the rag trade—and they provided a ready clientele for the restaurant. In addition Blooms, as it was known, drew some glitzier diners, Cliff Richard, the singer, and Princess Margaret among them. Like most British Jews in post-war Britain, Bloom had no difficulty in mixing ardent Zionism with conventional patriotism. When Golda Meir, the prime minister of Israel, visited his establishment, the entire restaurant stood up in her honour. A decade later, during the 1977 silver jubilee celebrations, a banner outside announced 'Mazeltov to Her Majesty'.
A great deal of the manufacturing in the Jewish East End worked on the basis of subcontracting. Bloom adopted this practice and applied it to his restaurant, where the waiters worked as independent contractors. They purchased the food themselves as it was brought from the kitchen and thus acted as independent traders. They were understandably eager that customers should order and eat without ceremony, and not linger once they had done so, and this may help to account for their brusque manners and want of charm, which became infamous, and part of Blooms' attraction. One customer, who pointed out that he had been served boiled potatoes when he had ordered mashed, found his waiter pulping the vegetables with a fork and telling him, 'you want mashed potatoes, you've got mashed potatoes' (The Times, 23 June 2003).
In 1965 Blooms opened a branch in Golders Green, north-west London, as it adapted to the migration of Jews from the East End to the suburbs. Bloom retired in 1985 but the business remained a family affair conducted by his children, whom he had in vain tried to persuade to become 'a lawyer or accountant' (The Times, 19 June 2003), and his grandchildren. The East End restaurant closed in 1996, but the Golders Green branch continued to do good business.
A shy, modest man, with a keen sense of humour, Bloom had little time for outside interests, though he loved football and horse racing. He continued to visit the Golders Green restaurant (and more particularly its kitchens) until shortly before his death, on 1 June 2003, at the Wellington Hospital, 27 Circus Road, St John's Wood, London, of heart failure. He was survived by his two children.
- obituary photographs
Wealth at Death
under £3000: probate, 31 March 2004, CGPLA Eng. & Wales