Is this ashtray the most stolen item in London?

It is nothing special, just a piece of moulded aluminium. But this ashtray is one of the most sought-after and theft-prone items in London. Quaglino's, the West End restaurant owned by Sir Terence Conran, loses 1,000 of these ashtrays a month.

We have all shoved the odd sugar sachet into our coat pockets just before slipping out on to the street, some of us may have inadvertently walked away with a teaspoon, and nearly all of us will probably have wondered how a plush white towel would look in our bathroom at home. But trophy items like the Quaglino ashtray cost hotels, bars and restaurants a small fortune to replace.

This ashtray has quite a pedigree. It was designed, in the shape of a Q, by Sir Terence himself and is produced by his own manufacturing company. Worth pounds 8.95 apiece, and now on sale on the premises to reduce theft, the rate at which they disappear is comparable with that of pedal cycles, of which more than 18,000 were stolen between April last year and March this year in the whole of London. It seems the risk of making your bar or eatery unique - with distinctively designed paraphernalia - is that these "items" are irresistible for the light-fingered luncher.

Quaglino's far outstrips Bibendum, another Conran restaurant on the Fulham Road, which loses approximately 15 of its Michelin Man ashtrays per week. Presto (Old Compton Street) said it was not unknown for customers to make off with its huge pepper grinders; one can only speculate as to how the thieves concealed these as they left.

Belgo, the cult Belgian restaurant on Chalk Farm Road (and sister to the one pictured left), complains that its beer and schnapps glasses often go walk-about. The restaurant stocks about 60 different kinds of beer, each with its own branded glass, which are worth pounds 3.50.

It is, as you might expect, "names" that people go for. Ronnie Scott's and the Hard Rock Cafe admit that their menus, with their respective famous monikers emblazoned across them, are popular spoils of a visit. The Hard Rock Cafe gets through between 25,000 and 30,000 menus a year, though it insists this kind of thing is allowed for and is not taken especially seriously.

Perhaps the most bizarre regular victim of restaurant theft is the continual disappearance from Bibendum of little framed notices telling female patrons not to dispose of their tampons down the lavatory.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence