The Secret History Of: The Quaglino's ashtray
Friday 30 April 2010
When Terence Conran designs something, it has an instant appeal. So, naturally, objects with such pedigree are cosseted within shops, with a carefully constructed price tag and elaborate alarm systems to deter casual thieves.
Perhaps that’s where the restaurant Quaglino’s went wrong.
As part of his revitalisation of the landmark restaurant in central London in 1991 – in the days when smokers were welcome inside – Conran designed an ashtray for the diners shaped in a ‘Q’, and then proceeded to leave those ashtrays lying around, all over the restaurant.
The Quaglino’s ashtray, with its smooth metallic circle cut in two by the elegant tail of the ‘Q’, was a hit – a little too much of a hit. Soon it had |the tag “iconic” attached, and with that, the trouble started. By the time the restaurant was 10 years old, more than 25,000 of Quaglino’s ashtrays had gone “missing”.
Maybe Terence just thought the patrons of his restaurant were unlikely thieves. But he was forgetting that they were flocking to Quaglino’s precisely because the restaurant’s reputation was synonymous with design.
They weren’t there by accident, and their beady eyes were open to the possibility of getting their hands on a piece of design history.
And with the chance to get their hands on a piece of Conran design for free? Management tried selling the ashtrays for £15 in a gift box, but these weren’t as attractive, somehow.
Eventually, surmising that a certain element of Dutch courage probably played a part in this middle-class thievery, the restaurant generously (and somewhat desperately) called an ashtray amnesty: for those who, it was nicely put, had “inadvertently allowed one of the iconic Q-shaped ashtrays to slip into their pockets”.
Strangely, not so many people took up the offer of a free glass of champers and a donation to charity in return for the stylish ashtray that had fallen into their possession.
Because, you know, the separate compartments make it the most darling of salt and pepper holders in the kitchen. So next time someone asks you to pass the salt and you find it in the chicest of Q-shaped holders, don’t feel surprised if it feels slightly warm to the touch.
Video: The official full-length trailer for the Jurassic Park sequel has dropped – two days early
Rochester by-election: Ukip gains second MP as Tory defector Mark Reckless holds seat
'Beast of Bolsover' Dennis Skinner takes Ukip MP Mark Reckless to task moments after he is sworn in
Rochester by-election: Labour MP Emily Thornberry resigns after posting white van and England flags tweet
The young are the new poor: Sharp increase in number of under-25s living in poverty, while over-65s are better off than ever
Revealed: How the world gets rich – from privatising British public services
Tamir Rice: 12-year-old boy playing with fake gun dies after being shot by Ohio police
- 1 Tamir Rice: 12-year-old boy playing with fake gun dies after being shot by Ohio police
- 2 To help fuel their propaganda machine against the poor, our government has now decided to redefine the word 'welfare'
- 3 Black Friday 2014: Opening hours for John Lewis, Asda, PC World, GAME and Argos
- 4 Woman opens professional cuddling shop – gets 10,000 customers in first week
- 5 Girl, 7, gets Tesco to remove 'stupid' sign suggesting superheroes are 'for boys'
£22000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...
£25000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is an acknowledged...
£26000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A truly exciting opportunity has ari...
£40000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Systems Developer (C/C+...