Letter: Peter Boizot and the Original String Quartet

Peter Boizot, founder of Pizza Express.
Peter Boizot, founder of Pizza Express. Photograph: Mike Floyd/ANL/Rex/Shutterstock

I owe a huge debt to Peter Boizot. In 1969 my violinist friend Catherine Mackintosh and I walked into the Pizza Express, Coptic Street, near the British Museum. We heard some Vivaldi playing on the jukebox and asked Peter if he’d like a live string quartet.

“I would love that,” he immediately responded, and so started the 30-year “residency” of the Original String Quartet. (I had to think up a name on the spur of the moment when the writer and critic Miles Kington asked, as he wanted to write a review.) At one point we were playing in three different branches a week.

I played the cello. Other regulars were Micaela Comberti on the violin, Jan Schlapp on viola and my brother Nicholas on either. The violinists Nigel Kennedy and Paul Barritt deputised on occasion, as did many enthusiastic young performers who became members of now established string quartets.

Spin-offs included weddings, the launch in Soho of Christine Keeler’s autobiography and an event in Paris where David Attenborough was speaking.

Diners evidently enjoyed the music: when one requested “The Creation of Winter by Tchaikovsky”, it took me a moment to reply, “Do you mean The Rite of Spring by Stravinsky?” “That’s the one!”

Thank you, Peter.