Our new blog is live!
Welcome to London Lennies! I am Leslie Barnes, the owner of London Lennies, Queens’ longest running family owned and operated restaurant, founded in 1959 by my dad, Leonard “Lennie” Barnes.
My dad began his foray into the world of fish at the age of fifteen. He spent his teen years in the Merchant Marine, exploring the world, up to his hips in mackerel. Whenever he made port, he’d head for the local fish markets where he became an expert at spotting the freshest fish. When he’d had it with the seafaring life, he returned to London and opened four fish n’ chips stands. Soon after, he and my mother, Joan, came to “the colonies,” where he spotted an old fish store in what is now Rego Park, New York. There, he opened London Lennies fish n’ chips shop. Fifty years later, our family’s simple fish ‘n chips shop has transformed into a bustling restaurant.
I spent much of my childhood with my father and fish. Each morning during the summer, we would visit the famous Fulton Fish market and I’d be back in time to leave fishy “surprises” on my sisters’ pillows to scare them when they woke up. Like father, like son, I developed a love for fish and eye for spotting the freshest seafood.
My fondest memory of the fish market is the day I shed my fear of the “sword fish cutters.” The fisherman would harpoon 500-600 lbs sword fish and use enormous knives to section them. I was always afraid to get near them until, one day, my father introduced me to “Arty,” the most intimidating fisherman in the market. I was only 8 years old when I witnesses Arty rip a harpoon right out of a 600lbs sword fish. He handed me the harpoon, and I still have it as a souvenir!
In 1967, a neighboring dry cleaners sparked a fire that destroyed London Lennies and four surrounding retail stores. Our family had to rebuild our shop from the ground up. In the meantime, my dad had to find another way to provide for our family. He decided to relocate us to Wildwood, New Jersey where he leased a seasonal restaurant as he rebuilt our shop. Our family managed the summer cafe, located in an area populated with entertainment venues and go-go clubs, which was frequented by Stevie Wonder. Within 10 months, my dad had rebuilt our once 25-seat shop into a much larger, full service restaurant, incorporating a neighboring retail store that had been abandoned after the fire.
Today, London Lennies’ decor pays homage to my dad’s adventures in the Merchant Marine, decorated with photos and memorabilia from his travels. My mom, “Mrs. London Lennies,” and I now run the restaurant with the help of our fantastic team: Executive Chef Jeffery Baruch, Wine Director Brad Haskel and Manager Mark Connery, who will join me in contributing to this blog each week. Below you will find a poem that my sister, Jennifer, wrote and dedicated to our father after he passed away.
My Father & The Store
In 1960 the place was found
On this spot on this ground
My father came and gave it life
Through the worry and through the strife
He worked so hard, He worked all day
While I would sit and watch and play
In ’67 the fire came
The place next door was to blame
It didn’t stop him, oh this I know
He built again and started to grow
This place is his work, his life, his pain
He didn’t want to keep it the same
And now he’s still growing, growing, growing
Now he’s still going, going on.
Come visit us soon!