If my grandmother had been a Louisiana socialite, an actress who co-starred with Boris Karloff and Gary Cooper, a puppeteer who performed at glamorous parties and on cruise ships, and a skilled plumber passed away on her 102nd birthday, I would have opened a restaurant in her honor, too.
Plaquemine Lock, a Cajun-Creole restaurant on London’s Regent’s Canal, takes its name from a lock built by chef’s great-grandfather Jacob Kenedy and is a tribute to his fascinating grandmother, Virginia Campbell, and to their Louisiana heritage. London-born Kenedy first visited his ancestral home when he was twenty. “I fell madly in love with Louisiana,” he says. “For a decade or more, I had a feeling that London deserved a place that celebrated Louisiana and, of course, my grandmother, who remains much loved and celebrated even in memory.”
Virginia Campbell was born into a prominent Louisiana family in 1914. She became a Broadway actress who decamped to Hollywood, where she worked for directors Cecil B. DeMille and Ernst Lubitsch. She also performed with Marilyn Monroe, whom she lamented, “she couldn’t get out of Grand Central Station”.
According to his obituary in the Hollywood journalist, Campbell married writer John Becker, and they moved into a 16th-century palace in Rome in the 1950s. Together they set up a puppet theater and threw elegant soirees around performances. Campbell created and directed the puppets; Becker wrote the scripts. Attendees (and sometimes attendees) included Aaron Copland, Alice B. Toklas, Ingrid Bergman, WH Auden, and Federico Fellini. After Becker and Campbell divorced, she took her puppets to sea and performed on cruise ships. For reasons known only to her, she also pursued a degree in plumbing and although she did not work professionally, her daughter, artist Haidee Becker, says she was known to fix her friends’ toilets and of his family, including that of his pal Gore Vidal. in his house on the Amalfi Coast.
From the outside, the Plaquemine Lock restaurant looks like a standard British pub, but step inside and you’re greeted by colorful murals of the steamer Carrie B. Schwing, named after Kenedy’s great-grandmother, and other Louisiana scenes. bayou, including a hungry alligator. One of the murals even includes a painting of Campbell and her husband Lenny walking towards the pub. Becker, Kenedy’s mother, painted the murals, making the restaurant a real family affair.
Since you don’t go to a restaurant just for its history, rest assured that the food is delicious. Kenedy is also the chef-owner of the beloved Italian restaurant Bocca di Lupo in London, and he says his family members throughout Louisiana taught him and continue to teach him “our ways of making dirty rice, okra, deviled eggs, etc. “He was also tutored by friends who make up a ‘who’s who’ of top state leaders, including Steve Armbruster and Donald Link.
Kenedy’s desire to open a Louisiana-themed restaurant grew stronger after his grandmother passed away on his birthday, Feb. 17, 2016. He opened the restaurant the following year, and today Today diners feast on crispy Cajun cracklins and duck pudding meatballs, an over-the-top Sugar Beignet Bacon Sandwich, and fried green tomatoes. Becker thinks her mother would have liked shrimp and grits, okra, cornbread and pecan pie.
Kenedy says he thinks Campbell, or “Ginny” as she was known, would have been thrilled with “her” pub. He is sure that she would have come every day to drink wine, eat chocolate and play Posso, her favorite card game. The cards are on sale and Posso’s rules hang on the wall, but Kenedy says her grandmother made up her own rules as she went along. Campbell lived his long and happy life the same way – making up the rules as he went along and enjoying it all with his family, friends and good food.