Low life

Jeremy Clarke: it’s 3 a.m. in London’s bohemian quarter and not a reasonably priced drink in sight

7 December 2013

9:00 AM

7 December 2013

9:00 AM

It’s a disgrace!

I went up to London from Devon, a hick up from the sticks, to Annabel’s in Berkeley Square to a ‘party to start the Christmas party season’, it said on the invitation. ‘Eight till late.’ ‘Champagne, cocktails and old school fun.’ I’d never been to Annabel’s. I’d never dreamed of going to Annabel’s. I was always fairly certain that if I did go to Annabel’s I wouldn’t be allowed in. They’d just laugh.

I took a cab from Paddington to Mayfair. It curvetted smoothly to a halt two pavement-slab widths from the discreet entrance. As I searched my pockets for cash, a volunteer from among the paparazzi lounging against the railings sprang forward and peered rudely in, shading his eyes against the reflections in the glass. If he’d turned away in frank disappointment, I would have understood, even sympathised. But he sort of recoiled, as though he’d heard the rumours that the barbarians were at the gate, but here was one come enterprisingly by taxi to the very beating heart of the city.

I gave my name and the woman guarding the stairs dubiously regarded her iPad list, registering a flicker of surprise when the name I gave matched one on her list. I answered a supplementary trick question with ease. She stepped aside and I descended the stairs of the famous London nightclub.

At the foot of the stairs was a man who reminded me of James Bond dressed for the casino. This man greeted me with suave neutrality. An older, also impeccably turned-out man received my overcoat and scarf gravely. A third man stepped forward and bowing from the waist offered a tray crowded with brimming champagne flutes. Helping myself to one, I said, ‘What time do you shut, Chief?’ The palm of his free hand opened and oriented heavenwards, indicating that only the gods would decide.

I took my glass and pushed my way in, negotiating a route through the exultant party crowd. I thought that I was dressed up to the nines, but I very quickly realised that, comparatively speaking, I wasn’t even dressed up to the ones or twos. I needed a haircut, I realised, and a visit to the dentist. I wished I didn’t have my vest on. The further I progressed, the shabbier and older and hotter I felt. Repeatedly I came face to face with women of a kind of shocking physical and sartorial perfection I’d only ever seen before in the pages of glossy magazines, and all I could think of to say to them was excuse me.

Finally, I emerged from the crowd, stumbling free into a relatively unpopulated space beside the dance floor. I didn’t know a soul. By ‘old school’ they must have meant late 1990s. I plunged in again and this time was washed up by the current at one of the cocktail bars. Halfway down the list was a cocktail called a Mrs Mills. I had one of these. It wasn’t bad, so I had another. After several more I wondered if Annabel’s had an upright piano I could use. Then I had another gander at the cocktail list and moved on to the Moscow Mules. Dial M for mullered. After about ten of these, I asked the barman for another and he slid his palms in opposite directions to indicate that the gods had now spoken. He was closed, and he wished me a safe journey.

After Annabel’s, people I’d met there invited me on to Soho House. I’d never before been inside the media Tabernacle either. I went up to the roof to smoke a cigarette. Up there I found a record company executive instructing a nascent boy band wearing matching suits on the unseen perils of hitting the jackpot. Their faces were like the upturned faces of poor village children gathered around a Victorian Christmas tree. The next thing I knew, Soho House was closing also and I was yet again being handed my coat.

Outside in the street, I found myself alone and fell into a rickshaw. The driver’s name was Hussein. ‘More drink!’ I said. He stood on the pedals and after considerable labour drew up outside a doorway with a thug in it. ‘In here, Hussein?’ I said. ‘Yes, please, sir,’ he said. I went in. Bare ladies’ bottoms everywhere. Twenty quid entrance fee, 20 quid a drink, 50 quid a dance, summarised another thug succinctly in my ear. I came out again. ‘But this is a lap dancing club, Hussein!’ I said beseechingly. ‘I just want a bar.’ ‘Is Tuesday,’ said Hussein. ‘All closed.’ The thug in the doorway couldn’t help but emphatically agree with the rickshaw man.

I couldn’t believe it: 3 a.m in the bohemian quarter of the greatest city on earth and you can’t get a reasonably priced drink anywhere? What was I supposed to do next? Go home? Boris! Are you listening! It’s an absolute disgrace!

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Show comments
  • dalai guevara

    Never mind Annabel’s, have you ever been invited to a wedding where the bar closes at 11pm? Have you ever caught a last bus on Oxford Street shortly thereafter? London, the greatest city on earth? How big is your world?

    • sarahsmith232

      Have had to catch the number 25’s animal enclosure home quite a few times, absolutely each and every time there’s always a fight/more than one. Yet another e.g of wonderful way in which we have been so greatly enriched.

      • Jackthesmilingblack

        You`re accepting the unacceptable, Britisher pals. Native British men are barbarians, especially after a few drinks. Plus they are so boring with only football as conversation. Then there`s the multicultural diversity imposed without so much as a by your leave.
        Seriously, if you haven`t begun to consider your “seek your fortune in the colonies” options you`re somewhat slow to flash to reality.
        Hate it and leave it.
        Jack, Japan Alps

        • George Smiley

          Anti-British nutcase masquerading as a British subject.

    • sarahsmith232

      As so many have pointed out, people are voting w/ their feet, anyone w/ money has been fleeing the city in their boat loads. It’s laughable to listen to people say that ’cause if it was the greatest people w/money would be flocking to not scrambling to get out. 90% of our writers live in New York, our artists are leaving. The Alist gets out, they’re all in either New York or LA. The only thing running towards the city are the Third Worlders and it’s not like that’s ’cause they’re so admiring of the place culturally. People must scoff when they hear people say it’s the greatest, you do want to go ‘comparing it what exactly??!!’.

  • Nick

    Why can I post on this thread but not others?

    For some unknown reason my posts are being blocked on most threads but I’ve not received a message informing me that I’ve been banned,if that is the case.

    Which is the best way to contact The Spectator admin for an explanation?


    • Jackthesmilingblack

      Brit MSM never advise you that you`ve been banned, far less offer an explanation. Trust me on this.
      “Was it something I said?
      Although being banned by HMG controlled spineless media has become something of an accolade. You don`t attract flak until you`re over the target.
      Jack, Japan Alps

  • Fasdunkle

    There used to be places such as Archer’s Social which stayed open but they were difficult to find, only sold beer in cans, had very sticky “carpet” and were regularly shut down by the police

  • sarahsmith232

    Total fallacy that Labour brought in 24hr drinking. In 2009 there was only 3 24hr licences throughout the whole of Greater Manchester. One in a private members casino, one in an only open to the hotel guests bar and one in an out of town Tesco’s. Yet all you ever got in the media was ‘this country is binge drinking itself selfless and it’s all down to 24hr drinking’. Don’t know if maybe Manchester has now allowed for 5, maybe 7 even late licences but it can’t be many. So the whole 24hr drinking thing, it’s been around for a decade, brought in in 2003, doesn’t exist, it’s a decade long policy and it’s still yet to actually happen. Good way to go after the holier than thou’, pain in the ** puritanical health Nazi’s, hit them w/ a few facts, 24hr drinking doesn’t exist, if anything, like the writer states, it’/s more a question of our towns being too dead.

  • David Kay

    Jezza its a lot easier getting a weed at 3am isnt it

  • crosscop

    Here’s an idea, Jeremy. Get yourself a six-pack, walk through Tower Hamlets at 3am swigging from a can and tell the Muslim Patrol that it’s a free country and you can drink where you damned well want…

    • Jackthesmilingblack

      And be sure to use the expressions “Mudslime” and “rag head”. Telling them the Prophet Mohammed was a paedophile is guaranteed to get their attention.

  • Get a life.
    A real one.