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Sunday, 28 February 2010

Dragon Bar: Callooh Callay, Shoreditch

Two hot Shoreditch openings make up for the imminent loss of The T Bar. Having also faced extinction - its Leonard Street premises bulldozed by developers - the Dragon Bar legend lives on. Relocated to Rivington Street, the new den’s bare brick, vintage oak back bar and slouchy 1960s style basement reference the old place, but textural slates and woods make this dragon a more sophisticated beast - witness Chablis at a pocket-friendly £23, Perrier-Jouët (£35) and snappy gastro grub for grown-ups. Although lacking the original’s scruffy insouciance - give it time! - it screams ‘instant Shoreditch classic.’ Better still is near neighbour Callooh Callay (pictured) -my Bar of the Year 2009 . Co-owned by Richard Wynne, ex-manager of Loungelover, it aims to match that East End icon in terms of design and standards. Cocktails rightly take centre stage: Lazy Mexican Margarita (Ocho Reposado tequila, red pepper, oregano, lemon J and chilli) at £8 is a typically edgy call, although Ale Of Two Cities is strictly for loons. So lethal, customers are limited to two per session, its base - 42 Below Feijoa vodka - is an acquired taste: sucking Deep Heat muscle rub through Wayne Rooney’s footie socks? Bleurgh! Wynne’s decor choices inspire; a cleverly edited mish-mash of 20th century tat and a van load of Victoriana from Bermondsey Market that includes a mirrored armoire doubling as a Narnia-like portal to an enchanting kingdom beyond, a hyper-cool DJ lounge. Yet it is Lewis Carroll, not C.S.Lewis, that inspires Callooh Callay - the triumphant exclamation is a reaction to news of the monstrous Jaberwock’s slaying in Carroll’s famous nonsense verse. Linking the bar to someone long suspected of being the area’s bloodiest nighthawk, Jack The Ripper, only ups the louche appeal of one of London’s best new launches.

Dragon Bar 138/ 139 Shoreditch High Street E1 7739 7520.

Callooh Callay , 65 Rivington St. EC2 7739 4791

Pigalle Club, St James's : Pembroke, Earl's Court

The Pigalle Club is an ideal night cap spot: make mine a Manhattan, the perfect poison for a bijou venue straight out of 1957 Sinatra flick, Pal Joey. I swung by recently to catch an intimate gig by an on-form Boy George; the old queen upbeat despite facing a stretch at the current Queen’s pleasure, after an escort claimed the singer handcuffed him to a wall. In his heyday, George could have found countless volunteers at The Coleherne, a sleazy Earl’s Court joint. Reborn as The Coleherne Arms, new owners Realpubs - The Old Dairy, Crouch Hill and The Oxford, Kentish Town - are aiming this once notorious pit at the kind of punter whose idea of ‘heavy leather scene’ involves matching sofas from Heals. All muddy browns, chintzy wallpaper and braised pork belly, it’s as good as gastro gets in newly gay bar-free SW5.  A kitchen replaces the dark, cruisy loos where I witnessed a furry ‘hetero’ Hollywood hearthrob beg to have his nipples near twisted off by a sinister chap in chaps. Over a bottle or two of Tempranillo, we observe bemused Tom Of Finland clones strut in, their out-of-date Spartacus guide having given them a bum steer. (Update) So much clear blue does the pub want to put between it and its gay heritage, the Evening Standard recently reported that an employee took its owners to the cleaners at a tribunal on grounds of sexual discrimination. So if the pound you are about to spend is pink, think! Tonight, a blizzard of flashbulbs alerts us to the Heir and the Spare’s arrival at the adjacent Troubadour gallery. ‘Oi, Wills! Tell that old Queen not to send Georgie Boy down tomorrow.’It's a plea that will fall on deaf juggy Windsor ears.

The Pigalle Club 215 Piccadilly W1 7644 1420

The Pembroke, 261 Old Brompton Rd SW5 7373 8337 


Off Broadway, Hackney; Library, Islington

£5 for a Manhattan is a steal. But that’s what you’ll pay for a well-made cocktail from a concise selection at Off Broadway (pictured). An unpretentious Manhattan neighbourhood-style lounge, it’s ‘Off Broadway’ as in busy Hackney street market of that ilk; consequently, it’s rammed with Eastenders that are less Phil and Grant, more Phil and Kirstie, so middle class has this insufferably smug location location location become. There’s perfectly formed Vespers and Sours, accessible vino and tasty American beers including Genesee Cream Ale from upstate New York and four from California’s Flying Dog. What scran there is - cheeses and salamis mostly- is top notch, but this new narrow L-shaped venue is not for the claustrophobic: I get my homely antipodean neighbour’s entire CV, like it or not. ‘I used to be at Grazia’ she booms. Perhaps its editor grew weary of Oz’s answer to Ugly Betty’s foghorn monologue and an armpit that smells of neglect? What drowns out chat at new late night bar, The Library, is an XFM-ish soundtrack; fair enough, it is a music venue, its small stage apparently has hosted Bloc Party and the Fratellis as well as comedy turns, which is how detractors might dismiss the Glaswegian rockers. The main bar - a dreary bottle green painted space with potted palms, fake books by the metre and workaday furniture - is supposed to say ‘traditional gentlemen’s club’: Hmmm, the British Legion, Scunthorpe? Thankfully, the crowd is less mundane, as is food such as mutton stew, roast partridge and venison sausages and mash. Drinks, meanwhile, are affordable and include ‘artisan’ cocktails and slacker-friendly brews for Mr. Scruffs.

Off Broadway, Broadway Market E8 7923 9265
The Library, 235 Upper St, N1 7704 6977

Sequence, Islington (CLOSED now Bar Prague): Sanctum, Soho

Islington needs new bars like I need new shoes; i.e. not! - but it keeps happening anyway. Welcome to Sequence (pictured), ‘London’s first multimedia bar’ we’re told. Free wi-fi, video-games and vintage cartoon clips projected onto bare walls: Hmm, innovative! We order £7 Whitley Neil dry martinis; they come wet, but otherwise, resident Italian shakermaker is on the ball. Decor is inoffensive; I’m feeling four star hotel in Bodrum - a truly rad departure from the indie-grungy Essex Rd norm. Mark (Embassy Club) Fuller’s Sanctum Soho, a boutique hotel occupying adjoining townhouses, is firmly aimed at rock’n’rollers. The quirky pile offers private cinema, brasserie and individually styled hi-tech rooms decked out in bad-ass badda-bling. Up-lit bathtubs-cum-Cristal chillers are strategically positioned at the feet of porno-tatsic beds the size of Belgium - ideal for you and all of The Pussycat Dolls. At the hotel’s launch, we smirk at such OTT design. ‘Were the Cheeky Girls involved?’ ponders superchic date, before a podgy Eurotrash gnome in cheap tailoring and kiddie-sized cowboy boots - think Sarko, les années Krispy Kreme - demands she ‘show us ‘uuure teetees!’ What’s French for ‘ever had your lights punched out, Napoléon?’ Directly overlooked by various offices, a decked roof terrace - all loungers, jacuzzi and champagne in plastic flutes, presumably lest they’re chucked overboard? - includes a bar housed in what looks like a Neasden home extension. Not exactly Shoreditch House! Guests only may access this playground, but check in with a couple of mates - cheaper than the price of separate cabs back to the sticks - and you too can live the high life like Pearl Lowe back in the day.  

Bar Sequence, 43 Essex Rd N1 7683 0751

Sanctum Soho, 20 Warwick St. W1 7292 6100

Peacock, Clapham Junction: Juju, Chelsea

Is my presence unsettling him? Or are launch night nerves and Red Bull making Lawrence Merrett, co-owner of new Clapham Junction haunt, The Peacock (pictured) come over like Road Runner? Larry’s Looney Tunes patter is not the least of tonight’s amusements: Kicking off regular weekend cabaret, set to feature crooners and burlesque, are a flame-haired Vivien Leigh lookalike playing peek-a-boo from behind ostrich feather fans, and a limber, leggy lovely whose eye-poppingly mercurial gyrations on a pole prompt date, stiff-kneed Tiffany, to muse ‘must stock up on fish oil capsules.’ Previously owner of the defunct Living in Brixton, Merrett has taken a clapped-out old boozer and filled it with clapped-out old furniture and cool Claphamites - well, cool by SW11 standards, I suppose. They’ll dig it for its draught Belgian fruit beers and trad cocktails at an unmissable two for £6, all night from Sunday to Thursday. With DJs playing from a recycled pulpit ‘til late and trippy 1960s projections, I dig it for its raggedy-ass charm; much like the maverick Merrett himself. Juju is the new offer from ex-soccer player Lee Chapman, better remembered by barflies for Teatro W1 and his missus, Leslie Ash’s collagen-fuelled trout pout. The former Po Na Na bar’s cosmetic makeover is less alarming: a sleek, shimmery, brown and gold lounge whose design budget likely had a few extra noughts tacked on to the sum spent by Merrett. King’s Road peacocks prefer their Cristal, designer vodkas by the bottle and steamed king crab claws with a side of glossy, leathery luxe and soft porn lighting. Prices are Chelsea average: £8.50 gets an espresso martini. It’s all a bit Frank Lampard, but worth a peek. Personally, I prefer Larry’s function up the Junction.

The Peacock Café, Bar & Club, 148 Falcon Rd SW11 7228 3130

Juju, 316 King’s Rd SW3 7351 5998

Queen of Hoxton, Shoreditch; London Fields, Dalston

At The Queen Of Hoxton - a new gaff named after Victorian theatrical luminary Sara Lane, as opposed to some mincing Martha from The Joiners Arms - the soundtrack seems familiar. The Doobie Brothers; Toto and Foreigner bring back memories of 8 track cassettes in Dad’s Malibu mango-tone Ford Capri. Wearing their parents’ ‘80s wardrobe malfunctions, a young crowd jiggles enthusiastically to ‘yacht rock’- a reference to a 2005 American Web-based mockumentary, apparently, it’s a term I associate with the unsteady gait symptomatic of necking too much Tanqueray on floating gin palaces moored off Cannes. Leftfield DJs, art installations, fringe theatre, experimental film, burlesque and Cock-er-nee sing-songs around the old joanna are promised at this Shoreditch late, where local creatives are invited to ‘kick back, dance and drink’ on low-slung, slouchy, couch-y things. Yacht rockers should order Tequila Sunrise - the retro classic cocktail synonymous with West Coast stoners greeting another LA dawn, high in the Hollywood Hills, as The Eagles waft out of a hot tub’s sound system. Meanwhile, E8 gastro, The Cat & Mutton, has a new, less foodie-focussed sibling, The London Fields - formerly the midden that put the night into Mare Street. Rescuing doomed pubs is admirable, but leaden grey paint, a twee faux library recess, blaring TV screens and Vera Drake’s old furniture, while not necessarily a stylistic abortion, doesn’t float my boat. Nor does lunch: A Sindy-sized lamb burger on tough-as-boots flatbread (£8.50 ? sans chips) disappoints - not so, perky wines from £14.50 and a canny selection of bottled beers. Staff are upbeat and my mood improves as drainpipe-jeaned interestings pile in to what already feels like a Hackney hit.

The Queen Of Hoxton, 1 Curtain Rd EC2 7422 0958

The London Fields, 137 Mare St E8 7254 5599

Tini, South Kensington

Thursday is the big London night out for South Kensington’s beau monde - weekends finding them otherwise engaged in Val d’Isère, St Barts, Monaco or Daddy’s pile in Berwickshire. Crowds form alongside the Bentleys and Lamborghinis parked outside Walton Street’s handful of bars,as cut-glass accents clamour to be admitted pronto. The latest arrival, Tini, comes courtesy of Nick House and the other chaps behind Whisky Mist and Mahiki. If high maintenance blondes are your garnish of choice for your dry mar-Tini (geddit?), step inside! The idea is to recreate the Milanese bar scene’s traditional ‘aperitivo’ - or cocktails and complimentary nibbles, if you prefer. Lined with black and white pap shots of Dolce Vita era stars and squishy low level leather seating, the sedate decor pushes no design envelopes, nor frankly does the Chelsea-chic clientele, however much they paid for that outfit at Harvey Nics. Cocktails (£7-ish) come with a dash of Italia - limoncello in a Grey Goose Citron and strawberry Berrycello or the complimentary shots, a nice touch, we were offered when ordering Prosecco -cheaper than some of the pricier French bubbles available. Tini knows its audience: If Hoxton rather than Hermès is your thing, it’s not you.

87 Walton St SW3 7589 8558

Goring, Victoria: Ghost, Farringdon

Throughout April, at 7pm nightly, The Goring’s dinner gong is struck by the hotel’s MD - a Biggins-esque fellow in bespoke suiting - signaling ‘Rhyme With Reason’ has begun. Guest readers recite poetry while we seize upon ace complimentary canapés and quaff £10 cocktails. Try a gin & It, the tipple that kept one ardent Goring fan, the late Queen Mum, well-lubricated beyond her centenary. The five star, family-run, Edwardian pile’s refurbished lounge, inspired by Napoléon Bonaparte’s grandiose château de Malmaison, boasts the comfiest divan in town - in the corner to the left of the roaring fire since you ask, but scram! It’s all mine! The works - anything from Betjeman to Beloc - are light-hearted and at under fifteen minutes long, this cultural interlude should not deter even those normally averse to verse. The designers of new DJ bar, Ghost Farringdon were inspired by the poetry of Shelley, Blake or some such Gothic soul by the look of it; Edgar Allan Poe perhaps, given the smudgy graffitied Fall of the House of Usher pose at this sprawling cellar, rescued from the House of Wetherspoon - as in JD of that ilk, the plebeian chain that previously ran it as the sepulchral Printworks. I admire Ghost’s bijou baroque’n’roll South Ken original, but this cavernous, echoey haunt will need to pull ‘em by the charabanc load if any vim is to be injected. A 24-hour licence should help and what with the demise of Turnmills, The End et al, the owners hope to revive the area’s reputation as party central with all-night shape-throwing, rock-aoke and burlesque. Cocktails, from £7, include Zombie, Devil’s Back and Porn Star; a limp vodka-based number with no real lead in its pencil. Ghost’s virile caipirinhas, at least, should grab you by the ghoulies.

The Goring, Beeston Pl, SW1 7396 9000

Ghost Farringdon, 113 -117 Farringdon Rd EC1 7278 2301

Bentley, South Kensington: Barts, Chelsea 

The bijou bar at The Bentley was once an occasional late-night Negroni stop, before the hotel somehow fell off my Gin-dar. Invited to celebrate its acquisition by the Waldorf Astoria Collection, I’m anticipating the five star sensory massage synonymous with that brand. Alas, no makeover to report: in the same old, pre-takeover, garish surroundings - think Imelda Marcos - we discuss sparrow-like society dame Liz Brewer’s curious wardrobe choices and nibble pedestrian canapés to a naff soundtrack by a DJ from Boujis (we’re told): in which parallel universe does anyone want to ever again be subjected to The Gypsy Kings’ Bamboleo, especially at bonce-bothering volume? Great Tanqueray 10 martinis though! The evening is salvaged by my introduction to Barts (pictured), a riotous speakeasy secreted behind a discreet black sliding-door, deep in Chelsea Cloisters, a raffish appartment block in er, Chelsea. New - from the well-connected chaps behind Kitts nightclub - it’s rammed to the gunwales with faces you’ll recognise from après-ski in Val D’(Sloane Square) Isère and Caribbean house parties. Toffy totty is an acquired taste, but Old Fashioned and Daiquiri at £6.95 and Perrier-Jouët at £45 will be right up most folk’s street. Nursery food (macaroni cheese/ shepherd’s pie) comes at retro prices, while the decor is similarly nostalgic: Mickey Mouse wallpaper, cuckoo clocks and ancient trannies - as in radios; but if you’re drawn to drag, there’s a dressing-up trunk filled with wacky gear. The party spirit even gets to charming staff, tonight, got up as The Waltons.

The Bentley, 27 - 33 Harrington Gardens, SW7 7244 5555

Barts, Chelsea Cloisters, Sloane Avenue SW3 7581 3355

Aquum: O Neill's, Clapham

‘What crisis?’ - as idiot savant/ daddy's girl Stella (Marie-Antoinette) McCartney reportedly said at her Paris catwalk show - might sum up the prevailing spendthrift attitude in Cla’am where new DJ bar Aquum (pictured) is already rammed to its blingy, Swarovski crystal-strung rafters. So popular are its molecular mix cocktails, the cassis perles that apparently make its kir royale stand out from rival pretenders have run out. Real gold flakes inform the house bellini,  but in the gloaming - and having foolishly neglected to pack my torch - I can’t detect any. Still, it tastes fine; as does a spumy, moss-tone, mango-y, mojito-ish job in a martini glass, one of many crowd-pleasers offered. Giving the critical mauling Aquum’s interior got in an evening rag, I anticipate a Jodie Marsh-y horror show, but referencing various uptown haunts like The Sanderson, its white gauze, cream leather banquette, high stools, and backlit onyx are stylish enough in a kind of Girls Aloud way. Is this what drew Ashley Cole, spotted here, according to a PR, while the missus was up a mountain? With one eye on footballers’  Amex Centurions, there’s a VIP suite upstairs, while civilians get to party below until all hours sustained by Med and Asian share platters. Who is Aquum’s target customer? From the pong pimp in the loos’ display - Eternity, Joop and similar Superdrudgy brands - not me; but fine for SW4. Contrast this with the less than fragrant O’ Neill’s up the street. A gloomy pile that’s part of a chain, it offers a ‘Taste of Ireland.’ Well, ‘cancel my Aer Lingus reservations, Moneypenny!’ To the Zutons’ droning Valerie and an odour from grim loos that suggests your senile great-auntie Val’s bloomers, I nurse a warm gin and sit, stony-faced beneath a chirpy slogan: ‘A light heart lives longest’. On that basis, I’ll be dead within minutes.

Aquum, 68 -70 Clapham High St SW4 7627 2726

O’Neill’s,  196 Clapham High St, SW4 7498 4931

Lost Angel, Battersea: Friendly Society, Soho

Don’t let tricky transport links deter you, The Lost Angel(pictured) is a genuine find . I liked Dusk, the previous occupant of this site in a part of deepest Battersea still waiting to be discovered by Livingstone, but its Buddha Bar-lite duds have entered the Twilight Zone, replaced by the new owners’ vision in Victorian kitsch. A sister to Clapham’s Lost Society, that bar’s reputation for consistently good drinks and chilled ambience is successfully translated here. Don’t be fooled by the name, a ‘Booze’ menu - all 12 pages of it - contains creative cocktails built on superior spirit bases. Try the Proper British selection‘s Peary Mason (Godminster rhubarb voddie, pear jam, rhubarb liqueur, lemon juice and egg white), a £6.50 summer quencher, or choose from well-executed classics and contemporary stonkers. A lunch offer - two courses and cocktail for £20 - should be seized on; its anglo-continental dishes a cut above the usual sous vide gastropub norm. Staff that look like they belong inLauren Laverne’s latest hot tip band are sweethearts, swiftly changing the music when two mates moan in unison ‘anything but bleedin’ Bob Marley!’ David Soul's Silver Lady, Chuck Berry and Roger Miller’s King Of The Road are among the DJ’s turntable picks at Friendly Society, a bijou, watery, aqua-tone underworld set in a louche alley patrolled by ladies prepared to be very a price. Campy twinks dance in a circle - a gaisy chain? - and quaff bargain shampers (£29.50), jugs of ale and cloying, lychee-based martinis. Babycham mascots, glitterballs, Barbie dolls and dangly mobiles fashioned from flash handbags once sold in 1950s shopping malls are both witty and charming as, on a good night, is formidable post-punk landlady, Maria. Confession, lest I be labelled partisan; its owners are mates which explains why it always feels like coming home whenever I descend the Friendly's steep stairs.

The Lost Angel, 339 Battersea Park Rd , SW11 7622 2112

Friendly Society, Tisbury Court, 79 Wardour St W1 7434 3805

Shortwave, Bermondsey: Alice House, West Hampstead

A des res with balcony overlooking remodelled Bermondsey Square might set you back £500k plus: Small beer for a vista of a windswept plaza, a Sainsbury’s Local, a pétanque piste and new architecture that belongs in some faceless European dump - Maastricht, maybe? You do get a choice of venues for your evening kir, however: The glitzy airport-chic lounge at Alfie’s Hotel for example, or Del Aziz; a branch of a useful Moroccan-y deli/ bar/tea-room chain, it features a transparent glass floor over the excavated foundations of a medieval monastery - ‘make mine a Benedictine and brandy!’ Finally, there’s Shortwave Cinema and Café Bar - reason to toddle further south than fine gastro’, The Garrison. The actual cinema is a 50-seater arthouse cutie, its seats rescued from the old Electric in Portobello, while its jolly, red and white bar suggests a Profumo era motorway service station - still considered a glamourous proposition in 1963. We drink lager from the bottle, but the bar is set to introduce a lively list of cocktails; Cinema Paradiso?  I’m told The Alice House (pictured), new from the peeps behind Soho’s Graphic and 22 Below, has been wowing West Hampstead since it opened a few weeks ago. We rock up to find it spookily empty; perhaps my default grumpy hung-over mien combined with a volcanic eruption on my dial has sent locals scurrying off elsewhere? But with staff outnumbering punters, why such lackadaisical service? What we do eventually get is good: lychee and ginger martini and kumquat caipirinha from a cracking list of £6.50 + cocktails for date and Virgin Marys for Spotty Muldoon. Wines start at £13, burgers are fair and mezze including the intriguingly named ‘garlic rosemary deep’  boringly beige. With its well-stocked central bar, groovy lights, deconstructed interior and decked terrace, I’d have been thrilled had Alice opened up in my ‘hood...circa 1998.

Shortwave Cinema and Café Bar 10 Bermondsey Square SE1 7357 6845

The Alice House, 283 West End Lane NW6 7431 8818

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Mark's Bar, Soho

An adjunct to Mark Hix’s new Soho restaurant, this swish downstairs bar offers suitably presentable souls the chance to sample some high-end mixology at bearable prices (around £8 a swallow). There’s talk of it becoming a members’ club, but for now punters can settle in at the counter for the royal toast (Sipsmith vodka, cherry brandy & Noilly Prat red) or Spitfires over Kent (a Battle of Britain homage using wild morello cherry-infused Beefeater gin). Otherwise, a shot of Hix fix (those cherries again, with an eau de vie from Somerset & a top-up of Champagne) will fix just about anything that’s troubling your head. Wines start at £17 & beers range from Innis & Gunn or Harviestoun Schiehallion to Hix’s own Dorset-brewed Pale & Oyster ales. Modish ‘snax’ (from £2.95) include pollock fish fingers with mushy peas, meat boards & jellied ham hock with piccalilli.
66-70 Brewer Street, London W1 7292 3518

Lutyens, City West

You have to hand it to Tel Conran; the man gives good bar. His latest is part of a restaurant/ private club/ conference complex that, conceived in the boom years, looked positively brave when it launched late in 2009. Set in the former home of Reuters, its name references the building’s architect Sir Edward Landseer Lutyens whose other grand piles include the Viceroy’s palace in New Delhi. The interior’s aesthetic - a simpatico Modernist / Deco symphony in greige - perpetuates the brand’s tradition for understated style. As with most Conran joints it all feels a bit Anna Wintour – voguish and fearsomely chic but not necessarily one to cuddle up to. To drink, swig Pol Roger Réserve at £12.75 a pop like it’s 2006 or trade down to any of fifteen wines by the glass or half litre ‘pot’ from £4; at £5.50, we rate an Argentine Malbec from the Chakana Estate a good autumn drinker. Lutyens house martini heads the cocktails and there’s a range of charcuterie, fruits de mer and cheese boards to share. What you will no longer share, sadly, is hot gossip with hard-drinking hacks - members of the press long since evicted from Fleet Street. Shame that..Anne Robinson would have loved it back in the day before she gave her liver a rest.
85 Fleet Street EC4 7583 8385

Crescent, Olympia (CLOSED now a supermarket)

I’m at (quote) ‘a luxurious new venue nestled between the bustling West End and media-centric Notting Hill’. Were this media soak en route from Soho to Portobello, he’d be hacked off if the cabbie did a lengthy dog-leg detour via West Kensington, home to Crescent Champagne Bar. Having opened late last year, any plans to feature lapdancers were scuppered by the good burghers of Hammersmith and Fulham’s stiff opposition to the prospect of lissom wenches gyrating in a manner deemed unfit for residential W14. Rooting around, I spot an expectant pole languishing unstraddled in an intimate private booth. By the looks of some of the sub-WAGgier elements at tonight’s ‘launch’ party, they’ll be on it like a rash should the licensing committee ever do a U-turn. Now a DJ bar cum night-club, Crescent looks classier than the Bianca Gascoigne wannabes posing provocatively, legs akimbo, on a chic sofa opposite us. They guzzle porn star martinis, the bar presumably out of their usual Lambrini. To be fair, the gaff is nicely tricked out, its £8 cocktails are impressive and the shampers ranges from Moët to ostentatious rapper accessory, Ace Of Spades Rosé at £800. As we leave, I’m offered free membership; might have been handy when I briefly inhabited this very street aeons ago but today......?

IMAGE: Wipe down seats in a pole dance lounge? Nice!

Crescent Champagne Bar, 3 North End Crescent W14 7603 2058

Clarendon, Holland Park: Corum, Battersea - BOTH NOW CLOSED

Straddling the border between chichi Holland Park and gritty North Kensington is The Clarendon (pictured), a smart new gastropub in premises that recently saw off gnarly old parsnip Antony Worrall-Thingamajiggy. The look - a successful mix of French baroque, English country house and the recycled contents of a 1960s skip - suggests The Clarendon is aimed at David Cameron’s Notting Hill rather than the adjacent estate whose sweet bingo-bound biddies with their stereo perms direct us there. To eat, we’re offered everything from homemade fish fingers to Châteaubriand at £45 for two, but tonight I’m in Strictly Come Cocktailing mode. Service is ditzy. Drinks are patchy. At £7.50, I expect better than an over-sweet margarita presented with a round of lemon (sacrilege!) and a too tart daiquiri. Date has no complaints about her Chilean syrah rosé, one of 14 options by the glass from a list whose bottles start at a very un-W11 £14. A chic LA-style decked roof terrace looks perfect for balmy summer soirées but with Götterdämmerung playing out in the night skies above, we linger indoors until chucking-out time - not, in all, much of a cross to bear. A similarly-priced grapefruit martini at Corum is a much better swallow. Although the monicker remains, this Battersea late night DJ bar with dim sum is back in the hands of its one-time former owner. I like its new cocktail list for its recipes supplied by Hoxton Pony head honcho Gerry, son of mixmaestro Salvatore, Calabrese. There’s a cracking range of pukka hooch to get through; Pappy Van Winkle 15-year-old is worth slumming it in SW11 for if you can handle the decor. Boring-boring, beige and brown? Chuck it on the skip recently emptied by The Clarendon crew!

The Clarendon, 123a Clarendon Rd W11 : PR 07939 669 538

Corum, 30 Queenstown Rd SW11 7720 5446

Charlotte St. Blues, Fitzrovia (CLOSED): Boho , Dulwich

You can’t beat a well-sprung 1950s car seat for comfiness; not that you’ll spend much time parked on one at Charlotte Street Blues (pictured) where they masquerade as banquettes. Tonight’s turn, swing quartet Ta Mère, soon has punters jitterbugging and jiving on the dance floor. From faded bobbysoxer reliving his youth to a young blade dressed as Sinatra circa the same era, the zoot suit boogie bug bites us all. Well almost all: a knackered knee prevents me from busting moves to Reet Petite so I sit it out over popcorn chicken and bop in my seat. Both the main room - an agreeably eccentric rehash of what was Jamie’s wine bar - and a mezzanine furnished like a 1960s bungalow’s home extension afford views of a stage that will soon host John Mayall and (tonight, July 16th) John Lee Hooker Jnr. Additional spaces include a moody basement pool bar worthy of a Jimmy Cagney flick and an upstairs saloon - currently hung with Goldie’s best artistic efforts - where eighty varieties of Bourbon are winking at me from a mirrored back bar. On a PR freebie, tonight ‘I’m depending on the kindness of strangers’ as barmy belle Blanche Dubois puts it in A Streetcar Named Desire, so it’s fitting that I’m plied with with her favourite mint juleps. At this friendly new juke joint, I somehow fancy you won’t stay strangers for long. Over at LOUD duplex DJ bar Boho, a pine-clad cabana serving none-too-shabby £6 cocktails caipirinha & passionfruit mojito, the inspiration is not New Orleans but Brazil. To eat, there’s sushi, not as random as it sounds given Japan’s largest ex-pat community resides there. The gist of a proverb featured on one wall is that life is a movie that flashes by in a jiffy: whether I’d set my bio-pic in East Dulwich is moot.

Charlotte Street Blues, 74 Charlotte St W1 7580 0113

Boho, 52 Lordship Lane SE22

Driver, King's Cross: Portobello Bridge, Notting Hill (CLOSED. Now The Earl of Portobello)

Don’t believe websites! I did; but driving to The Driver (pictured) for its advertised Sunday lunch, found it cancelled ‘due to lack of local demand’ as a waiter puts it on our return reccie. So, did The Driver pass at its second attempt? Let’s just say it’s roadworthy and a re-vamped interior - an amalgam of well-worn ideas osmotically absorbed from elsewhere - is an improvement on the lacklustre Driver of yore. Particularly appealing is Patrick Blanc’s inspired vertical garden; a patchwork of exotic flora, it envelops the building’s four floored exterior to visually arresting effect. Staff are sweet; there’s TT Landlord on tap and, from a reasonable list, house Languedoc merlot/ grenache is as serviceable as can be expected for thirteen notes. Yet, even though it works on many levels  - some ugly velours and chrome furniture, carved ‘elephant’ chairs and overpriced, underwhelming pub-grub-by-numbers aside - the Driver fails to move me. Like the Renault Megane, it’s all quirky styling and no real grunt and as with that car, I won’t be shakin’ my ass in it again any time soon - not even at its Saturday DJ all-nighters spread across four rooms, sunrise over King’s Cross on its roof terrace included or not. Portobello Bridge is a predictable dark wood/ bare brick gastropub. It replaces predictable dark wood/ bare brick gastropub Golborne Grove whose duds it seems to have appropriated down to the last napkin. A mirror in the shape of a guitar - Bridge. Guitar. Geddit? - is a nod to weekly live music sessions that feature...guess what? Kazoos? Didgeridoos? Tonight it’s all a gone Simon and Garfunkel-shaped, as in the sounds of silence. Not drawn to our five fellow drinkers, we sink a very acceptable cherry-violet-y Côtes de Provence (£22) and boot scoot off.

The Driver, 2 -4 Wharfdale Rd N1 7284 0513

Portobello Bridge Bar & Grill 36 Golborne Rd W10 8960 6260

Jetlag, Fitzrovia: Liquidnation, Notting Hill

Adrift of the main Charlotte Street action, I worry Jetlag (pictured), Fitzrovia’s latest cocktail joint/ diner, might not take-off. Its soul inhabits the 1980s bar scene in Tokyo’s Roppongi district, I'm told, but its decor belongs to a hotel off the M25 while a dark clubby downstairs DJ bar - sans DJ and lined with bubbling fish tanks sans fish - feels like somewhere your Dad danced to Madonna back in the 1980’s nanosecond when she was kewl. But for cracking cocktails and cheerful service, Jetlag is well worth traveling for. Sure, £7.25 is almost as much as a no-frills flight to Faro, but a flawless rhubarb and pineapple daiquiri beats any orange cattle truck out of Luton. Equally good, despite its daft handle, is I’m from a gee; a tequila martini laced with cardamom and lychee served by a bubbly, blonde Lithuanian named Sky who should be made the future template for all female cabin crew. It may contain just a single slug of hooch, but a mere £2.50 buys a daiquiri, margarita, mojito, or indeed any other drink sold at Liquidnation where the most popular call, on the evidence of bottles stacked high in cardboard cases, appears to be obscure imported lagers (Nils, Lynx et al) Owner Vince Power should have a hit on his hands with this indie-leaning concession to recessionistas. Under the gaze of Fred The Shred, Bernie Madoff and other modern bogeymen - Alistair & Gordon’s images also featured in the rogue’s gallery -  post-disco punkettes Deep Below are one of tonight’s three bands playing to appreciative slackers channelling Shoreditch circa 1998. With ten students from the University of the Arts invited to each design an area of the venue, the interior - including a giant Wendy house - is a tastier stew than Power’s last effort at this jinxed site, the overcooked tripe that was the ‘Miami-style’ Ten West.    

Jetlag, 125 Cleveland St. W1 3370 5838

Liquidnation, 165 Ladbroke Grove W10 8960 1702

Leopard, Victoria: Dalston Superstore, Dalston

There’s no room to swing a moggy let alone a big cat at The Leopard Bar. Formerly, the Rubens Hotel’s gift shop, this diminutive new champagne lounge is marginally smaller than one of Mariah Carey’s travel trunks. Handy, though, for a quick kir royale (£12.50), glass of Cristal (£52) or bottle of Château Petrus, Pomerol 2000 (£4,000) before hitting one of Brenda’s dreary garden parties at Buck Pal. Dinky canapés, even dinkier Asian staff and the hotel’s florid PR - a raconteur who actually employs Bertie Wooster-ish phrases like ‘au reservoir, chaps!’ - all amuse; the mise-en-scène, less so. Leopard suggests art deco decadence or 19th Century Sicilian baroque à la Visconti film of that ilk;  what we get is comfy, retired major’s Home Counties study furnished by Army & Navy, Victoria circa 1978. It’s a whole universe away from Dalston Superstore’s concrete floors, trashed furniture, prosaic pine clad bar and arty wall hangings. The brainchild of Dan (Disco Bloodbath) Beaumont and scene queens, the Trailer Trash boys, this ex-Turkish restaurant turned East Villagey bar/ diner/ disco is wowing the glampy Ponystep crowd. Get rinsed on Corona, cider and cheap mojitos with Johnny Woo, similar polysexual freaks and sundry mentalist trannies. With designers like Marios, Pam, Gareth, Giles and Jaiden James checking out proceedings, expect Alexis Colby crossed with League Of Gentlemen’s Tubbs to appear on autumn catwalks. Pitch up late and shimmy to the sound of the underground as ledge’ DJs such as Princess Julia and Tasty Tim host nights called Phat Bitch, Strut The F*** Up and the like. Barely two months old, this unprepossessing pile is pulling the SOS (so over Shoreditch) set, but with Italian Vogue proclaiming it the centre of the universe, are Dalston’s days numbered?
Leopard Bar, 39 Buckingham Palace Rd SW1 7834 6600 

Dalston Superstore, 117 Kingsland High St E8 7254 2273

69 Colebrooke Row, Islington

Dapper cocktailisto Tony Conigliaro has left Shochu Lounge and set up on his own down an Islington alleyway. Well, not quite on his own; 69 Colebrooke Row, it transpires, is a joint venture with one Camille Hobby-Linton, licensee of the nearby Charles Lamb. Oblivious to any connection I harrumph,‘Nice pub; shame about the service,’ inadvertently dissing his partner’s baby. Tony winces but stops short of lacing my Wink with arsenic. Wink, you say? One of mine host’s many inspired creations, this ginny take on the Sazerac is Tony’s considered choice when, shunning the provided list, this gaffe-prone winker challenges him to ‘surprise me!’ Equally typical of Conigliaro’s recherché mixology is No.5 Champagne Cocktail, its intrinsic sugar cube subtly perfumed with the signature notes of Chanel’s iconic scent - jasmine, ylang ylang, neroli, rose, sandalwood, vanilla & vetiver. Great minds think alike, it seems; but my teenage experiment with a bottle of tonic water and Dad’s highly alcoholic Eau Sauvage aftershave had some disturbing side-effects, so please don’t attempt this at home! More successful is Tone’s Targa Florio; an homage to a Dolce Vita-era Sicilian road race, the blood oranges, lemons and mandarins that grew wild along the cars’ route are combined with Merlet triple sec and Vichy Catalan water to make a stylish tipple fit for any Marcello Mastrioanni manqué. At just 35 covers, Tony’s miniscule bar is apparently inspired by films noirs and Tokyo’s inscrutable, Bladerunner-esque drinking dens. I’m getting ‘Chinese takeaway’ but such prosaic surroundings shift the focus onto his exceptional drinks. A contemporary of Conigliaro, Nick (Hawksmoor) Strangeway has created a quintet of choccy cocktails for Artisan du Chocolat. Willie Wonka doesn’t normally do it for me but at the chain’s fab new op art Bayswater branch, a bitter Cacao Martini turns out to be my idea of a sweetie: see for yourself for a fiver.

69 Colebrooke Row, N1 0754 528 593

Swan & Edgar, Marylebone

The last time the real world troubled the sleepy residential backwater abutting Marylebone Station was in 1975 when, after a shoot-out at Scott’s Mayfair restaurant and a police chase through Westminster streets, four armed IRA men burst into locals John and Sheila Matthews’ flat, taking them hostage, somewhat ironically, as they watched Kojak. Finally released after a tense six-day stand-off played out live on TV to a nation agog,  the terrified couple might have celebrated with free brandy at The Feathers. In April 2009, their former local was converted to Swan & Edgar and it seems some of the Matthews’ old neighbours have popped in tonight for a hand-pulled pint of ale. Sister to Fitzrovia’s equally dinky Bourne & Hollingsworth - both bars named after department stores still trading in 1975 - this glazed-tile fronted gem is worth searching out. There’s a literary theme; the bar fascia made entirely from old hardbacks and varnished cut-up newspapers sparingly applied throughout to interesting effect. The wine list says much about the area’s gentrification: one chap, sharp in Savile Row suiting, quaffs a £55 Meursault but pricy Burgundy aside, easy drinkers start at just £15. With cute, cheerful staff, retro cocktails and home cooked comfort food at under £10 served in an equally bijou upstairs dining room - closed, annoyingly, for a private do when I drop in -  
 this sympathetic retread is a template for the ideal Noughties local. Don’t all lay siege to it at once, however: twenty is a crowd. 
43 Linhope St. NW1 7724 6286

Prince Albert, Battersea

The launch of The Northcote in Battersea is all cheap rosé, shucked oysters, bad outfits and loons in daft headgear posing beside a jokey oil of a custard tart-splattered Duke Of Wellington - much to the merriment of Northcote Road’s sub-Sloane set. We escape to The Prince Albert another of owner Geronimo Inns’ recent openings at the posh(er) end of SW11. They’ve given this old codger with its butch island bar a decent makeover but why do Geronimo’s designers always trowel on the twee like they’re Lady GaGa’s stylist? Strip out the cod-mod-Britannia and there’s plenty to admire - e.g. robust German frothy tops on tap and a wine list with gluggable interestings at under £20. We trade up to Simmonet-Febvre Chablis, the last swallow of summer, perhaps, in ‘Albert Square’, the pub’s attractive yard where punters congregate to ‘smirt’. That’s the act of smoking and flirting as you doubtless know, although based on two Hermès bag hags’ acid-tongued patter, smitching - as in smoking Bensons and bitching - is nearer the mark. Our barman, meanwhile, reckons The Albert’s modish all-day grub is ‘sexy English with a twist’ - a description some might apply to Reiss or Karen Millen, like Geronimo, fashionable mid-market chains, if that’s your bag.

The Prince Albert, 85 Albert Bridge Rd SW11 7228 0923

Shannons, Notting Hill

Back when mobile phones weighed more than Madonna, style arbiters convened at Notting Hill’s Market Bar marveling at the sheer fashion-forwardness of its nouveau Dickensian retro-Creole pose; not only was exotic Japan import Sapporo lager available but a decadent Thai restaurant lurked above. So cool, you could expect to rub shoulder pads with Neneh Cherry, Nick Kamen, Big Audio Dynamite and every other face from The Face, it was to 1980s Portobello what the Hawley Arms is to Camden today. Although you’ll still find Kaeng Pa curry upstairs, the ground floor bar’s new brooms have swept out the old in favour of shamrock green frontage, Guinness paraphernalia and new monicker, Shannons. I’m guessing a shrine to Erin, as in Emerald Isle - as opposed to Ms O’Connor, although the decorative mannequin and her shillelagh would find a welcome within even if antique Hibernian bartender reckons ‘it’s Irish but it’s not’. With its prosaic furnishings, Kensington Gardens railings ‘art' specials, bemused tourists and a gummy auld Molly Malone tribute gurning along to Neil Diamond hits, I’m unsure who its target audience is. Not wine buffs, judging by a tepid list from £15.50. Handbills announce ‘one night of soul with Stacey.’ As in Ms Solomon? How quickly did that dream sour? The new old Market lacks the X-Factor; let’s hope the new decade holds better in store.

Shannons 240 Portobello Rd W11.  7313 6516  


Where it’s at - London's Nightclubs
You want to hit the dance-floor but, with a night out in the capital costing more than a fortnight in Fuerteventura, you can’t afford to blow it. So take part in our quick quiz and find out where you’ll get a night to remember. Serial nighthawk Keith Barker-Main asks the questions
London has a scene to suit every mood. Move your Cuban heels to the latino grooves of Floridita, Salsa or Guanabara, strut your brothel creepers at Rock-A-Billy Rebels at The Bathhouse, Bishopsgate, or dress like a diva and join the urban reggae block party at Brixton’s hot spots. If that’s not your (Gucci) bag, try twisted electro in Vauxhall’s gay village or check out the kitsch pop at gilded Victorian music hall Koko in Camden, whose monthly Guilty Pleasures night finds hundreds dancing to retro hits that are cheesier than a bag of Wotsits.
Overwhelmed by the choices already? Check out our 10 questions and unlock the secret to clubbing smart. Make a note of your answers (mostly As, Bs, Cs, Ds or Es?), then turn the page to see what kind of nightclub is right for you.

1.You know you’re in the wrong club when you spot:
A: Pasty-faced indie kids

B: Your household staff

C: Civilians

D: Hens falling over to ‘I Will Survive’

E: Anybody called Geldof or Osbourne
2. Your idea of clubbing royalty is:
A: Jay-Z, king of rap

B: Prince Harry

C: Prince (small chap, wears a lot of purple)

D: Queen Latifah

E: Alexander McQueen- What drugs are you on?
3. Someone wants to buy you a drink. You ask for:
A: Cristal, what else?

B: A treasure chest cocktail

C: A Caorunn gin rickey

D: Voss water

E: Staropramen with an Aftershock chaser
4. In the club of your dreams, the ladies would be wearing:
A: Clingy blingy thingys

B: Boyfriend jacket, Zadig & Voltaire shirt, skinny leather jeans

C: The 80s revisited, as seen in Vogue

D: Karen Walker, Acne, retro Airmax trainers

E: That’s no lady, that’s performance artist Jonny Woo
5. If pushed, you’d rather share a table with:
A: Katie Price (mega photo op!)

B: Kate Middleton

C: Mary-Kate Olsen

D: Katie from The Ting Tings

E: Katie Grand
6. Last time you went clubbing, the debate in the gents went something like:
A: ‘Fake or real, do you reckon?’

B: ‘Skiing at Val d’Isère or Courchevel this year?’

C: ‘A splash of Acqua Di Gio or Acqua Di Parma, sir ?’

D: ‘T-shirt by Bathing Ape or Original Penguin?’

E: ‘Upper or downer?’
7. Best club of all time:
A: Faces, Gants Hill

B: Nikki Beach, St Tropez

C: Studio 54, New York

D: The Warehouse, Chicago

E: Taboo, London
8. Your style of DJ is:
A: A shiny, black Versace DJ

B: Celebrity DJ Sam Young

C: Mark or Sam Ronson

D: Techno legend Carl Cox

E: Drag queen Jodie Harsh
9. Your ideal dance partner would be:
A: (Her) Ashley Cole; (him) Cheryl Cole

B: (Her) that nice chap you met at the Cartier polo (Daddy owns a Gulf state);

(him) Tara Palmer-Tomkinson (you’ve adored her since she used to babysit you)

C: (Her) Calvin Klein hunk Jamie Dornan; (him) Agent Provocateur temptress Rosie Huntington-Whiteley

D: (Her) Your posse from Amnesia, Ibiza; (him) not fussed so long as she’s low maintenance

E: (Her) Henry Holland and Agyness Deyn; (him) Performance artist Scottee
10. How do you get home after clubbing?
A: In his Bugatti Veyron

B: Chauffeured Range Rover with blacked-out windows

C: I walk; I live in W1

D: Tube. It’s 6.30 am – who needs cabs?

E: Sorry! A total blank
Mostly As
Glam Rockers

What you’d give for a night in a club with a heavy paparazzi presence outside. Girly glam rockers are addicted to spray-on dresses and matching tans, Louboutin shoes and extensions (real-hair only, if you please). But you don’t want to be mistaken for a WAG wannabe (honest!) and are dead set on carving out an independent career in modelling to escape your City 9-to-5. Your high-maintenance male counterpart is a football agent or luxury car dealer who favours a smart-casual cool look, so long as it’s brand new and from Selfridges’s designer floor. Must-haves for a glammed-up night are ice buckets filled with Ace of Spades Champagne and Cavalli vodka, and a VIP room packed with (available) talent. So head to:

Amika W8

Café de Paris

Disco 24


Funky Buddha


Vendome Mayfair is also a useful address to have.
Mostly Bs
(Well-)Bred Head

You’re either a Windsor – as opposed to from Windsor – or you’re on a bonus like 2008 never happened, or your old man’s a pal of Putin. You live in SW-something and dabble in event organising, property and PR. Money, quite honestly, isn’t a problem, and you like to shop where you’ll be served by the Hugos and Camillas of this world who didn’t quite make the grade as estate agents. You’ll hang out at Guy Ritchie’s Punchbowl, Chelsea speakeasy Barts or The Beach (your name for Fulham Road), where you’ll sip luxury mojitos, champers and shots before moving on to:


Chloe at Firehouse

Diva Beach




The Valmont Club

Whisky Mist
Mostly Cs
Mossy Posse

You like to check out your on-trend looks and strategically tousled hair in the mirror of your BMW Z4 coupé before heading
out of your home in Fulham or Battersea. You work for a blue-chip multinational
as a senior PA or accountant, but dream of being discovered by Sarah Doukas at
Storm Models. You idolise Kate Moss for her style and stamina; you, too, like to
cane it on Champagne and retro cocktails – ‘live fast, play hard and burn it off at
the gym’ is your mantra.

The male of the species works for a boutique investment company, in sales or corporate entertainment. You live in a hi-tech rammed designer pad in Docklands or Notting Hill, and although you’re prepared to slum it in Shoreditch for a night, you’d prefer:

Bungalow 8

The new Chinawhite

The Cuckoo Club


The Met Bar

Molton House

Taman Gang


While the rest of the world is still discovering Shoreditch, you’re championing Plaistow, Poplar and parts of London that we’ve never even heard of
Mostly Ds
Cool Hunter

You know your Scratch Perverts from your Filthy Dukes because it’s all about the DJ. Fidget house may mean nothing to most, but it’s just one scene you’re into: ‘nu’ everything, grime, hip hop, underground, indie, old school soul and silent discos – you’re on it. Your work is your life and it all blurs into one big social. Married (to a MacBook), you work in advertising, viral marketing, music or the meejah. When it comes to fashion you are anti-brand, preferring understated limited-edition gear from pop-up shops in E1, but you have a soft spot for vintage Stussy, Fred Perry and Nike. Premium Tequilas (Jose Cuervo Platino) are your latest thing; otherwise Bud and designer water (or tap for the eco-conscious) see you through till sunrise, when you head back to Islington, Hackney or Bermondsey. Night time finds you at:



Corsica Studios

East Village Club




Plastic People

T Bar

Parties by Trailer Trash or Bugged Out
Mostly Es
Beautiful Freak

A true original, you detest being labelled a Beautiful Freak – but let’s face it, you are! We need you to tell us what’s hip. So while the rest of the world is still discovering Shoreditch, you are out there championing Plaistow, Poplar and parts of London we’ve never even heard of, let alone visited. Though you’ll still ‘do’ Hoxton, if only for nostalgia’s sake. Few could emulate your style, be it Burt Reynolds circa Smokey and the Bandit or Charlie’s Angel crossed with bad Barbie. Downing Long Island iced tea, snakebite or sambuca, you camp it up to everything from early Pete Burns, Bucks Fizz and your dad’s 80s records to that clever Roisin Murphy scratch mix. We won’t tell anyone they’ll find you at:

Cable Street Studios

Duckie at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern


Horse Meat Disco

The Hoxton Pony

Passing Clouds Foundation

Dalston Superstore (On Facebook)

Queen Of Hoxton

And at one-off events on

Editorial feature from Square Meal Guide 2010

London Cocktail Club: New Evaristo, Soho

Dive bars: I love a louche lair populated by weird, wired interestings whose only brush with daylight will come as they slope home, bleary-eyed, at dawn. Take The New Evaristo (aka Tricia's); a gloriously unreconstructed late-night Soho pit preserved in 1950s aspic, it’s high on lowlife charm  if you can get past the honk of industrial-strength disinfectant, a single green bulb that turns my date, Nancy, an unfortunate shade of sorrel. A slobbering, over-familiar boxer tries to crash our table: that's 'boxer' as in canine, not Frank Bruno. Drinks are rudimentary: a fiver for a large G whose T is dispensed from a jumbo plastic bottle. Music tends towards hellcat rock and rad skiffle occasionally played by a peculiar cove on a wind-up gramophone. The New Evaristo reminds me of some rat and roach-nfetsed New York dive circa early Blondie. Pitch your look somewhere between early Little Richard and club cockroach, Pam Hogg. Classier, but a dive nonetheless, is The London Cocktail Club; a new pseudo-Victorian, pseudo-members only speakeasy, thrown together in the basement of Arts Theatre. Dedicated to superior mixology, it’s fronted by enthusiastic young hooch pimp, J.James Goodman late of the late Teatro. Viewers of The Restaurant will recall him as the winner of Raymond Blanc's TV talent show in 2009. I'm fond of the floppy-haired fop, so let's just leave it at "well done, J.J!' - which translated into Mandarin would be ' Ho-Lee Fook; how did he manage to swing that result?' At his first bar, the cocktail’s heritage is traced via a chronological list of era-defining conceits such as the Daisy - all the rage in 1878; Great World War hero, the Aviation; and the lime cordial Gimlet, a martini drunk by Mad Men. Gibsons (1890 or 1930 depending on who you believe) hit the spot, especially at £7; and staff don’t flinch when some numpty orders vodka and Coke. Stick to the menu; our charming barman obligingly has to consults a G3 app for a Sazerac’s recipe. Alas, the result is an astringent brute, the only duff note to report. 

The New Evaristo, 57 Greek St W1 7437 9536

The London Cocktail Club, 6-7 Gt Newport St. WC2 7836 8531

CAMP, Shoreditch (CLOSED now Rotary Bar Diner)

Its geeky crowd could be undergraduates of physics, engineering or some equally turgid subject; the room, a dilapidated provincial student union circa Life On Mars. Welcome to The CAMP, as in City arts and music project, Shoreditch’s latest pop-up social-cum-events-space recently sold to me by a spotty Hoxton mullet as ‘major’. Yeh, and I’m Banksy! While one desperado punter channels Neil from the Young Ones, another - a disaffected loner with scary stare-y Manson eyes - skulks in a dark corner; nursing a pint of Amstel and deep-seated grudges against mankind, he plots his Columbine style revenge. My mate only agrees to stay if I’ll treat him to somewhere (anywhere!) better later. Rightly deeming our makeshift environment, a defunct Chinese restaurant with all the charm of a Düsseldorf abattoir, not conducive to £6.50 cocktails - hardly NUS friendly - he orders the (passable) house red. A stoned Magic Numbers tribute, meanwhile, reasons things will improve when a basement electro-club gets going and why don’t I drop in soon for a ‘wicked’ lunch? Right! Although such farty arty gaffs may impress virgin culture sponges, I’m unimpressed. The CAMP is to camp what Alan Carr is to cage fighting and with sexier possibilities nearby, a revisit is as likely as X Factor twins Jedward scooping the Mercury prize.

The CAMP 70 - 74 City Rd EC2A  7253 2443

Palm Court / Artesian at the Langham Hotel, Marylebone

While shoppers squabble on Oxford Street over the last available Mr Squiggles Go Go hamster in Christendom, I jump off the Christmas wheel preferring a decadent treat at the Langham’s remodeled Palm Court; or the Napalm Court as I dub it, all trace of frondy foliage now blitzed from the scene, sadly. In this glistering, airy salon, taking afternoon tea - and the p*** out of fellow guests’ curious sartorial choices - has been a tradition since 1865. It seems an endless supply of delish’ finger sandwiches (foie gras with passion fruit, hello!), all manner of Five Go Mad In Devon sweetmeats and Tregothnan tea grown in Cornwall (yes, really) served on ‘faihn’ bone china is never out of fashion. Brut bubbles - Krug ’95, say - come in elegant coupes that cost £50 a stem to manufacture. I’m a gibbering wreck; like Hyacinth Bucket’s neighbour Elisabeth, terrified I’ll knock the ruddy thing flying to the floor. The Bucket woman would commend the décor but to my eyes, it’s borderline Liz Hurley - expensive, splashy and well upholstered but a bit off the style money. This doesn’t deter cupcake and I from lingering for fully four hours. At around £50 each, it’s a solid investment; call it a gilt-y pleasure! Best watering hole at the Langham is Artesian, a David Colllins-designed den that's well groovy. The grand salon’s lofty froideur is warmed by Chinoiserie influences that include its focal point, a towering carved mahogany altar as back bar: seemingly plundered from a Shaolin temple. Smoky smudgy charcoal, bramble and lilac work well on neo-Chippendale furniture, while Op Art rugs and distressed faux skins - crocodile? lizard? Robert Kilroy-Silk? add quirky sophistication. When Collins does get trashy, as with matching metal horse head lamps on the bar, the result is never less than chic. Service is uniformly silver and martinis, solid gold. Test drives from a stellar rum-centric list - a Jerry’s Medicine and retro revival, Pina Colada - handle they should, when a signature cocktail stiffs you for fourteen quid (service not included). Pricey, sure! But chuck your loose change in the well, for Collins’s dreay vision is a wish come true.

Aubrey at the Kensington Hotel, South Kensington

You can’t beat a decent hotel bar - a breed surprisingly rare in a part of town so overrun by Gallic expats, it elects its own MP to the French parliament. Aubrey, the bar at the refurbished and rebranded Kensington Hotel - clue; it’s not in Shoreditch - is ideal for a gossipy bitchfest entre amis or a flirty tête-à-tête with your colleague Jean-Pierre’s wife who also happens to be your bit of ooh la la on the côté. With its mosaic and marble bar, raw oak paneling, Yves Klein blue glass ceiling, teardrop chandeliers, mohair plush and club chairs whose tasseled fringes suggest the sort of sassy skirt worn by Leslie Caron to drive 1950s Saint Germain jazzmen wild, it feels appealingly retro in a kind of American in Paris way. Period drinks include Americano, French 75 and Negroni - good at £8 - while worst title of the year award goes to the cachaça based Berried (but still) Alive, one of eight house specials served with chilli and lemon popcorn. The January launch of The Brompton, the hotel’s swish new nightclub courtesy of the Whisky Mist / Mahiki crew, will wow SW7’s jeunesse dorée. Here to canvas votes, will le petit Nicolas drop in for a bop? In his trademark elevator heels, to something by Prince, peut-être?

109 -113 Queen’s Gate SW7 7589 6300

5th View at Waterstone's, Piccadilly

Long defunct, Simpsons of Piccadilly was writer Jeremy Lloyd’s inspiration for Are You Being Served? I’ve always resented Waterstone’s for ousting the heroically eccentric fashion emporium from its splendid art deco home but I fancy Mrs Slocombe, the 70s TV comedy’s arriviste Head of Ladies Apparel,  would be more forgiving. First, her shabby staff canteen became the 5th View café-bar, now, a significant makeover and the introduction of a chic champagne and seafood bar leaves the entire top floor devoted to grazing. Bushed from a day spent peddling panty-hose, La Slocombe - her latest hair rinse matched to the venue’s predominant colour, heliotrope - could wriggle onto a high stool at the zinc and, over a port and lemon, update sidekick Miss Brahms on the welfare of her Pussy. We prefer French 75s (gin/ lemon juice/ sugar/ bubbles). One of seven champagne cocktails available for about the same price as Katie Price or Chuck Palahniuk in paperback, (all tastes catered to within), the name references a World War I 75 mm howitzer that could blow a hussar’s head off. 5 - or is it 7? - 75s later, I’m mellowing towards Waterstone’s. Fashtrash insists we leave. He’s overheard a punter’s snarky comment when he and his mocha Mulberry man-bag minced back from the loos. 'Mistook you for John Inman, did he?’.

5th View @ Waterstone’s, 203 Piccadilly, W1. 7851 2433

Miss Q's, Earl's Court (CLOSED see PING)

‘Miss Q’s brings sex, rugs and rock’n’roll to Earl’s Court’ - good news for baldy headbangers that can’t get laid? Not many of those to the square metre in this ‘hood’s  million £ plus mansions, so who is this new basement speakeasy from Nick (ex-Cuckoo Club) Valentine aimed at? Not SW5’s gym junkie-rent boy-junkie Jims I imagine. ‘Earl’s Court gig after-parties?’ offers a PR hopefully. In an area low on cool lounges, this well-executed slab of Route 66-era Americana could pull a high-living crowd, so long as local backpackers don’t discover it first. Designer Paul (Underbelly, Roadtrip) Daly’s vision is - I suspect - inspired by Susie Q - she of Dale Hawkins’s sizzling 1957 swamp rock cut, the type of sound favoured here - but it’s also a play on Q, as in c-u-e; hence three stonking pool tables for Paul Newman Hustler wannabes. The aforementioned rugs (Persian) form part of a tricksy mix of 1930s tea dress pattern wallpapers, Louisiana juke joint styling, Brando butch and a Tony Manero-friendly flashing dance floor. ‘Hard liquor’ includes dirty cocktails and rock clichés Jim & Jack (Beam & Daniels). Hopefully, live music will improve on tonight’s stocky leather-clad Elvis tribute, ‘The King’-  christian name, Burger? Better not pig out on Miss Q’s US diner menu!    

180- 184 Earl’s Court Rd SW5 7370 5358

Bathhouse, City

Ever since a sadistic, hirsute, Egyptian brute masquerading as a masseur slapped me around a Cairo hamam like I was pizza dough, I’ve body-swerved Turkish baths. Lurking down a City alleyway is The Bathhouse, an exquisite example of the genre I’ll happily dip into, however. The exquisite onion-domed Victorian building, clad throughout in Ottoman and Byzantine tiles, has been converted into a bijou bar-cum-boîte that pulls a cool crowd for its steamy lates. Housed in a gilded birdcage, DJs from hip hops such as Horse Meat Disco and Superfreq spin four on the floor beats at Friday orgy, Caligula, while the Rock-A-Billy Rebels’ shenanigans shake the room on Saturdays. My week ends at Sunday’s Boom Boom Club where 1950s-style bumpy-grindy burlesque, racy cabaret and similarly orchidaceous capers rule. As improbably named sauce pots - Miss Kitty Kitty Bang Bang, Vicky Butterfly and Fanny Chance - do things that would blow your granddad’s wig off, we get rinsed on English Rose cocktails - a fruity-floral gin and pomegranate cup. Wines start at £15 and a cutesy candlelit dining room serves pizzas and fish and chips in the early evening. The masonic temple at Andaz aside, is this the Square Mile’s most exotic joint? Take the plunge and see for yourself!

The Bathhouse, 7-8 Bishopsgate Churchyard EC2 7920 9207

Upstairs at Rules, Covent Garden

The Charles - a brandy and sweet vermouth-based number I've enjoyed in numerous drinking dens -  is a prince among cocktails. In honour of our future king, I'd like to see them served in cheeky tiki Toby jugs with china lugs for handles.  At Establishment fixture, Rules which has been serving superior scran and liquid libations to Charlie's sort for over two hundred years, the drink is presented in exquisite antique frosted stemware. But the doctored hooch it contains comes as a surprise: the house recipe here calls for Tanqueray 10, absinthe, maraschino and grapefruit bitters. On balance; I prefer the new-look old boy.  London’s oldest surviving restaurant, Rules was established around the same time Marie-Antoinette - on whose pert protuberances traditional champagne coupes are modeled - was giving head for France. I can't vouch for France's current chatelaine Carla, but Garland, Gable and most of Hollywood have dined here. Their great loss was not to know its cocktail lounge for, despite the antique pose - all red plush, dark wood, Disraeli and heroically overwrought Balmoral baronial - it only opened in 2008. Overseen by patrician Boston shaker Brian Silva (see footnote) - a ringer for Ted Kennedy, only still breathing - it’s a honey. Ted/ Brian pooh-poohs fancy schmanzy molecular mixology for the classics, executed with élan and attention to detail - the unwaxed rind of a lemon fresh picked and flown in from Sicily, (in its own private jet, i imagine). With matador-like precision, he sizes up his prey before administering the coup de grâce - in my case, a stunning Sazerac built on Pappy Van Winkle 13-year-old. Bull’s-eye! Hola, Death In The Afternoon - well, 11pm-ish as far as I can recall. For Hemingway's favourite, the daiquiri, or pretty much anything else worth swallowing, Brian is your boy at this quasi-secret hideaway in Covent Garden.

UPDATE: Spring 2013. Brian Silva, now at Balthazar, has been replaced by capable Chris Lacey and both the room and his cocktails - such as remain a 'RECOMMEND'

Rule’s, 35 Maiden Lane, WC2.  7836 5314

Profile, Soho

To paraphrase the old Hi-NRG track, so many bars, so little time; that’s why I’m just getting around to Profile, the Soho haunt that quit its original site - now Pendulum - in summer for what was previously Italian restaurant Spiga. House muzak of the type that impels disco dollies to rip their shirts off blares out but Profile's barmen - pumped up to Tom of Finland proportions in accordance with some EU diktat that all gay men spend 53% of their life at the gym and that 42% of their body surface be surrendered to cyan ink tattoos - contrive not to shed theirs. The room - a glossy Stingray-style vision in jet and shades of lemon meringue pie boasts an oval bar, swivel stools and squishy booths. It looks ace and £6.50 cocktails, lad lagers and American diner nosh - with egg white omelette for mincey queens - are on target. So why, on a Thursday evening, when other bars are rammed, are there just fifteen punters? According to sweet bar manager, it jumps at weekends when downstairs dance bar Lo-Profile operates, but mid-week, ‘gay men don’t need to go out pulling anymore.’ The irony of his observation is that Profile is owned by cruising website, Gaydar. A victim of its own success? Muscle in for mojitos and stop online trawling-for-trade killing it at London’s sexiest boybar.

Profile, 84-86 Wardour Street London W1 7734 3444

Book Club, Shoreditch

The Book Club is a new hive where Shoreditch creatives - ain’t they all? - convene for a spot of cultural cross-pollination. ‘Play me that Balkan-bhangra-fusion track I adore at Polka Club Presents and I’ll enroll you in my Death Drawing Workshop, dude’. The venue is the latest wheeze from the clever clogs behind the equally happening Queen of Hoxton and its events programme is sure to pull the Ponystep posse. Wonky-fringe ‘ditch bitches rock up for soirées such as  Live Art Battle where, to hip hop anthems, budding Basquiats compete to create a future Saatchi acquisition on giant blank canvases. Of course, all this cultcha’ is a thinly veiled excuse to get ratted which, at the official launch party, we do on cocktails Jolly Roger and Shoreditch Twat - the latter presumably a tribute to the pretentious prat my pal is lusting after through Tiger beer goggles. 'Roger that and you won't feel so jolly tomorrow' I caution, sternly. The joint  was previously Home and tweaks aside, it still feels a lot like Home to me. No bad thing, really. All-day eats are served at what looks like B&Q wallpaper pasting tables and Book Club’s brill beats cover anything from funk to the Fab Four - Paperback Writer, natch.

The Book Club 100 - 106 Leonard St EC2A 7684 8618

Supperclub, Notting Hill

Launched in Amsterdam in 1992, ‘dining concept’ Supperclub has since colonised cities as far flung as LA & Istanbul. The concept? A nightclub/performance arts space wherein a £50 four-course tasting menu ‘with a twist ‘is served to guests reclining on ‘beds’ in the pretentiously named Salle Neige – a futuristic white space, it feels like a sperm's-eye view of the inside of a used condom. At tonight's launch, the crowds are 30 deep at a bar besieged. Staff have the 'Wow' factor - as in What Oh What were they thinking about when they made the poor sods drag up like rejects from a London College Of fashion Show circa 1991? The chef’s favourite book might just be an atlas – hence tandoori frogs’ legs, Thai aubergine & coconut broth, lamb tagine, & a chocolate, praline & orange pizza- I mean, would you? Drinks are available in two 'sumptuous' bars -Kim & Aggy could get a gig wiping their sticky surfaces clean - while a wraparound gallery offers a vantage point as Salle Neige morphs into full-on DJ bacchanalia. Time alone will tell if London will embrace a concept that is not nearly as fresh as it pretends. Open for Sunday brunch, the venue also boasts a brutal urban-grime ‘smoking terrace’, reminiscent of a Khmer Rouge prison cell.

Draft House, Clapham Junction

At new Battersea venture, The Draft House, the clue is in the name. Shiny spuming spouts dispense seventeen - count ‘em! - tap beers, yours to sample in third-of-a-pint measures before committing. For around half the price of a Coke, investigate two from Sambrook’s, a Wandsworth micro-brewery whose owner, an ex-City suit, took a winning punt on copper, the hue of hip, hoppy stars Wandle and Junction. Other standouts include smart Austrian strudel, Schremser Bio Roggenbier and couthy Scots, Deuchars and Harviestoun Bitter & Twisted. Top marks too for a catholic army that press gangs into service bottled belters such as pride of Erin, O’Hara’s Red, Tasmanian devil, James Boag’s, and tasty Manx cat, Dr. Okells IPA. Part European cafe, part canteen with open galley kitchen, the casual decor mixes pared back and functional (shame about the lurid Dipsy green chairs) with Woodstock-era poster art. Reasonably-priced comfort food is a match for the beers; an all-day menu pimps posh country house-party hangover cure, kedgeree, as well as bavette and addictive hand-cut chips, potted meats, croques and creamy cheeses. Factor in good claret, decent Scotch and staff that actually give a damn and Northcote Road’s smug Cath Kidston classes finally have a bar worth crowing about.

The Draft House, 94 Northcote Rd SW11 7924 1814

Question Mark Bar, Stoke Newington

Exiting the station into dark unfamiliar surroundings, I approach two hipsters wearing what looks like vintage Yohji for directions. It turns out to be an hasidic Jewish couple taking the night air but in fashion forward Stoke Newington, who was to know? Not unsurprisingly, they haven’t heard of the Question Mark Bar, a new crèche for the bairns that made Stokie’s old Moustache bar such a hot destination last year. I discover it below Mc Quinn’s pool hall. As with the Moustache, it’s a pokey basement with a weeny bar attached. Entry is free and Turkish - Cypriot? Greek? (Cute!) - staff flogging bargain bottled San Miguel will even rustle up a cocktail if you will. Decor is basic - its walls plastered in cartoon comic strips -and seating is scant; no big deal for coolios channelling anything from Angie Watts meets Agy Deyn to Agadoo and jiggling to off the hook electro beats and indie remixes. Jumping the sardine can, I join the Smirts lighting up and flirting out back. An androgynous early Patti Smith tribute introduces me to her charge Marc (‘with a C not a K’), an over-sharing campy-trampy twig who informs me - like I care - ‘I’m not gay you know’ No, mate; you’re just out with your beard at the Moustache marc II.

Question Mark Bar, 129 Stoke Newington High Street, N16. 7682 1346

Aqua Spirit, Soho

A glowering lobby’s blood red drapes suggest Lucifer’s kingdom. A snappy gatekeeper, Cerberus-in-a-suit, determines who may enter its portals. My devilish charm swinging it, he summons a lift. In the twilight glow of an ante-chamber five floors above waits an Amazonian - all yang to the hound of Hades’ yin. ‘Welcome!’ Monumental doors slide open and, in the gloaming beyond, twinkles Aqua Spirit, the destination bar that serves Aquas Nuevo and Kyoto, stereo foodie troughs inspired, respectively, by Spain and er, Kyoto? Conceived in Hong Kong and plonked atop what was Dickins & Jones, some reviews have been hellish. But first, the grand tour. Down interminable mirrored halls we wander, half-glimpsing freakish sights in the Stygian gloom; a raging bull turned to stone and a hideous man-beast with the molten face of Heidi Fleiss. Damn! It’s my own reflection. Lured to a rooftop terrace bar, on e of three, we’re told it’s shut until Spring. Thanks, guys! Fi-na-lly, back at the main bar - a glowing circular pavilion where a surly satyr, with a half Mohican haircut that looks like an accident at student night at a provincial Albanian barber's, deigns to serve us. Confounding low expectations of a venue that’s nowhere near as groovy as it reckons, Jade Verdita - a rummy green tea and yuzu concoction served with wasabi peas - is a TKO. ‘Tastes like Molton Brown handwash’ grimaces chum. Pah! I’m hooked; soul sold to Satan, I work through a universally heavenly list.

Aqua Spirit, 30 Argyll St. W1 7478 0540

Citizen Smith, Putney (CLOSED now LOST

On the basis that Clapham’s Lost Society and its Battersea bro’, Lost Angel, are worth negotiating our erratic transport system for, I risk the District Line with its ‘signaling problem at Earl’s Court’ to Putney for a Peroni and a pizza at those bars’ new sibling, a postmodern joint called Citizen Smith. It’s a curious choice of name; wasn’t Tooting, not Putney, home to the comedy TV Trotskyist revolutionary of that ilk played by Robert Lindsay? According to the blurb, CS is somewhere for ‘the everyday Joe Blog’s (sic) to drink in.’ Although Peroni isn’t offered, Joe can slake his thirst on useful alternatives, not least palatable Yanks Sierra Nevada Pale Ale on draught and Liberty and Brooklyn Brown from a decent range of bottles. Cocktails, from £6.50, are not your stock suburban alco-flops. Order Port Daiquiri or The Fruit of 43 Virgins - a name that sounds worryingly like summat a suicide bomber might fancy as his last earthly pleasure. Or perhaps not; surely the fat slug of proscriptive vodka therein would debar him from paradise? Pizzas, if not quite heavenly, are about worth the dough although a £9.50 ‘Herbivore’ is a chewy chore. Full marks for novelty: bacon, black pudding, sausage, egg, cherry toms and scallion on thin crust? Up the revolution!

160 Putney High Street SW15 8780 2235

March 2013 Venue is now LOST - part of Lost Society chain

HUNter 486 at the Arch, London, Marylebone

HUNter 486 at the Arch London inhabits a smart new W1 townhouse hotel. A reference to the telephone exchange that served Marylebone back when calls were still connected by operators with accents that could cut the glass my HUNtini cocktail comes in, it’s the official handle of its bar/ restaurant. As names go, it’s a mouthful and about as arch as it gets. ‘Arch’ might also describe interior design possibly inspired by, and surely better executed at, rival ‘boutique bolt holes’ such as Firmdale’s Haymarket Hotel. Bold stripes, clashing patterns, graffiti as art, twee geegaws and cutesy objets, it reminds me of an over-styled dame on Ladies Day at Ascot. Doesn’t ‘chic’ mean taking off the last accessory you added before you venture out? Waltzer-style dark leather booths in the ’salon de champagne’ are draped in wraparound gauze. ‘A resident fortune teller?’ muses date, hopefully. Strip away the faffy décor and as a bar, the rest stacks up: at upwards of £7.50 cocktails served in its ‘martini library’ are reasonable if you ignore the naff names - MarTEAni, groan! And there's decent nibbles, comfy seating, flickering fires and sweet staff. ‘We see it as a destination bar.’ Good luck ! For Arch, as in Marble, is a destination not much on my radar. Drop in if you visit Primark on Oxford Street some day.

50 Great Cumberland Place W1 7724 0486

King's Cross Social Club, King's Cross

At recent arrival King’s Cross Social Club, my cocktail’s advertised base is substituted without explanation or apology. Four Roses is not Maker’s Mark. Sure, they’re both bourbon but if I’m paying for Paul Smith, I don’t want Reiss sneaked into the carrier bag when I'm not looking. As it is, the choice of spirit is academic; drowned in vermouth, my drink is less Perfect Manhattan more Hell’s Kitchen, as in one-time dodgy New York ‘hood as opposed to something stirred at rant-y Ramsay’s fair hand. It’s a waste of good bourbon, not to mention the better part of eight quid but what to expect of inexperienced staff that might be related to Fawlty Towers’s Manuel? Do I require ‘apple’ in a dry martini? What’s Spanish for ‘on what planet?’ The pub-cum-bar’s interior - all leather sofas and flea market swag - is pure Noughties design cliché. A flier promises Nu folk gigs and screenings of trash ‘masterpieces’ such as Death Race 2000 but tonight’s entertainment is a DJ whose playlist might have been cribbed from a student union jukebox. Franz Ferdinand and Groove Is In The Heart. Groove sure ain’t in the room, lees-than-Dee-lite-ful punters dismissed by the date as ‘the blah leading the bland.’ Toying with meze no worse than from a Harringay Turkish supermarket’s tins, we debate which superior King’s Cross social deserves our dollar.

2 Britannia St. WC1 7278 4252

Hobby Horse, Dalston

Any new bar that can persuade Pam Hogg to DJ - as the peerless purveyor of silver-spacesuits-to-the-deeply-hip recently did - is, de facto, happening. When it’s also located in downtown Dalston - still the centre of the universe, according to American style mags that haven't yet cottoned on to Plaistow's delights - it’s clearly the place to be. Picturing the look on Anna Wintour’s notoriously stony dial were she ever to park up her bony Burberry-clad bahookey at The Hobby Horse keeps me amused while chef rustles up our bargain scran - bangers, grouty mash and shrapnel masquerading as garden peas. Set by the Grand Union canal - whence its rickety furniture was presumably rescued - and painted a pukey puce, the Dorchester, it ain’t: I’m thinking more pint and a pickled ferret-style lounge in some clapped-out, cloth cap, County Durham dump. What the Prada classes will imagine are clothes fit only to sign-on in, the assembled punters perceive as cutting edge threads. The hooch is cheap but the Hobby Horse’s staff are about as on the case as My Little Pony. Me: ‘a Bloody Mary please.’ He: ‘no tomato juice.’ Me (pointing at carton) ’and that is?’ He: ‘tomato juice?’ Dalston: you gotta love it... unless you live in Chelsea in which case you haven’t read this far.

The Hobby Horse, 281 Kingsland Rd E2 07916 119 541

Kanaloa, Farringdon

The name ‘Kanaloa’ might suggest a German supermarket’s cheapo homage to Kalhua, but down Holborn Viaduct way, it’s the name of a new club/ bar from Girls Aloud’s Sarah Harding and the well-connected blades behind Mahiki, Polynesian theme bar of choice for posh nobs and pap-happy slebs. Although the interior - all bamboo, cane and on-the-wonga Tonga kitsch - is a fair reproduction of the W1 original, the mix of City boys and suburban Cheryl, Kimberley and Nadine ciphers  - note, no Nicola tributes -  lacks the high octane glam of the Mayfair tiki set's set. Let's call it ‘Tiki Maxx’. Bonkers cocktails such as Champagne Jellyfish - bubbles, lime and rum with mint mock caviar presented on a Chinese serving spoon - and all manner of ‘fireworks and hullabaloo’ delivered flaming to table in camp customised bowls, are typical of a theatrical list that scores on price, imagination and content: hopefully, the enthusiastic Ms Harding didn’t sample the whole shebang at one sitting. Service is South Sea island friendly and dim sum and a range of beach blanket bites, such as soft shell crab, adequate. As night kicks in, lights dim and a mix of glam rock, hip hop and soul keeps the party-’til-3-am posse active. Whether the Girls Aloud wannabes end their evening with a traditional Hawaiian lei, I’m not around to tell. 

18 Lime Office Court, Shoe Lane, EC4 tel 7842 0620

Apples and Pears, Whitechapel

At funky East End newbie, Apples & Pears - that's Cockney rhyming slang for hairy mares in too-tight flares or summat - rookie shakermaker gets the benefit of my pop-up martini masterclass after his effort, cribbed from a manual secreted behind the counter, turns out all Marti Pellow. That's Wet Wet Wet, not bone dry as requested. Housed in a former phone shop and imaginatively converted to a brief that likely read ‘Jack The Ripper meets Heidi in Chas (or Dave’s) auntie’s parlour’, this dinky dive ain’t half Mum & Dad; that’s ‘bad’ in local patois, I believe. With cocktail boy’s martinis now sorted, better rehearsed jobs such as R.C.R Kray - ‘a couple of rum ‘uns mixed up with Coke lime and spices’ - are far from criminal at £7.50.  Wines range from Petticoat Lane (sinkable reds from £12) to City Banker: Cristal is a snip £250, so treat yourself to a few bottles on the taxpayer, guys; you deserve it! Food is heavy on pie & mash, with the emphasis on ‘heavy’. Cunning! An evil steak and Stilton boulder leaves me too full to waddle off elsewhere. Downstairs, a cool cavern invites disco dancing and midnight mischief but I’m told Tower Hamlets has filed A&P’s late-night licence application under ‘red tape’. Perhaps they’re too caught up in ‘Hijabgate’, the controversy surrounding the ludicrous arches planned for Brick Lane?

Apples and Pears,  26 Osborn Street E1 7247 7717