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Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Avalon, Shoreditch (CLOSED see BARRIO EAST)

The name - Avalon - suggests this Shoreditch bar/ club/ live music venue will be a Pre-Raphaelite vision of the court of King Arthur. Arthur Daley more like, based on furniture that might have been snapped-up by the dodgy dealer in a clearance sale at a convicted Balkan warlord’s villa. Naff baroque tables, crushed velvet upholstery and silvered thrones are bizarrely juxtaposed with decor that implies a Chinese restaurant in Chernobyl. Lit red, punters assume a weird radioactive sweet and sour sauce glow. But like the similarly tacky Punk in Soho, such disparate duff-ness gels, creating a bonkers backdrop for the debauchery expected of its target ‘Ditch bitch style junkie clientele that, at tonight’s press party, includes an androgynous colossus wearing a lobster as a fascinator. His look is more doolally than Dali and with promised dim sum slow to appear, I’m tempted to seize the Mad Hatter’s crustacean and boil the bleeder in a hot tub downstairs. Hot tub? Oh, yes. Currently unfinished, a heroically seedy basement - think Dirk Diggler’s Boogie Nights filmed in a Burmese brothel - will incorporate mosaic plunge pools and similar spa malarkey. 'Drinks? Oh, go on, then! Two Blue Lagoons and one of your signature ‘Karma Sip-tra’ martinis, please.'  As we leave, a queue forms outside;  Avalon is already the stuff of local legend.

141 -143 Shoreditch High St E1    tel 3222 0530    

Friday, 16 April 2010

Luxx, Mayfair

I like my night-clubs hot and horny like the original Ghetto, or louche and leftfield like Black Gardenia, both annihilated by the voracious Jabberwocky that is Crossrail. Where to go? Not Luxx! Not that this new, rammed-to-the-rafters hedonistic pit sucks, it’s more that happy house -even with a bongo player drumming over it -  and Cristal rosé at £800 won’t impress the peculiars I hang out with. So who will ‘get’ Luxx?  According to affable head honcho, Luca Maggiore, not the ‘glamour’ models, Big Brother bozos or Wags that infect its rivals. Sounds good to me. When, as happened to me in one W8 more cash-than-dash boîte, you’re brusquely moved on because ‘a VIP will need your table’ only to be told said big shot is Teddy Sherringham, any cred you aspire to is shot for being in such an wholly unsuitable place. Dark intimate and open to non-members, Luxx draws a mix of Guccified continentals, bonused-up bankers and bright-eyed things of unfathomable means. If splashy Ibiza gaffs appeal, go!  But go carefully; a hard-to-spot step in the under-lit dance-floor/ catwalk is out to recreate Naomi Campbell’s notorious tumble at Westwood. Laying into a magnum of Grey Goose (at someone else’s expense), I yearn for the days when its £400 cost bought a red-eye weekend to Manhattan’s Paradise Garage. Now, there was a hot club!   
3 New Burlington St W1 7297 2893

Monday, 12 April 2010

Behind Bars: London Pubs With A Criminal Past

For the majority of publicans, the most dastardly deed likely to be perpetrated on their premises will be some poor soul lighting up in the loos. But take a good look at your fellow drinkers: could those shady characters deep in conversation at a corner table be hatching a murky plan? Keith Barker-Main takes you on a pub crawl to make your flesh crawl, introducing a selection of pubs that have entertained some of London’s most notorious criminals.


image : groundog at

The Blind Beggar 

337 Whitechapel Rd E1

Although Bobby Moore was briefly to become the landlord of The Blind Beggar, in 1966 he had an England World Cup-winning team to captain. In the final, Bobby’s boys scored four times, while at the Whitechapel pub, an entirely different score was about to be settled. At the height of their reign of terror, news reached the Kray twins that rival gang member George Cornell was holding court at the Beggar. Cornell had committed the serious crime of insulting one of the brothers, calling Ronnie Kray a ‘big fat poof’. To the sound of The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore) playing on the jukebox, Ronnie strutted in. "Well, well, look who’s here," he smirked, before dispatching Cornell with a single shot to the head. Nowadays, East End hospitality runs to a shot or two of Bell’s or a pint of London Pride or Old Speckled Hen at this
family-friendly affair.

The Plumbers Arms 

14 Lower Belgrave St SW1

Customers supping Wadsworth 6X or Bombardier at this genteel Belgravia boozer are unlikely to witness anything more sinister than chinless wonders in pinstripes downing gin and tonics. But on a dank November night in 1974, normal service was interrupted by a commotion. Staggering into the saloon bar in her blood-spattered night attire, Veronica Lucan, estranged wife of the seventh Earl of Lucan, announced that her childrens’ nanny, Sandra Rivett, lay murdered in the family home along the street. In the darkened house, the diminutive Lady Lucan had also been attacked, escaping by  showing typical Sloaney sang froid, disabling her assailant via a sharp squeeze of his testicles. Whether it was Lucan who had ballsed up his wife’s murder is a question that Scotland Yard has still to put to the vanished earl. 'Lucky' Lucan fled and is long-since presumed dead or living in Belize, Barbados or Bournemouth according to which pundit you poll.  

The Captain Kidd

108 Wapping High St E1

An attractive wharf-side warehouse revamp of this ancient hostelry belies its grim past. Now a Samuel Smith house with an Anglo-French dining room upstairs, its name celebrates the Scottish pirate who may have been the inspiration for Pirates of the Caribbean’s Captain Jack Sparrow. After his capture and trial on five counts of piracy on the high seas and one of murder, he was paraded along Wapping High Street on 23rd May 1701, then hung - twice, the rope snapped on the first attempt first  -and left on display swinging from from a gibbet over the Thames at the adjacent execution dock. Kidd’s tarred and feathered corpse was then hung in chains at Tilbury as a warning to would-be pirates. It is also claimed that a modern-day rogue, Barings Bank trader Nick Leeson, used to drink here too.

The Magdala 

2A South Hill Park NW3

As you enjoy your pint of Greene King IPA at this tarted-up local, consider this: had Ruth Ellis lived in France, would her place in the history books have been assured? It was the peroxide blonde’s misfortune to fall foul of the law in 1955 conservative Britain. Separated from her husband, Ellis shacked up with David Blakely, an equally complicated character. Their messy, violent affair deteriorated until on Easter Sunday, Ellis fired six shots at Blakely outside The Magdala. Despite a public outcry, she was hanged - the last woman in Britain to do so. A French paper reported her fate thus: ‘Passion in England, except for cricket and betting, is always regarded as a shameful disease.' 

The Star Tavern 

6 Belgrave Mews West SW1

Perhaps it was this quintessential 19th century London pub’s location – in a delightful mews surrounded by exclusive addresses – that inspired a bunch of get-rich-quick villains. For it is alleged the Great Train Robbery was plotted in the Star’s upstairs dining room. Today’s roast beef and fish and chips were probably also on the menu back in 1963, when Britain’s biggest ever heist took place. A gang held up the overnight Glasgow-Euston Post Office train, escaping with £50m in today’s money. That buys a fair few pints of Fuller’s Discovery or ESB, even at Belgravia prices.

The Spaniards Inn

 Spaniards Rd NW3

Watch American visitors’ faces light up at this ramshackle coaching inn on Hampstead Heath. Not only is it a Hollywood dream of ye olde England, but it also comes steeped in history: Dickens and Byron drank here; Keats composed Ode To A Nightingale in its garden. But which former patron would Johnny Depp choose to play? Dick Turpin, I wager - the notorious highwayman's pistol hangs in the bar. When he lodged here as a boy, he was no doubt planning his future career as he watched stagecoaches pulling up opposite.

The Pembroke Arms

 261 Old Brompton Rd SW5

This decent SW5 gastropub was formerly a notorious den called The Coleherne, a magnet for the S&M leather fraternity, their butch Tom of Finland poise often traduced by lisping diction that owed more to Kenneth Williams. Through the years, these premises have served no fewer than three serial killers, gay men gone rogue who preyed on drinkers within. Pull up a stool at the large U-shaped counter, order a pint of Fosters (or something better) and contemplate the shocking tale of Dennis Nilsen, whose 15 victims’ dismembered corpses were discovered blocking his drains. Shiver at the deeds of Colin Ireland, a hulking homophobe who asphyxiated five men before being caught on CCTV at Charing Cross station, luring one of the unfortunates to his grisly fate. The third candidate for the Chamber of Horrors was young Michael Lupo. Lupo was a good-looking charmer, a fashionable figure around town whose Filofax - to the horror of the CID - was discovered to contain numerous VIP's telephone numbers including, apparently, Princess Diana's private line. Lupo was someone I vaguely knew from the London club scene. He was also a friend of my then flatmate who, we discovered when the shit hit the fan, had invited him for drinks at our shared Battersea apartment – after Lupo had strangled the first of four male victims! It's said Lupo's spree was his revenge against gay men in general, when he discovered he was HIV positive. One of the victims, whose body was discovered in an Earl's Court basement, was an unfortunate street drinker who asked him for a light. Lupo subsequently succumbed to  AIDS while serving his sentence.

The Old Bank Of England 

194 Fleet St EC4

Marble Italianate grandeur, Corinthian columns, glistening brass chandeliers, 18th century-style murals, swagged drapes and ornate decoration at this Fullers house are a joy to behold, as is a carved central mahogany island bar typical of the Victorian era. Once the Bank of England’s legal arm, it is now favoured by office workers and tourists. From a mezzanine lounge gallery, watch them tucking into steak and ale pies. Then give them indigestion by revealing that the former kitchens below were once run by a Miss Lovett, whose locally sourced organic meat was purveyed by boyfriend Sweeney Todd, the demon barber of Fleet Street.

Prince Arthur 

80 Eversholt St NW1

No matter what shade of green the frontage is painted – recently both fluorescent and forest green – the tables outside this easy-going Euston local are a great place to dawdle over a pint of Greene King IPA. The Arthur has a place in modern history. In 1998, Gregory Mills, a one-eyed 28-year-old Australian former barman, was stopped for speeding in America. The Colorado cop, recognising the name from Interpol’s website, called London, to discover that Mills was wanted for questioning over the fatal stabbing of the pub’s Scots landlady, Carol Fyfe, in a £2,500 robbery that went wrong. Extradited to the UK, Mills was convicted of her murder, marking the first time the internet had been useful in such a way.

The Ten Bells 

84 Commercial St E1

No round-up of London crime would be complete without a mention of Jack the Ripper. Although a sympathetic restoration has made The Ten Bells a magnet for Shoreditch trendies today, in 1888 it was favoured by prostitutes such as Mary Kelly, who, along with six other working girls, had their throats cut by the Ripper. Order a pint of Bombardier and mull over the various suspects in an unsolved crime wave that stopped as abruptly as it had started: Queen Victoria’s grandson Eddy, author Lewis Carroll and painter Walter Sickert.

Editorial feature from Square Meal Lifestyle Magazine Autumn 2007

Take The London Nightclub Quiz

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 nightclub9 - 587469_23798251.jpgquick 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 inCamden, 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

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

nightclubs3 - Movida_2009.jpgMostly 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 aWAG 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 VIProom packed with (available) talent. So head to:
Café de Paris
Disco 24
Funky Buddha
Vendome Mayfair is also a useful address to have.

Mostly Bsnightclubs8 - Whiskey03_Bar_and_quaich.jpg

(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

nightclubs 6 - Taman_Gang.jpgMostly 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:
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 Londonthat we’ve never even heard of

Mostly Dsnightclubs 7 - VIP_01.jpg

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
Parties by Trailer Trash or Bugged Out

nightclubs 4 - STONED_PONY_0111.jpg1.jpgMostly 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:
Duckie at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern
The Hoxton Pony
Passing Clouds Foundation
Dalston Superstore (On Facebook)
And at one-off events on

Editorial feature from Square Meal Guide 2010