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Thursday, 2 September 2010

Neo, Smithfield

I desperately want to enthuse about Neo, if only because of the Barbican bar’s solitaire diamond waitress. But how can I love lacklustre? Clocking a velvet draped stairwell that suggests ‘casino’ or ‘lap-dancing within’, my heart sinks. Then, there’s the windowless claustrophobia of Neo’s basement location: all moodily lit pink granite, gauche chocolate panne velvet chairs and a stygian black mirrored bar, some effort has been made here, but ‘meh!’ I imagine the designer’s pitch. ‘Think texture! Think slick metrosexy luxe! Think retro, yet contemporary!’ What I’m thinking is ‘mausoleum in Hendon Cemetery’, a suburban club owner’s final rave set to a chapel of rest’s best house muzak CD. So, Neo’s cocktail list comes as a pleasant surprise - sea breeze and sex on the beach ousted by classy classics, aviation, picador and martinez, the forerunner of the modern martini. Alas, at £8.50, an astringent brandy crusta falls far short of the charm of the original 1850s New Orleans lemon-topped fancy. We order 2-4-1 pizzas, my quattro stagioni less Vivaldi, more Viv at Aldi, they’re as bland as our fellow punters, a gaggle of giggly Sex and the City (lite, lite, lite) office girls . Since it opened in May, there’s been not a single peep from my ‘have you been to…?’ cocktail coterie. ‘Is it any wonder?’ snaps my mate, branding it a ‘Neo-death experience.’ 
14 - 17 Carthusian Street EC1 7726 8925   http://www.neobarbican.com