Friday, 16 December 2011

Who Do I Have To $%!€ To Get A Drink Around Here?

By Imogen Rowland

A wise drinker once lamented: ‘Who do I have to €&*$ to get a drink around here?’

Now, I’m not in the habit of compromising myself in such a manner, but pop me in a hot, crowded bar, throat drier than the Arabian Desert, and I might just start to change my tune.

London bars boast some of the best cocktails in the world, but waiting for them is one of life’s little trials. The Guinness advert told us good things come to those that wait, and I can see its point – never does a cake taste sweeter than when you’ve loyally watched it bake, gazing through the oven door pitifully for 45 minutes – but there’s a limit, right?

They say that us Brits love to queue, but I think that’s a bit of a misnomer. We love a good queue, not the queuing process itself (we’re not complete nutters) but just the polite, orderly fashion in which a good queue is managed, the very wartime cordiality that says ‘we’re all in it together’.

Bar queues in London don’t tend to be like that. Apart from the odd occasion when someone concedes that you were indeed there first and the trusty barkeep should tend to your thirst before their own (I’ve done it; trust me, you feel up there with Ghandi on the ‘noble and selfless’ scale), manners are not always at their best at the bar. To add insult to injury, it’s often the best bars that prove so popular that the queues get ridiculous.

Take old faithfuls like The Defectors Weld, Shepherd’s Bush’s answer to the Queen Vic. The cocktails are great, the people cool (the Beeb’s just down the road, dharling, this is media-mania), and the décor’s decent. But hit it at happy hour when cocktails are buy one, get one for £1, and you’ll be waiting a good 15 minutes for your raspberry collins; delicious, but slow going.
I went to a bar launch a couple of weeks ago in the heart of Fitzrovia. The Lucky Pig is a new basement bar on Clipstone Street modelled on a twenties drinking den, all art nouveau fittings and antiques galore, with an upright piano just waiting for someone to break into song.
The cocktails were fabulous – in particular the Southside Royal, a heady mix of Bombay Sapphire, mint, cucumber and Champagne – but at one point my companion disappeared for a total of 26 minutes in an attempt to get a drink; not exactly conducive to conversation or celebration.
How are we to overcome such waiting woes, fellow drinkers? Find the answer to that and you’ll be rich (and permanently tipsy). The only plus side, if there is one, to these hideous delays is the odd occasion when the queue is a happy, resigned one. Then you know that, like your good self, these people are in for the long haul, and know that the wait is worth the first glug. When – and I admit it happens rarely – people are empathetic to your predicament, all clamouring for a Cosmo themselves, and therefore willing to bond over the trial.
So next time you’re stuck in the eternal queue, try to strike up a conversation with your neighbour. You may not get served any quicker, but you may just find a distraction to help you while away the hours awaiting the elusive drink, and maybe even a new drinking partner to boot.