Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Sober in London: 10 Forms Of Distraction When Teetotal At The Bar

Beating the temptation of alcohol is all about finding the right diversion at a bar, by Christian Rose-Day.

It’s now March and my attempt to stay entirely sober until after the London Marathon in late April is becoming increasingly more cumbersome as Spring begins to douse every pub beer garden and alfresco roof terrace in glorious sunshine. My love for mocktails is already waning and I am starting to resent fruit.

Distraction is the key to staying dry; keep the mind occupied and it wont have time to ponder the importance of a gin and tonic or the power of a pint of craft ale [easy Christian, stay with us!]. No easy task to complete when the possibility of hanging with one’s mates down the local pub or in a central London cocktail bar is highly likely. Having almost completed the entire first series of Kevin Spacey’s House of Cards drama on Netflix, I am now putting the task of keeping me entertained (non-alcoholically) and distracted in the hands of London bars instead.
Sexy Ladies Take Their Clothes Off
Sex, food, and generally having a bit of a laugh are, for me, probably the top 3 forms of distraction when consumed by the idea of drinking alcohol. So slamming all three together into one nifty basement restaurant is just nipple-tassel-tastic. I’ve been to Volupte in The City before, where I witnessed the best burlesque act I’ve ever seen: a lady called Ginger Blush who was half sultry, sexy goddess with a perfect 10 body and a mane of red hair, and half slapstick comedienne who had me choking on my afternoon tea finger sandwiches with laughter.
A Bizet In My Soup
If, like me, you’re more of a Classic FM than a Radio 3 opera fan, then you’ll want the greatest hits, not the complete works of some obscure Hungarian composer you’ve never even heard of. Enjoying oneself does not require the consumption of alcoholic beverages when visiting Bel Canto restaurant near Lancaster Gate because the distraction for the evening is live opera, as sung by the professionally trained waiting staff who will, after serving the food, suddenly break into all those Donizetti and Mozart tunes you love, and even that one off of the British Airways ad. Teetotalers be warned though; when they start singing Verdi’s ‘Drinking Song’ from La Traviata (you know the one, it goes like this) glasses of Prosecco are handed round and you’re encouraged to join in. Time your trip to loo wisely therefore.
A Load Of Old Boules
The French bar, Baranis, in The City of London allegedly has the only indoor petanque court in a bar in the UK. Chalk your name on the board and let’s get playing then.
In Need Of A Wii
Jetlag sports bar in Fitzrovia is an easy stroll from Great Portland and Warren Street tube stations and primarily acts as a central London bar for live Sky Sports action whenever I’m in need of some Champions League football, 6 Nations rugby or Formula 1 action. However, the addition of Mario Kart et al on the Nintendo Wii, beamed through a huge HD cinema screen, means I can hang with my buddies and not get rat-arsed in the process. It doesn’t help my cause that Jetlag gives 6 bottles of Helles Lager and Tavern Ales away for £15 though. Gah! Click here for more info.

Sit, Or Stand, And Spin
Actually, if you want to get technical, the game of fussball usually comes with a ‘no spinning allowed’ rule, but Bar Kick’s relaxed level of table football is hardly bothered, unless you fancy your chances in one of the monthly tournaments. Again, a great bar for footie fans (drinking or not drinking) what with 3D matches being screened downstairs each week.
The Wing Of Fire
Being a professional restaurant critic, I’ve always fancied myself as a bit of a demon eater. Ever since I won a sausage eating competition in North London years ago, I’ve always assumed I was unbeatable at speed eating. And then I took part in The Exhibit’s chicken wing eating competition in which (I believe the term is) I got served (my woeful attempts can be seen in the video above). Teams of two consume a basket of chicken wings whilst the clock is ticking. The quickest teams go through the next round. By the end of the four rounds, if you and your teammate are still alive, you’ll have eaten your way through 40 chicken wings, some of which may have been doused in Extra Hot Ring Of Fire sauce. If you win, you can claim a £30 voucher. Next competition: Thursday 4th April 8pm; £10 per team of two; enter using this booking form.
Catch A Classic
The Gorringe pub in Tooting has recently had the mother of all refurbishments and is a delightful hub of evening entertainment for many of south Londoners drinkers and non-drinkers. Notably for the latter, however, is the new basement cinema which screens movies for free every once in a while. Expect to see cult movie classics like Breakfast At Tiffany's and Bladerunner, alongside recent big screen award winners like James Bond’s Skyfall. To keep up to date with what’s being shown, check out their Facebook page.
Wiff Waff Ping Pong
Table tennis is making a comeback, and, taking lead from The Book Club, two bars opened last year in London with the specific intention of providing non-drinkers (and drinkers alike) with a bat, a ball and a table. See Bounce bar in The City and Ping bar in Earls Court.

Play with Clay, Pimp My Shoes and Construct Lego Robots
Knitting is not the only playtime diversion at Drink Shop Do bar in King’s Cross and there are a multitude of non-alcoholic fun things to do at the bar. Deciding which one to do first is probably the most difficult task.

Gone Swinging
Monday is such a boring, onerous task of a day; unless you look towards the light and go swinging, that is. Kicking the week off with a bang is Swing at The Light, a simultaneous dual swing dance class upstairs at the aforementioned bar in The City teaching Balboa and Lindy Hop. Beginners start at 7.30pm, brave intermediates at 8.20pm. Classes are £8 each, and from 9pm there’s a club night so you can show of your new talent on the dancefloor. Vintage-retro attire will be appreciated.

If the above distractions fail to inspire my sobriety to last until at least the end of the week, I might instead just seek solace in tranquility and meditation by staring at the exotic fish in the aquarium at The Rainforest Cafe whilst sipping on a MOCKTAIL.


  1. Sorry to turn this into a Q&A, and feel free to ignore me if you'd like, but I don't suppose on yr sober travels you came across anywhere that would be good for running a sober club? I'm looking to try out a night, but finding somewhere that has the soundsystem and dance space but not the bar, and doesn't charge double to make up for it, is pretty tight.

    1. Hey Angelica, had a very similar idea myself. Want to join forces? I'm on Twitter @kylemonk. Have already got some ideas and rough marketing plan. Let's talk.

    2. Hi Kyle, thanks for the response, but a year or so later I'm actually already set up, and it's more a (QLGBT) community thing rather than a commercial venture - we're over at @cyoa_ldn / .

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