Party Of The Week: Costa plenty as the literati get on down

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The Independent Culture

No sooner had Sebastian Barry collected his Costa Book of the Year award and the literary world had licked its lips after eating its way through the four-course meal in the InterContinental Hotel's ballroom than scores of glamorously dressed guests began tramping down to the Hyde Park hotel's trendy Cookbook Cafe for some after-show nightcaps.

The room was soon crammed with revellers who had standing room only as the live DJ and trumpeter ramped up the already festival atmosphere. Perhaps it was the gratitude that even the rich and famous will feel over free food and drink in the midst of a murky recession, but the bar was crowded out by those seeking sustenance from European beers and wines.

Mariella Frostrup glittered in a black evening gown, while the newscaster Emily Maitlis giggled like a schoolgirl as Andrew Neil held forth. The former children's television presenter Floella Benjamin made quite an entrance in stunning white (complete with a pineapple-style hairdo). Various former television celebrities, including Anneka Rice, lurked in corners of the hotel. Ian Hislop sauntered in with his wife, the writer Victoria Hislop, who had sat on the judging panel, and both stopped to have a friendly word with the writer and 2008 Booker judge Louise Doughty.

The space was filled with winners and losers, with Matthew Parris, the chair of the judges, appearing to bestride the room. Barry may have come out as a "disappointing Irishman" ("I'm not much of a drinker," he admitted), but all bar him appeared to be lost in the hedonistic joys of a good old literary knees-up, with much fond glass-raising for their writing comrade John Updike, news of whose death from lung cancer had been revealed only hours earlier.