Notes for successful central-London bars: don't worry too much about the decor; just put a bouncer on the door. There is nothing the British like better than a good queue. You have to queue to get into Alphabet. The horror. Standing 20-deep among the bin-liners of Beak Street while passers-by cast you pitying looks and whisper the word "sad" to each other. The pub opposite pullulated in Hogarthian manner, dozens of drunks pointing at us and laughing. Snarling, I hunched further into my coat and kicked an old beer tin. My mobile rang: one of the savages who had insisted we come here. "Where are you?" "In a queue." "Where?" "Outside this festering bar." "I can't see you." I realised that I was hearing his voice in stereo, hung up and greeted him in person.
People who go to Alphabet tend to have mobile phones. Given the crowds, it's the only practical way to communicate. I swear, by the bar, I saw a bloke ring his friends, huddled in a corner by the plate-glass window, to take their orders.
It's hard to tell what this place looks like, given that every spare inch of floor and wall space is taken up by someone humming "The In Crowd", but it's reasonably easy to spot the people it's pitched at: only people within three years of drinking age can look good under their lights. The basement is kinder on the skin, has a neat blow-up of the A-Z (get the pun?) on the floor and chairs low enough to let you kiss your knees. The drinks aren't too bad for this sort of venue, though; in a world where six quid is standard for a G&T, you can still get a handful of silver in return for a fiver when you buy your friend a drink. A fine place to go if you like being stared at when you enter a room.
Alphabet, 40 Beak Street, W1 (0171-345 6699)Reuse content