For there at the bar is Manos, a 27-year-old Macedonian Greek male model; in profile, he is a dead ringer for Robert De Niro in his Mean Streets era; face on, he is even more boyish and handsome. Every woman in the room is watching him as he jokes and fools around with this girl, then that one, then another. At the bar, five women are vying for his attention.
He is actually juggling them, like that variety act where you keep a dozen plates spinning in mid-air on rods. Whatever it is women want from men, Manos has got it. In buckets.
Suddenly, a blonde strides over to him, her face a mask of composure. 'I want to fuck you,' she says, as if ordering a Martini. Manos unleashes a crumpled, kind of dumb 'What me?' grin, and for a second he is young De Niro, no doubt about it. 'Only my husband is here,' says Erika, 'so we have to leave separately.' Manos turns to his English friend Steve, sitting beside him at the bar, and shrugs. Steve is already shaking with laughter, trying not to splutter into his champagne. Having known Manos for years, Steve has seen this happen many times, but it never fails to amuse him.
Manos started modelling five years ago, and before that worked as a bartender on a luxury yacht that cruised the Med and the Aegean. After school he had studied the tourism business, but he learnt his English on the Greek islands, working in places such as Remezzo, one of the swishest nightclubs on Mykonos. Most of his tutors were girls, and most of those were Scandinavian. Manos prefers blondes. So when he and Steve want a wild weekend, Stockholm is always near the top of the list.
Like all young Greek men, he had to do military service. Unlike most he enjoyed it, working as a security guard for a general (the military are still regarded as legitimate targets by many Greeks - a hangover from the days of the junta). He was based in the Athens Pentagon which, as the name suggests, serves a similar purpose to its American counterpart. So why decide to become a model? He didn't.
'They discovered me,' says Manos, in his heavy and doubtless irresistible accent. 'I was in a club one night and this stylist, who worked for a very big Greek designer, she came up to me and asked me to do a big campaign, with posters and magazine ads. I thought 'Why not?' It was good for me; I made some money, it was very exciting.' Did he sleep with her as well? He and Steve look at each other, Manos shrugs, and they both start laughing again.
His modelling career took off quickly and Manos had soon worked in Barcelona, Vienna, Zurich, Paris, Milan, Hamburg and, of course, Stockholm. One month ago he arrived in London and already he is on the books of Storm, a leading agency. His booker, Greg, speaks very highly of him. 'He's very professional in his approach. His look is very current. It's not that square-jawed appeal, it's more a sexy, approachable appeal.'
Manos's magic continues here in Albion. Since he came to stay with Steve in his north London flat, the answerphone has been clogged with messages from cooing women. 'It's a joke,' says Steve, imitating their voices: ' 'Hi, Manos, this is Louise . . . Hello Manos; Julie here . . . Manos, this is Christine. Why haven't you called me?' ' A few days ago, Manos was on the Tube heading for a casting when he caught the eye of a girl nearby. He smiled, they went for coffee. That night, Steve came home to find them in bed.
'It's sheer charm. He charms the pants off them,' says Steve. He is right, but it is not like any charm you would expect from an Englishman. You might call it joie de vivre, an intoxicating delight in just being alive. Aside from his obvious physical attributes - tall, lean, dark and manly - Manos laughs and smiles easily; it takes no effort. He is brazen, not merely confident. He obviously has nothing to hide, so women can weigh him up quickly and come to a fast decision. And it is usually in the affirmative.
Pushed to sum up his own appeal, Manos opens with that same grin. 'I don't know. I don't think I'm so good looking. Maybe it's my English. It's primitive. Makes them laugh. No, I make them, you know, have a good time.' And did he learn that, or is it innate? He tends an imaginary seedling in his palm. 'Well, you have a little, you know, and you make it grow.' He looks at Steve and they both start laughing again.
Back in the Berns, it's time to move on. Next stop, Cafe Opera. Funkier, faster, louder, but every bit as expensive. The champagne flows. Here, Manos and Steve are introduced to a 60-year-old Greek businessman dressed in Armani. This man is a multi-millionaire, and after a while everybody is invited back to his penthouse apartment, in the most expensive street in Stockholm's most expensive neighbourhood. The living room looks out over the river; on the other side, the old town. Everything is either white or gold; carpet, walls, door handles, ashtrays, white table linen with gold embroidery, marble floors and Greek columns. Only a vast amount of money can make this kind of decor look tasteful. And it does.
Manos and the millionaire talk in Greek for hours. Later Manos tells us his new friend wants to buy a night-club and have Manos run it. More blondes than even he could handle? 'Maybe.' Does he miss having a regular girlfriend? 'Yeah. Some cold nights.' But seriously? 'The routine would kill me,' says Manos, grinning that irresistible grin.Reuse content