101 Star Bars (#39): Charlotte St Hotel, London

By Katy Guest
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Indy Lifestyle Online

Whereas many hotel bars in central London are filled with Russian Mafiosi pretending to be French film stars, foreign businessmen masquerading as hot-shot film producers or Essex schoolgirls acting the role of footballers' wives, this one is slightly different. Just north of Soho, it is modelled on the lifestyle of the Bloomsbury group and tends to contain down-at-heel media types pretending to be Virginia Woolf. Some of them even manage to pull off a certain bohemian resemblance, even if it is only in the nose.

A mural on the wall by the British artist Alexander Hollweg depicts, appropriately, people lounging in bars. The interior is bright and funky. The drinks are colourful. The bar menu is fresh and seasonal, if slightly heavy on the caviar cream and the foie gras – I can't see Virg tucking into a goose that had been force-fed until its liver exploded, but perhaps I am over-romanticising the period. Best of all, though, is on hot summer evenings when the tall windows are opened and the crowd spills out on to the street, mingling with the Soho crawlers, the jaded tourists and the browsers from the British Museum just around the corner. It may look like a bit of a hazard to have squiffy bohemians tumbling out in to the flotsam and jetsam of central London, but there's something adorably retro now about seeing people standing outside a bar, chatting, and none of them smoking a cigarette.

Oscar Bar, Charlotte Street Hotel, London W1 (020-7806 2000)

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