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Hip ambience, exclusive clientele, and toothsome cocktails - the K-bar chain is transforming after-hours drinking
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Indy Lifestyle Online

They're not clubs, they're bars, but they'll only let you in if you're a member or pay an admission fee. If the K-bars have a concept, it's to make their customers feel they belong to an exclusive stylish world where everybody is somebody. You won't find the bars by mistake - the five in London are all deliberately concealed in basements. Once you're in though, you're still not all the way there, as only a select few make it to the VIP bar, where the best-connected of the K-bars' clientele congregate. Anyone who gets that far is rewarded with an aura of celebrity.

They're not clubs, they're bars, but they'll only let you in if you're a member or pay an admission fee. If the K-bars have a concept, it's to make their customers feel they belong to an exclusive stylish world where everybody is somebody. You won't find the bars by mistake - the five in London are all deliberately concealed in basements. Once you're in though, you're still not all the way there, as only a select few make it to the VIP bar, where the best-connected of the K-bars' clientele congregate. Anyone who gets that far is rewarded with an aura of celebrity.

Society club organiser Piers Adams opened the first K-bar in Wardour Street, Soho, 18 months ago to members only. Those members were his friends and their friends, who wanted to stay up late but not necessarily in a club. The K-bar doesn't begin serving drinks until 9pm, then a DJ comes on at 10.30pm, after which you can dance or stay put in a cosy corner all night. And, since they're more spacious than most members-only bars, more than a handful of the chosen few can stay there long after traditional pubs have shut - until 3am in Wardour Street.

The second K-bar, in Chelsea, is one year old, and its SW3 catchment remains closer to the spirit of Bond - James Bond not Basildon. Connections with the core clientele - young, involved in the fashion and music businesses - are kept up by having a male model from Models One moonlighting as a DJ one night a week, and pretty people working the bars. Inside, the look is understatedly lounge-like, "Gucci" even, with slate floor, shades of grey and brown, and lots of leather cube seats and sofas in nooks and crannies round the edges.

Only bottles - mostly of vodka or Champagne - are served in the alcoves to these under-30s spending their money with well-practised ease. Cocktails are served at the bar. And, until October, the K-bars have joined forces with Haagen-Dazs to create alcoholic ice-cream cocktails: they're thick, sweet, strong, and the sickliest is probably Strawberry Fields Forever, made with strawberry puree, Haagen-Dazs Strawberry Cheesecake ice cream, strawberry liqueur and white rum. (You could always experiment with other ice cream flavours for yourself.)

In the unlikely event of anyone wanting to drink more than one of these, Chelsea has a happy hour on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9-10.30pm when these cocktails are £ 5 instead of the usual £ 7. There are also K-bars in Putney and Wimbledon, and now in Bournemouth - which surely means it is about to become the St Tropez of the south coast. This is the only one not in a basement, and it's not serving the ice-cream cocktails either. Does Bournemouth know something that London doesn't?

For branch details call 0171-534 3700

K-bar drinks

FBI (Frozen Black Irish)

A creamy, boozy, slightly coffee-flavoured confection.

1/2 scoop crushed ice2 scoops Haagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream1/2oz Kahlua1/2oz Haagen-Dazs Bailey's ice cream1/2oz vodka

Blend together and serve in a Martini glass.

K1

Devised for the first anniversary of the first K-bar, when it apparently went down a storm.

Dash of Peche peach liqueurLong dash of peach nectar25ml KahluaDash peach schnappsLong dash mango juice2 ice cubes

Blend together and serve in a Martini glass.

Banana Republic

Big banana flavour, less sweet than some of the others, and a significant hit of alcohol.

1/2 scoop crushed ice1/2 banana2 scoops Haagen-Dazs Raspberry Classic1/2oz Archers or Peche1oz white rum

Blend together and serve in a Martini glass.

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