Saga of the bubbly bath set to run and run

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The Independent Online
The bathroom mystery gripping the nation took a further twist yesterday when the model Kate Moss denied she was one of two celebrities whose tub of champagne was let down the plughole by an errant maid.

Whether her denial was "angry" as some people reported was not clear, but a spokeswoman for the Storm model agency said: "It was not her. It was not Kate, it's not her style. She doesn't use the hotel any more."

The champagne-filled bath was at the Portobello Hotel in west London - said to be the favourite of gravel-voiced singer Van Morrison - and the couple checked in for one night.

Making the most of the room's facilities, which include a large oval bed and a Victorian bath, they ordered one of the hotel's special services - a bath of champagne. A snip at pounds 750.

It is understood that after one brief immersion the couple got out and went out for dinner.

Unfortunately when they were out, their maid, Helen Lena, entered the room and emptied the bath, unwitting of its contents. Fortunately the couple apparently saw the funny side of having 36 bottles of bubbly drain away.

Cynics were yesterday muttering that the publicity was doing the hotel no harm, but the management were last night still refusing to reveal the identity of the couple.

Hanna Turner, the manager, would only say that one was a man and one was a woman, that one was American and one was English and that one was a model and one was an actor, or actress. (Of course this could be an elaborate smoke screen, or shower screen.) She did however let slip that the bubbly was house champagne which normally costs pounds 32 a bottle.

"We have a very impressive list of celebrities who have stayed with us and we want to keep it that way," she said. "Customer confidentiality is extremely important."

She added that both individuals had previously used the hotel but not as a couple. "I think they were trying to be discreet." She also added that both would have been very sticky after their bath.

Miss Lena was also no help. Johnny Ekperigin, owner of the hotel where the 22 bedrooms and suites are all decorated with an exotic mix of antiques and military paraphernalia, said the maid was on holiday.

But the revelation that the couple were not Kate Moss and her on/off boyfriend Johnny Depp, led to a widespread guessing game about who they were.

The hotel, known for a long time as a hang-out for the rich and beautiful, said it had been inundated with reporters, at least some of whom tried to recreate the unique bathing experience. (An unsubstantiated rumour circulating last night claimed that a Sunday tabloid was already trying to secure a deal to buy up the empty bottles.)

The web of scurrilous and uninformed speculation last night widened to include not only previous hotel guests, (who include Naomi Campbell, Mick Hucknall and Earl Spencer) but also those who might wish to use the hotel to try and be discreet, (Bill Clinton, Robin Cook and Earl Spencer.)

Meanwhile it was fiercely anticipated that it is only a matter of time before one or other newspaper offers a prize of a bottle of champagne - or a bar of soap - for whoever reveals the identity of the couple with the peculiar bathing habits.

- Andrew Buncombe