Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Exploring the London bar scene

Sometimes you just get inspiration from other places you've been and you just want to explore the city you're living in. After being in Boston for the week before, I was in a delirium of post-vacation craziness. I literally went insane over the weekend and felt I needed to get out of my apartment, despite my despicable jetlag and post-procedure exhaustion. I was determined to get out.

So I contacted all of my girlfriends and rallied up the most ambitious London weekend plan I'd had yet. I was going to explore the bar and club scene like I'd never bothered doing before. And I was going to be a success at it. Admittedly this was expensive and rather insane on my body (causing me to sort of get sick at the beginning of the work literally I'm still recovering from it), but in the end I think insanity is really the only way to explore the London bar/club scene. It's either that or you miss your youth and somehow your chance.

I was off to a running start, which began Friday evening with Salads.

Central & Co

Salads and I hadn't seen each other in months due to conflicting travel schedules and just a whole lot of life. It was good to finally catch up with her. Since I'd last seen her she'd graduated from grad school and sinceforth moved into her new apartment, gotten annoyed with her roommate, and sincerely wished for new love (this is true with all my girlfriends except Two, who has Olive).

I told her we should meet at Central & Co, a new bar I'd heard about through Ironman, an Irish Icelandic guy I'd met several Internations events ago. He went there for his birthday celebration a few weekends ago.

Centrally located right next to Oxford Circus, it's incredibly easy to get to and easy to spot. I delighted in its modern interior and the young crowd that gathered there (but not too young, so roughly my age, not the early 20s that I've started to see everywhere). Comfortable. Unfortunately a bit too loud for easy conversation though.

We ordered a bottle of prosecco to share while Salads ordered a salad (I'd eaten dinner before going out) and also to celebrate her graduation. It was a good bottle and reasonably priced at £27. One thing that I grumbled at was the inclusion of service already on the bill, considering there were only two of us at the table (this is very unusual in the UK and I thought it rather pretentious).

So, overall pros: beautiful interior and reasonable prices for drinks and food plus an age-appropriate crowd.

Cons: overly loud and the inclusion of a rather high-percentage service fee considering the small party we had and the small amount of food and drink we had on the bill. Service was also rather slow and inattentive (we had to ask for tap water three times before finally getting it).

I think in conclusion I'd come here again but it's not a first choice. Great location in the center of town.

The next night I was out again with Churches and her friend Charmaine. This night was going to be one to remember; and a bit different than we originally intended. I originally suggested we go to either Market Place (also told to me by Ironman) or Freedom Bar, which had been told to me by a random passerby when Salads and I eventually wanted to switch bars. I even had a name to drop by the barman in case I wanted better service and such. We didn't end up going that night because it was difficult to navigate to from where we already were.

Churches decided we should check out Market Place because they had live hip hop that night.

Market Place Bar

Marketplace was likewise located next to Oxford Circus, very centrally located. We immediately went downstairs since we were there for the live music and ordered some very premium cocktails from the barman. I got a mojito. It was overly sweet, but well made and the barman was very nice and friendly.

There aren't good photos of the inside basement, which I find kind of hard to believe since that's where about half of their nightlife happens, minus the terrace they supposedly have which I definitely didn't see while we were there (I only found out about it because I visited their website after...but then again we weren't looking for it and maybe people weren't interested because a storm was brewing during the weekend).

The longer we were there the more we noticed how young the clientele was. We're talking very early 20's or so. Too young for us in any case, and one again Churches and I are the very single kind and Charmaine is the very attached kind (she and her British boyfriend have been together for years and have been discussing purchasing a flat together...lucky girl).

So we decided to move venues. Clearly my suggestion was not a good one, especially after the live hip hop started and then we were surrounded by very young black people. Nothing wrong with that, it was just clear we were not fitting in (a very white Finnish girl and two very Asian So we left.

...and went to the most ridiculous touristy dance club London has ever seen. Or I have ever seen, in London. Charmaine said that it's where all the expats and tourists go. I talked to Books about it the next day: No, it's where all the chavs from Essex go. Ohhh boy we were in for a night. But it was great.

Tiger Tiger

I think you can just tell from the outside that it is a classy joint (that's pure sarcasm). We had been warned by Charmaine that we might need to pay cover. We were fine with that since we were already out and wanted to go dancing. It was £10 at the end of the day; more than acceptable. Plus there was no line. We had a hilarious conversation with the bouncer when he stopped us and asked us who was the youngest in our group. We actually didn't know (since I've only met Charmaine a handful of times) so I said I thought I probably was then he asked me how old I was. Oh, I'm 28.

The bouncer snorted and let us in. Clearly not even worth checking our IDs with an age gap that large (drinking age in the UK is 18).

This is one of the four dance floors there. That's right, four. They're all located on different levels and cater to different dance styles (top 40 dance hits, oldschool hits that sounded a lot more like 70's groovy tunes and the like, electronica, and something else that I'm now forgetting). We unanimously agreed on top 40 dance hits and stayed there the entirety of the night.

What resulted was a ridiculous night of fun and sleaziness. Not from our side, mind you, but from the crowd around us. What Charmaine had failed to realize in telling us about this place was yes, many foreigners went there for dancing, but also everyone there was really looking to pick someone up. Though Churches and I are single, we're not that single. Having a good night out with your girls really is just a good night out with your girls. Being approached by men every few minutes is a real annoyance.

It got so bad that eventually I switched the ring I was wearing to my wedding finger and pretended I was married. Yeah, that bad. Played the married card to stop guys from flirting and introducing themselves, from dancing in our group. We had to move several times to different parts of the dance floor and they sometimes even followed us. With creepy amounts of persistence.

Granted none of these men were particularly aggressive in the scary way, merely forward. They were expressing interest in a very non-British way. And none of them were British, to be clear. I met a man named Joan (pronounced like "yawn") who wouldn't even tell me what country he was from or what Japanese business he worked for. Shady mofo. The majority of men there looked Indian or potentially middle eastern. There were some Asians. Some South Americans potentially. Hard to tell. Everyone had an accent though, and were definitely not of the Western European variety.

We drank a lot, danced the night away. Eventually we realized it was cresting upon 2am and clearly the tubes had closed. It was time to get a taxi and go home.

I was clearly not going to taxi from the center of town (we were around Picadilly Circus at this point, having walked from Market Place where we started), so Churches kindly let me crash at her place for the night.

In conclusion, Tiger Tiger was definitely the most fun I've had at a club in London thusfar. It's not that expensive (both for cover and for any drinks that were purchased) and the music is just the kind that me and my girls want to dance to. The cons are pretty horrendous though: lots and lots of flirty sleazy men and the crowds were sometimes pretty bad. I guess you always get the good with the bad though. I'll keep it in mind when I want to have a great dancing night, but remember to wear a fake wedding ring to stave off the pick ups. Or just bring a guy with me, though I doubt any self-respecting Western guy who knows about the place would ever go there.

And thus my first review of London clubs. Not a bad start for one weekend.

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