By Sally Beerworth
I find myself with a friend in the lobby of the Charlotte Street Hotel; it was not really an accident that we ended up here…we would have found our way back here blindfolded and via hot coals if we had to.
The hotel needn’t have spent so much money on expensive flowerpots and flags out the front: the bar snacks they serve tell me everything I need to know about the place.
You can tell the kind of place you are sitting in by eyeing off the bowls on the bar. In today’s case, shiny silver bowls designed to fit one well-manicured hand. I am not actually sure what is in my bowl exactly, in fact I cannot even tell you what food groups are represented. But I know it’s good.
It looks like a Disney toy has exploded in there (I feel equipped to make this observation having put my brother’s Mickey Mouse in the blender some years ago.) I am unsure what the green and orange pieces taste like, but if ever there was a mark of quality, surely these bits were it.
There is a correlation between the volume of colours in a bar snack bowl and how much you are likely to be stung when the bill comes. In my case I was definitely looking at a second mortgage to pay for my vodka and coke, a tipple traditionally enjoyed by those who don’t worry about anything as trivial as a glass. I would feel pretty silly telling the homeless guy around the corner that, for the same money, I could have bought several bottles of vodka. I just know he would be fascinated by my price analysis on potato-based spirits.
While you wait for your takeaway (seems pretty appalling, even by my standards, to get something delivered a whopping 50metres,) at the little bar in the Curry Leaf they offer you four-day-old newspapers and some Bombay Mix. I am not sure that this food is really worthy of capital letters. I do find that my appetite for aubergine served in litres of oil is however greater after a couple of helpings of their bar snacks.
Or it may be that I just worked up an appetite whilst helping them fold napkins; they gave me a lesson recently whilst I waited. I would have asked for a discount on my order, but it turned out I was not half as skilled as their waiting staff…this will not be surprising to anyone who has ever worked with me. As soon as I left, some poor waiter not only had to hunt and gather the Bombay Mix I had sprayed around the place, but they also had to rebuild all my linen bishops’ hats. The church has enough problems to deal with, without having to worry about the way I had represented their wardrobe.
In one of my favourite Fitzrovia pubs the bar man will open a bag of crisps if you sit at the bar and drink with him. I feel a little bit like I am prostituting myself…but I am not sure who gets more out of the deal? Either way, whenever I am tossing up which pub to take my laptop to, his one seems to come to mind. It is a carb based loyalty program. It’s not a posh pub; so there are no wheat based rainbow snacks, but crisps are all I am looking for sometimes. Please note, I have not mentioned the name of his pub for two reasons – firstly I am unsure whether his boss knows what he gets up to so I don’t want to cut off the hand that feeds me, so to speak. And secondly I don’t want any of you turning up there and taking the crisps that I have worked so hard to be offered.
I have a friend coming over tonight and I was going to serve nibbles. Now that I have looked at the quality of my own bar snacks, I don’t like what they say about me as a host. So I empty my handbag and pour out the snacks I have collected from the Charlotte Street Hotel. After all, I don’t want her thinking that I am cheap.
About the author
Sally writes a column for several of London’s newspapers and magazines, and also desperately wants to brag about the fact that she has written a book that someone actually wants to publish. Sally worked relatively hard in advertising agencies across Europe and Asia for over ten years and, as a result, is accustomed to writing on table napkins. You can read Sally’s other work at www.tapdancingonthinice.com