There’s an equal measure of pros and cons to not living in London. For instance, I’m always last to know about a new launch in the city: con. I can travel at leisure through Bristol without having to delouse: pro.
What it does mean, though, is that our London-based editorial team get the pick of the litter when it comes to new London eateries. Before I could even pick up the phone, our voracious editor and his digital girlfriend had already explored and reviewed every restaurant that The Shard has crammed into its lofty 72 floors. Arguably, this doesn’t happen often. There are indeed enough comestibles in London for us to share the chow-based turf. Or so one would have thought.
I do not often visit the city. When I do, an invitation that reads “The last days of Rome” is usually required, along with a lengthy sojourn at any one of the capital’s respected hotels. My preference on this occasion was Rosewood, a delightful five-star establishment on High Holborn.
As our supine editor has fully-devoured the variable buffet of eateries at The Shard, I had decided that instead we would just drink our bodyweight in cocktails and watch the lights. Be under no illusion: the view is fucking epic. I choose not to swear often in print – however, it really does punctuate my point rather well.
The entrance was fairly unassuming as we arrived. I nodded to the driver and made for the doors. The door staff were very, very friendly for central London. You can appreciate, though, that most security staff in the nation’s capital have to contend with being stabbed daily. I expect this would try anyone’s friendly demeanour. But the security at The Shard are well-built tour guides of sorts.
“Is this the lift to the Lounge at Oblix?”
“Yes sir. Head up to the 32nd floor and take a left to the front desk of the restaurant, they will look after you”.
London has a reputation of being hard-nosed and unforgiving – and it is. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for charm and disarm.
The lift whistled – actually, whistled very quietly – as we ascended the 32 floors to Oblix. We hung a left and were welcomed into the Aztec corridors of the Lounge by a suitably modelesque receptionist. A few moments later and we were cruising through the bar and not really able to take much more in than the stratospheric view.
The Shard has eight football pitches worth of glass adorning its complex steel core that makes a rather stellar impression. The clientele seemed to be a mix of well-heeled Londoners and tourists. Not an oligarch or barrel of oil money in sight. Surprising, I thought. No doubt the £1.5 billion investment to build The Shard came from the Middle East or somewhere. If I avoided every London establishment because the investment came from a country with concerning human rights laws, I would be dining in Bristol. Oh wait, I do. I digress.
My partner and I sashayed through the bar, which had the atmosphere of a 1920s gin joint in Manhattan. Low lighting, a solid back bar and a svelte interior give it that edge, but also made it the sort of bar I could get very lubricated in and forget the time.
We were seated at a perfectly lovely high table, near a window with a view of the low stage and piano. Music. Actual music. I am sure I sound like someone who is seeing the ocean for the first time, but a bar that hires musicians to play and singers to sing is tapping into something timeless and effective.
We sat for a moment with the drinks menu, whilst my partner stared out the window saying “Wow” a lot. I noticed a well-dressed, tall, dark and handsome gent making his way to our table, skilfully slicing though the busy patrons with an air of grace and confidence. Not unlike myself, but perhaps a little less self-aggrandising.
He leant in to talk to the girl who had shown us to our table and made some slight gestures before walking past us to a window table close enough to smell the Windowlene. After primping and adjusting the setting, he turned, composed, and strolled over to us. “My apologies, your table is ready”. I liked him instantly. I try and remind myself to make a mental note that, if I ever run a bar, everyone that comes in should be graciously handled in this fashion.
Ayon is either the Oblix bar manager or assistant manager. Or perhaps some form of collegiate angel sent from Sinatra’s bar in the heavens. He’s far too overqualified to be anyone’s PA, but I briefly wondered if he’d leave the Lounge and come and work for us. Bromance to one side, he was formidable.
The cocktails were, no surprise, rapturous. Order a Negroni, if you have missed this classic, or a Habanero. They know their stuff.
With a great drink in hand, a view that deserves congratulations from the gods, and subtle sounds drifting over from the piano, the Lounge is worth visiting and worth showing off.