The Piazza, Covent Garden, London, WC2
Roadhouse can only be described as a cross between Times Square and a Sonic The Hedgehog game. The quantity of lights that line the walls, the ceiling and the bar look like an epileptic’s nightmare.
Indeed, blinking lights seems to be the main theme of this arcade-style Covent Garden bar and it’s very alarming if you’re not expecting it. It’s very unique and colourful to look at but I wouldn’t want to be the one who has to pay the electricity bill. I’m asked by the bouncer to take off my bowler hat for some quizzical reason. I didn’t realise that it was a classy establishment and who wants to see the wilting roots on the top of my head anyway?
Confused and shy from my dodgy hair colouring, I am taken aback when I walk into the main area. The bar is placed neatly in the centre with a stage tucked to the left. Surprisingly, there are no lights on the toilet door areas causing a few wanderers to float around the room in pursuit of a place to empty their bladder.
The stage usually holds events like karaoke, band nights and competitions. I happen to be here during the World Flair Competition. Flair bartending is what Roadhouse’s bartenders are known for and it involves juggling bottles and shakers whilst fixing a drink. In the competition each contestant has five minutes to make two cocktails whilst entertaining with circus-style skill. I’m sorry but five minutes is too long to wait for two drinks.
It doesn’t take that amount of time to grab a drink from the bar thankfully. There is still some extra flapping around with the bottles but I get a beer in under a minute. Flair bartending could be good the first time you see it but after a few more rounds it would be like riding the same ride at Thorpe Park again and again. I couldn’t stay here all night.
I notice there are hardly any women who are flairing in the competition or behind the bar. What the world needs is another man sport, clearly. One girl steps on the stage to have a go but doesn’t quite beat the boys.
It’s happy hour around half six to half seven and bottles of beer are £2. The bad news is there are no pumps and no good quality cider. Roadhouse is mainly based on cocktails and the theme of the bar is rotting teeth. Every drink sounds sickly sweet and stomach churning. I try a Peanut Colada in the hope it is more savoury but I can’t taste any peanut. It’s like a coconut milkshake that sticks to the back of your throat like phlegm. My friend orders something that resembles toilet cleaner with a sponge hanging off it (apparently blue candy floss). It tastes like gone-off milk with bubblegum flavouring so I just order another beer to stay safe.
I begin to avoid the bar because I can’t stand a napkin being waved in front of my face while I’m trying to read the drinks menu. Even as they clear the glasses they twirl around like fucking ballerinas. Flair is impressive, but what is more impressive is whether a bar’s drinks taste good or not. And here they don’t.