My esteemed colleagues are experts in attending the launches of swanky central London bars and restaurants. Jonesy, Pumpkin, Emma, Angela; they are formidable party-goers. (We only let Larry tag along when there are definitely going to be high-profile celebs he can accidentally insult.) So I usually leave the partying to others, and lurk late at night in the editorial wing of Arb HQ waiting to scratch my pencil over their reviews and reports. So it was with great surprise and satisfaction that I received and accepted my very own invitation – printed on the most beautiful embossed card – to the launch night of Vista at The Trafalgar Hotel.
Wednesday 8 June; they would be delighted if I could attend. I was unspeakably pleased. “Whatever,” said Jonesy, witheringly, not looking away from his mirror, when I bounded into his office to tell him of my coup. “It’s just a jolly. I go to those all the time.” Humph, I replied, resolving to ignore him and enjoy my evening away from the shackles of the typewriter. So I left him in his office scrutinising his own face, slipped on the pair of vintage shoes I keep in the bottom drawer of my desk (they had been waiting over a year for an outing), and skipped out into Soho, thinking I shall go to the ball.
And what a night it was. A bit surreal, actually. Harry from The Only Way is Essex was there. As was Raef Bjayou from the fourth series of The Apprentice. There were trees glowing in fluorescent pink lights and girls wearing black swimming costumes and huge hats, standing on flowerbeds, wriggling and waving their arms around, as though that was perfectly normal. Is this what I’ve been missing all this time?
The entrance to the main foyer on the ground floor had been turned into a sort of red carpet situation, with photographers. I got snapped on the way in! I definitely blinked. But I’m not Harry from TOWIE, so I don’t suppose it matters. I told the welcoming PR lady my name, and it turned out that there were microphones, which unnerved me so I wimped out halfway through – “OH HELLO I’M MADDIE from the Arb..u…tu…” – and then shuffled blushingly inside the hotel.
The thing we were all – Raef and Harry and the wriggling ladies and me – there for was the unveiling of Vista, the new rooftop bar (the biggest of its kind in London) up on the sixth floor of The Trafalgar. I was taken up in a blue-lit lift, which I shared with a nice chap who works in the City. And then we took a curved staircase up to the roof, to be met with trays and trays of beautiful cocktails. I reached for a tall frosted glass of Black Moth and something fruity, distracted from the waiter’s description of the ingredients by the view: gorgeous London, grey and dusty, not at all threatening from such a vantage point. Circulating, taking in the view from various points around the roof, I sampled lovely drinks and canapés but neglected to take in the details (this is why I generally write about apostrophes, not victuals); a drink that did stand out was something exquisitely mixed by Gin Mare, a slice of ginger gracing the glass.
After that it all spins a little. It became night quickly; I had arrived at 7.30pm and London darkens soon after that. By 9pm I had eaten not much more than a few morsels of crab and cucumber. There was rumour of oysters, but I wasn’t convinced I could stomach them, and I’m almost sure something resembling chicken salad was brought around, but I might have hallucinated it. Singer Beverley Knight provided the entertainment, I think, though I didn’t want to drag myself away from the cocktails and the view of twinkly London – who needs more entertainment than that? – to find out if it was really her.
The next morning, I crashed back to earth to report to the chaps for our editorial meeting, full of tales of the night’s cocktails, celebrities, trees lit up pink, dancing ladies. And as I gabbled away, they looked at me and each other with concern, as though worried they might never get me to knuckle down again. Now I’ve been on a “jolly” of my own, hyphens and semi-colons might seem dull. I’ll want to be drinking on rooftops every night now, they reckoned. But I assured them they have nothing to worry about. It wasn’t reality. It was a lovely escape from it, and I would recommend cocktails up on this gorgeous roof in the early evening for anyone who just gets a bit claustrophobic in the city sometimes, as I certainly do. In the warm, flirty glow of low lights and hot pink cushions, which contrast starkly with the grit and hard earth of London below, one feels far from real life, far from home, and therefore one’s time-keeping and sense of reality blissfully loosens. And that’s a rather fabulous feeling, once in a while.
So as I put my vintage shoes back in my desk drawer, and cracked on with editing the day’s manuscripts, I thought how lovely it was to have let my hair down up on that roof with a view.
Vista at The Trafalgar, 2 Spring Gardens, Trafalgar Square, London SW1A 2TS. Tel +44 20 7870 2900. Website.