Urban bar in West End

When East Meets West...

21 September 2016

There’s something strange happening in the West End. Whereas this coveted part of London was once known for its classic uptown feel and sense of sophistication, it's slowly taking on another guise: the urban charm of the concrete jungle.

It starts slowly. First, it’s a sign. Then, some typography. Then, it’s a new style of cocktail and a more laid-back, lazy approach to the act of dining. Not only that, though – the calm rustic atmosphere of the West End’s most casual bars is subtly being rustled by the emergence of sharpened edges, roughened surfaces and fading lines. Is it possible that we are experiencing a new wave of urban nuance within our beloved West End? And more than that: that we’re actually liking it?

Here are some of the grungy urban features we’ve spied popping up lately.

1. Graffiti

It's raw; it’s handcrafted; it's fresh. It's the marking of a territory; a daring, unashamed urban scrawl. Graffiti is one of the true signifiers of a no-holds-barred presence; one of the things about the urban jungle we like most.

Ping pong in London

2. Drawn-on wallpaper

Like graffiti, but more playful. Drawn-on wallpaper is the childlike equivalent of an artist expressing his or her emotions or attitudes. It suggests spontaneity; carefree; rule-breaking and creativity-encouraging. It lets us know that no matter where you’re from, all beliefs are welcome here.

Skull graffiti wallpaper

3. Spray-paint

Gone are the fancy sign-postage and table markers. Now it’s all about spray-paint – a true urban custom and admirably basic. It might not be polished or glamorous, but sprayed-on table numbers deliver that striking humility and honesty we’re missing.

Table number stencil

4. Neon lights

What are urban-style surroundings without the glow of the neon city lights that flood the concrete plains; lighting up the gritty streets and the deepest secrets and desires of their dwellers? As we catch more and more neon lighting around Mayfair and Covent Garden, we’re reminded of a past decade and times gone by. And this gives way to a new perspective on what will come...

Graffiti style mirror

5. Skulls & tin cans

Amongst the growing variety of drinking vessels filling our favourite bars right now, two newbies make the list. Skull cups are a devilish, daring way in which to serve a cocktail; a hint of mischievousness; mystery and almost even danger.

Tin cans, meanwhile, are yet another warmly familiar reminder of how humble the concrete streets can be; a make-do and mend approach, not just to cocktails but also to life; the idea that anything can be recycled and re-purposed; a comforting nod to a never-ending cycle.

Skull cup cocktails

Cocktail in tin can

Want to see it for yourself? Witness the urban movement at Late Night London bars Gem and Scarlet’s, where the cool side of the pillow never did feel so good...

The Editor

The Editors