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Food

For actors and other children: Soho Hotel’s Refuel Bar and Restaurant

This dispiriting Teletubby Land serves adequate international puddle food

3 September 2016

9:00 AM

3 September 2016

9:00 AM

The Soho Hotel is an actors’ hotel. They come for press junkets and interviews that reveal nothing because there is nothing to reveal; in fact, I have long suspected that this consuming nothingness, screamed across newsprint with all the conviction of denial, is the point of them; anything to evade reality and bring forth the realm of stupid. So it doesn’t matter that the Soho Hotel doesn’t know what it is; that is a benefit, quite possibly a design. Actors don’t know who they are either, and this is why they feel comfortable in the Soho Hotel. It is another mirror.

It is part of the Firmdale Group, which has upholstered a series of London hotels in large, gaudy prints. They favour huge blooms, small ones being of no interest to cocaine users.

It is a former warehouse with a neon sign spelling its name and a Union Flag. There is a sculpture of an obese cat in the lobby as a warning to actors who might eat. Or maybe — what do I know? — it is a secret god of acting, under which they leave gifts, such as concealer. (Concealer, readers, is foundation for Borrowers and other tiny people.) It has no neck.

There is a terrifying drawing room, which looks like a partially digested Taylor Swift action figure or Hunter S. Thompson during an overdose. I watched an interview with the room’s designer, Kit Kemp, a woman who looks like a single strand of blonde hair, in which she praised herself for hanging a painting of a woman with fat legs, or, specifically, fat legs by themselves. (‘Real legs,’ she said. Hag.) There is also a fake ‘library’ that is self-consciously — and, under the circumstances, cruelly — beige. The books are reduced to ornaments. They are, of course, untouched.


The rest of it is a sophisticated nursery school. I could not find the room with the sandpit and the changing mat but that doesn’t mean it does not exist. Possibly Johnny Depp is in there now, doing potato prints and howling. I do not know.

Inside this abyss is a restaurant called the Refuel Bar and Restaurant. Readers will know that I have a league table of restaurants with stupid names and Refuel just jumped to the top. It has a stupid name Nobel prize.

If the Soho Hotel was fashionable once, when I saw Ethan Hawke hugging Stanley Tucci near the lifts, it isn’t now; I wonder if it is simply not infantile enough. Last summer there were queues for the Cadbury Creme Egg Pop-up Café in Greek Street. It only served food based on Cadbury Creme Eggs but it still managed to exude an air of mystery, as child-adults groped for what was lost, which was sugar. People queue for Count Chocula cereal these days, and elect Jeremy Corbyn leader of the Labour party, and praise Donald Trump, and play Pokémon Go in Auschwitz, which bothers me less than my other examples of impending disaster. At least the children are getting fresh air.

At lunchtime on a Saturday, the Refuel Bar and Restaurant is full of middle-aged women with real legs. They sit on green tartan among orange pillars; they contemplate antique tin cans and an immense painting of racing cars above the bar; they are dressed in the brightly coloured-anxiety chic of Paul Dacre’s fantasy woman; that is, wrap dresses. Wrap dresses are wrapping paper; the woman is the gift under the tree.

In this dispiriting Teletubby Land, we eat adequate international puddle food — pastas, salads, a grill — brought by waiters distracted by orange pillars and racing cars. My companion has a Caesar salad with king prawns; I eat a depressed hamburger.

I do not know which spell would transform the Soho Hotel into something magical. It is not my Soho; perhaps you need to be an actor to know.

Refuel, Soho Hotel, 4 Richmond Mews, London W1D 3DH, tel: 020 7559 3007.

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