The new hotel W looms like a giant fridge over Leicester Square. They demolished the poor old Swiss Centre to build it as part of the regeneration programme because some people don’t know that some things can’t be regenerated. I often pass through Leicester Square on a Saturday night and it is like watching the golden calf incident, but in 1981. You will see a man punching a woman, or some children dressed as wizards waving at a boy (usually Daniel Radcliffe) who looks sorry he ever heard of wizards. It is the holy of holies of Trash Culture (London branch) and it smells terrible.
Anyway, W, which has a restaurant I will get to shortly, wasn’t built. It landed. It is immense, white and windowless. I almost expect it to swing open and expose a giant pint of milk and some salad cream. Just for weirdness it has an M&M superstore in the basement, selling M&M-branded chocolates, soft toys and, for all I know, nuclear weapons. I have cadged a hotel tour, although to get in you have to pass bouncers. The key to passing bouncers, which I mastered as a gossip columnist, is to look fiercely uninterested, as if your lack of interest will actually punch them in the face and break their legs.
Upstairs, I find a fashionable hotel. Vogue would call it achingly glamorous but to me it is just achingly aching. This is where they hide the thin people with dead eyes — under a glitter ball in the bar, so they can see eternal glittery visions of their thin selves, all the way to the end of the world, which will hit Leicester Square before anywhere else, because it looks like it wants it to. It was made for an apocalypse.
A very tall PR girl shows me a suite, because I am nosy about such things. Giant bath, giant TV, sex toys on room service, a sofa in the shape of a croissant. It smells of Justin Timberlake, as if his soul was imprinted on the wall before he fled to the next bad movie. I know these places — minimalist heaven, until the coke runs out and the minimalist hell arrives. It is a homage to pretension. The cleaners, for instance, are not called ‘cleaners’. They are called ‘stylists’ and I would love to know what they think of that.
At last, the restaurant, which is called Spice Market. If I have been pitching W as a gateway to hell, alongside all the other gateways to hell in W1 — Dunkin’ Donuts comes to mind as a strong candidate — the restaurant, or rather the food, is very nice. I suppose it had to be because no way is Justin Timberlake eating here, if he does eat, which I seriously doubt. This is the ground floor, Leicester Square proper; he’d get punched by a tiny drunk wizard. It is dark and there is music but it is otherwise OK.
The waitress is very beautiful and she talks to us as if we are a distraction between mirrors, which I suppose we are. Charred Chilli Beef Rubbed Skewer is not only Pointlessly Capitalised, it is Delicious. Spiced Chicken Samosas make me wonder why I don’t murder Chickens All The Time For Their Flesh. My friend is annoyed because her Shaved Tuna has not arrived; maybe the waitress had a Romantic Crisis. She drowns the pain with another Martini, toasts The Tuna That Got Away.
I eat a Vietnamese Chicken Curry, which is excellent, except the lumps of chicken are huge. My friend, who is now swimming in a pond of Martinis, says her Lobster Pad Thai is wonderful, but where is her rice? Yes. Where is our rice? If we don’t get our rice now we will form a political party dedicated to bringing the rice. Or maybe not. This is a good restaurant under a hotel made of cognitive dissonance. We are not in Claridge’s any more, Toto.
Spice Market, W London, 10 Wardour Street W1D 6QF, tel: 020 7758 1088.