Six Storeys on Soho is in a slender grey townhouse on Soho Square: a bar, restaurant and club. It is technically art deco, but it feels much older; it grasps back for 18th-century Soho without the typhoid epidemic and the corpses. It used to be a gay bar called the Edge, but the gay bars are closing in London, victims of a new epidemic called Grindr. Now it feels like Mary Poppins’s house after she lost hope.
I came to the Edge with my friend the artist Sebastian Horsley, who wore purple suits and a top hat, and made A.A. Gill look slovenly. He kept a gun by his bedside on Meard Street, but in the end he did not need it. He fell asleep on heroin and did not wake up, and he would love it here. He would match the furniture, and they have a lot of gin.
First, a ground-floor bar, with pretty table lamps and old novels by minor writers. I am developing a fetish for paper. I haunt libraries, and restaurants that look like libraries. I smell the books — I want to eat them. It is all ripped off from The Fable on Ludgate Hill, with less money, fewer solicitors and infinitely more charm. At The Fable the books aren’t real. They could say it is metaphor, but I think they can’t see the point of books. I don’t think they know what books are for.
Each room is a different colour, as if the decorator was drunk and wanted to remake himself each day. The first-floor parlour is grey; the second-floor drawing room is blue; the third-floor bar is a red gin house, with huge bottles of homemade gin and a disco floor, designed for people who like cocaine with their gin. Did you know that if you take cocaine with gin, you don’t black out? Of course you don’t; you are reading a political magazine to the end.
The fourth-floor study is green. It has been attacked by William Morris and his birds, in curtain form. How did Morris make flowers seem so angry and desolate? When I visited, the attic was a shell, and my favourite room. It is now another dining room, with views of Soho workers eating sandwiches.
The food is not good, but that doesn’t bother me here; it is hardly the point of Six Storeys on Soho. I often write about how a certain kind of failure is more interesting than success, and I believe it. Food is easy to create if you are functional, but atmosphere is not; if you want skilful food and a more artful and sanitised ghost of 18th-century Soho, Blacks Club is down the road. If you want to sleep in 18th-century Soho, Hazlitt’s is across the square. Or there is always Soho House.
The food comes on unmatched crockery, as if the cook — it is a cook, not a chef — is as drunk as the decorator, and makes food only to soak up alcohol. It could almost be a kebab van. Scotch eggs, pigs in blankets and chicken scrumpets (fried chicken) come on a floral cake stand, which I find amazing. A bacon cheeseburger is ideal for soaking up gin. A braised beef-cheek cottage pie is, again, mere defence against drunkenness. The puddings, though, are subtle and brilliant; they are another drug, called sugar, and they are as well-loved as the gin.
Six Storeys on Soho, then, is almost a good pun: it is a blank page, fresh and ominous. If you are an alcoholic, or just want to be one, come here. You’ll like it. It might summon dreadful things.