Inside, it’s decked out in a decadent 1920’s/30’s style, rather like the first class lounge on the Titanic would have looked if they’d decided to spend a bit more on it; wooden panelling, art-deco ornaments and plump armchairs are the order of the day. They play a jaunty selection of 20's jazz hits and the Whisky selection is pretty much a who's who of major distilleries. The staff are uniformly attractive and unobtrusive and I barely noticed as the waitress shimmied up as we sat considering the cocktail menu last night.
“What can I get you?” she asked.
I looked at the options. A Gin Sling? A Screwdriver? In the end I settled for the Alcoholics Delight, which appeared to consist of a shot of everything behind the bar in a bucket with a fried egg on top. She turned to Monty.
“And you, sir?”
Monty regarded his menu with something of a pensive air. He tapped a finger. “A Moscow Mule, please”, he said, thoughtfully.
“Certainly, sir. Will that be strong, or low alcohol?”
I gave a loud guffaw. Low alcohol? Plainly this woman did not know Monty.
“Ah...the low alcohol, please.”
My head shot round like it was on a spring. Had I heard aright? “What?", I said. “Are you quite serious?"
He nodded, rather more firmly this time. “Low alcohol”, he confirmed.
The waitress sashayed away and I opened and closed my mouth like a confused fish. “But, Monty!” I cried. “You...it...booze...drinking...low alcohol”, I explained further.
Monty had the grace to look a little crestfallen. “I know”, he said. “But...I’ve started getting hangovers. Now I understand what you lot have been going on about all these years. And anyway,” he added, pointing ruefully at his tummy. “My liver. Size of a football, you know.“
“Tommyrot”, I said, firmly. “Your liver would need Kryptonite to stop it, and believe me that’s not the green colouring in absinthe.”
But so the evening went on. As I wrapped myself around a series of spectacularly inebriating drinks like the Dialysis Supreme (“We pop a funnel in your mouth and keep pouring gin in until you pass out. With a dash of sours and an olive”) and the Boozeguzzler ("We’re not telling what’s in this one, but trust us when we say drinking it will invalidate your life insurance”), Monty sipped abstemiously at small port. I felt utterly confused. “So…” I said, trying to change the subject. “What plans have you for the rest of the week?”
“Oh”, said Monty. “I’m coming back here tomorrow.”
I nodded. At least some things haven’t changed.