World’s Worst Bars No. 3

I try and not comment on drinking establishments as a rule. I think they’re quite a personal thing and, invariably, no two people like exactly the same things in a pub or bar. Obviously, the nature and quality of the alcohol would seems to be pretty important but even here opinions are markedly different. Chilled beer or room temperature ? Bottles or pints ? High-end wine ? Optics or free-pour ? I would also add that, personally, the clientele are as important as the availability of good quality booze. I don’t particularly like being surrounded by lairy or obstreperous co-drinkers whose sole purpose on any given evening is to get as drunk as possible, as quickly as possible. In general, whether pub or bar, I like the atmosphere to be relaxed, refined and with a volume level that accommodates good conversation.

So, in almost every respect, the polar opposite to a bar I found myself in this week. The bar in question is called Abacus ( on Cornhill in the City. Abacus is one of those after-work drinking places that has ideas way above its station, complete with a roped entrance to control all the queues of people that weren’t there. It started badly when I was forced to have a small ink stamp saying “Abacus” branded on my hand as I walked in. As tattoos go, I’m not sure this is one that the Beckhams would be particularly proud of.

The bar itself is the usual fodder of loud music, crass patrons and awful drinks. It was packed, largely due to the “half price drinks on a Thursday” offer that seemed to be in force. OK, so that’s one way of filling your bar full of Essex’s finest but everywhere I went I bumped into vacuous secretaries drinking Bacardi breezers or City trash propping themselves up on cheap lager and WK’D. I counted at least three tables doing “chasers”. As far as food goes, I think the bar must own shares in Tefal since everything I saw being carried out was deep fried. Yes, everything. Oh, and did I mention that it was so loud that I’m sure my ears started to bleed ?

It was truly, truly awful. So bad that I toyed with whether to soil my blog even writing about it. But, being the public-spirited individual that I am, I thought I would warn the rest of London so they do not fall into the same trap. What’s even worse is that one of London’s best bars, 1 Lombard, is only a few doors away. Good job I only stayed for one drink and left.


One response to this post.

  1. Couldn’t agree more. The noise thing really gets up my nose – what’s the point of having to shout your way through the evening? Or maybe I am just getting old…

    My regular city haunt here in Melbourne is the City Wine Shop, opposite state parliament. Next door (and connected to) the EUropean restaurant, it is reminiscent of a regular old Italian or Spanish bar, with a few wooden bistro tables and chairs outside, a long bar with barstools, and a communal table at the back.

    One wall is lined to the top with wine bottles (it is an actual wine shop) and they pour lovely, often unusual wines by the glass every day. You can buy by the bottle and they will serve it to you where you sit. There is an inviting but limited menu up on the blackboard including irresistible cheeses. Breakfast is very European-style and the staff are knowledgeable, friendly and professional.

    It’s a great place for an after-work drink with mates, an evening session, a morning coffee and toast before a city meeting or a chatty bite to eat with friends. I will happily sit in there alone at the bar nursing a nice glass of barbera or whatever, watching the world go by if I’m early into the city to meet somebody.

    And the atmosphere is so lovely I cannot even tell you if they have music playing!


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