The Colony Room — the boozy Soho salon where Francis Bacon rubbed shoulders with Tom Baker — is reopening as a pop-up bar this November.
You could fill a book with the brandy-soaked anecdotes from the debauched club which stood on Dean Street from 1948 to 2008 — in fact, a few years back, the artist Darren Coffield did, regaling us with stories such as the time Jeffrey Bernard accidentally told a Kray twin to 'stop being such a f**king bore."
Coffield has now worked with Daisy Green Collection (the outfit who'll you'll now find all over the National Portrait Gallery), to create a faithful facsimile of the Colony Room, its emerald green walls cluttered with a slew of artworks and knick-knacks including Maggi Hambling's portrait of Soho dandy Sebastian Horsley, and Francis Bacon as painted by Michael Clarke. Even little details — a gravy-hued Bakelite phone, a Courvoisier ashtray — are scattered about.
The Colony Room 2.0 opens on 16 November as a pop-up below bougie Heddon Street restaurant Ziggy Green (so named, of course, because David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust album cover was shot here).
The closest that younger Londoners have been able to come to the club where doyens of the arts scene — from Joan Littlewood to Tracey Emin to Princess Margaret to Suggs — came to get sozzled, has been through old footage of the club, folkloric tales, and the occasional batty scene in Toast of London's 'Colonial Club' (in which there's a thinly-veiled version of the club).
It should prove an interesting installation, buoyed by the fact it will stay true to the original bar by banning phones, keeping the opening hours at 3pm-11pm daily, plus as an introductory offer — certain drinks will sell at 2008 prices (£4 for a Beefeater and tonic is not to be sniffed at in 2023).
Other things will have to change. The bar is downstairs, rather than up. No longer will a pea souper of fag fumes be permitted to clog the ether. (In fact if you so much as think of using that ashtray, you'll surely get barred.) And we'd expect the barkeep to be a smidge politer than the club's nefarious landlady Muriel Belcher (we'd put money on the Daisy Green peeps NOT greeting punters with the catchphrase "Hello c***ty!").
Some will say this self-billed "love letter to London's lost bohemia" is folly; last year, the Standard wrote how today's Londoners are 'too dull' to appreciate such a place — and after all, that was always the cardinal sin. As for what Muriel Belcher would say about all this... well, we're not able to print that.
The Colony Room pop-up at Ziggy Green launches on 16 November 2023, and will initially run for six months