Buttons We Really Really Want To Press

Will Noble
By Will Noble Last edited 10 months ago
Buttons We Really Really Want To Press

In which we make like the Sugababes, and push the button...

The Press for Champagne buttons

A press for champagne button and a glass of champagne aloft in St Pancras station
The ultimate London button? Image: Londonist

Apparently Bob Bob Ricard pours more champagne than any other restaurant in the UK... wonder if it's got anything to do with having the most pressable button ever: the much-Instagrammed 'Press for Champagne'. A shimmering gold button can be found on every table of their swanky Soho and City restaurants: press it, and within moments a member of staff will take your request for fizz (or perhaps a shot of vodka, chilled to -18°C).

More Press for Champagne buttons are to be found in the booths at St Pancras station's fizz bar (see above) situated alongside the Eurostar tracks. And an honourable mention in our 'booze buttons' section should go to the wine vending machines at branches of Vagabond. Because sometimes, you just fancy a chianti over a Coke Zero.

Lift buttons

A really confusing array of buttons
Er... image: Londonist

London's bristling with buildings tall and tube stations deep. But here's the rub: often the lifts are on auto, and you needn't — nay, can't — put your dirty digits anywhere the buttons. We remember the time an elevator concierge at The Shard sighed at us "You don't need to do that" when we tried to press the button to take us to the 31st floor (sounded like the 31st time he'd told someone that day.) Underground lifts at the likes of Covent Garden and Borough don't require pressing either, although that won't stop tourists from having a bloody good try.

On the opposite end of the scale, some lift buttons we wouldn't DARE press. Like the head-twisting combo we snapped at Centrepoint (above).

Buttons on the tube

A tube door opens onto a glorious purple sunset
No button required. Image: Joanna Rutherford

Like lift buttons, those on tube trains are usually gratuitous. Even as a seasoned Londoner, we've occasionally forgotten we're not on a mainline service and — the shame! — gone to press the button. We all know what happens next: the door flings opens before you can make flesh-to-button contact, and your arm jerks upwards to scratch your head, as if that was the plan all along. Our advice? Buy yourself a decommissioned Jubilee line tube button, turn it into a doorbell and press it to your heart's content.

On the subject of buttons on tube trains, we did once have the pleasure of pressing the two — yes, two — buttons that make tube trains move off from each station. Feels good.

Museum buttons

A toilet flush made to look like the gun button on a fighter plane
Roger that. Image: Londonist

The absolute dream as a kid (and adult) is pressing the buttons in museums. They're so much better than all the vases and sculptures and writing and stuff. It hardly even matters what the button actually does, although chances are it'll just make an area of a map light. When the new, interactive Young V&A opens in July, we're going to be a quivering mess. But if you ask us for our all time fave museum button... why, it's got to be the toilets at Bentley Prior Museum. Us? Niche? Never.

The buttons at Novelty Automation

Wacky arcade games
Novelty Automation is a hand-on heavem of buttons, cranks and levers. Image: Londonist

Taking the interactive museum thing and cranking it up to 11, Novelty Automation in Covent Garden is a miniature wonderland full of crackpot arcade games designed and built by the Heath Robinson of our time, Tim Hunkin. Here, you can fly drones into celeb mansions in order to pap them, decide who gets the house in a divorce settlement, get snapped in a photobooth which goes out of its way to stop you smiling, and dare to make eye contact on a tube train. Naturally, there are buttons galore. Plus cranks and levers too. Hands-on heaven.

The buttons on the Bradley's Bar jukebox

A jukebox with glowing yellow song titles
Grab a pint of Estrella Galicia, crack your knuckles and get pressing. Image: Londonist

A few buttons can lead to a thousand songs... or 20,000 songs in fact — such is the case with the jukebox at Bradley's Bar just off Oxford Street. Depending on the code you key in on the small panel of buttons on top of this phosphorescent treasure chest, it'll spin anything from Elvis to Madonna. Sometimes you don't even need to put in coins. Arrive here before the offices empty out, buy a pint of Estrella Galicia, and take yourself to button/golden hits heaven.

Buttons that are too good to be true

A tile 'button' press this button to decrease global warming
If only. Image: Londonist

Beware false buttons. Case in point: the tile 'buttons' that appeared in places including London Bridge and Shoreditch in recent years. They promised to do the impossible: decrease global warming, teleport you to your desired location, make yourself disappear, remote control your lover. Let us tell you, we tried ALL of these buttons, and only one of them worked.

Talking about buttons that aren't really there...

The Great Unpushable Button in the Sky

A giant 'play button' amid the City of London
Good luck getting this video to play. Image: Londonist

In the summer of 2018, Londoners started sharing images of a massive 'play' button that'd appeared over the City of London. Had God turned London into a one huge Vimeo, and then paused it? Nope, it was just the top of the new Scalpel high-rise, gleaming in the sunlight — and tempting a giant digit that will never appear. At least, we hope not.

Last Updated 02 May 2023