Backstage Bar is a hidden away den secreted beneath the Spice of Life pub. With live music including jazz and open mic nights held here every night of the week, it makes this genre of entertainment accessible to all.
The Spice of Life pub basement is where the Backstage Bar resides - the home of Spice Jazz, hidden away as most good jazz clubs are. The pub is well camouflaged against the crossroads of Charing Cross and Shaftesbury Avenue, in the shadow of glitzy Spamalots Palace Theatre.
Once you locate the venue, it's a short walk through the dark coloured doors of the corner pub, across its generically-furnished ground floor to a narrow flight of steps leading down into a den of jazz tunes. The basement is similar to the ground floor with an angularity courtesy of its natural triangle shape, but less shrouded in dark colours with a small bar, exposed brick walls, barely-stained floors, and tables and stools. Its split-level floorplan allows for good views of the musicians' cove on the lower level.
The variety of music that plays at the Backstage Bar’s Spice Jazz and simple decor with portraits of musicians of nonspecific genre makes the space feel and look more like a pub that simply needs some music to fill the space. But jazz is a popular genre here, whether you're 50 or 15, a hound or a player, you will feel welcomed - this is hardly an exclusive watering hole and the aim appears to be making jazz accessible to all. The staff are friendly although they can unintentionally be disruptive when they walk in and out of the staffroom located just behind the musicians' cove.
Monday night at Backstage Bar is open mic night, Tuesday is Jam and Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday lunch are reserved for jazz. On the first and last Sunday afternoons of the month young up-and-coming jazz musicians play and practice jazz standards with recognisable tunes. For a cover charge of £3, listen to Tomorrow's Warriors - once polished they will be tomorrow's stars.
Food is not available at The Backstage Bar although it is upstairs, and you can bring it with you into the basement. Dishes are typical pub grub - simple to cook and assemble. From light appetisers (£3.75-£7.95) to sandwiches (£6.25-£7.95), big plates of steaks, burgers and chips (£6.95-£11.95), and sharing slates (£11.95), there is something for every degree of hunger. The dessert selection (£3.95) is very average but will definitely satisfy a sweet tooth.
Pub prices apply - a pint of beer and a highball go from around £3.50 each, whilst a glass of house wine costs upwards of £3 or £13 for a bottle. The wine list is very international - at least every country is represented covering all the grapes, offered by the glass or bottle.
The pub nature of the venue is shown by virtue of the fact there are almost as many beers on draught as beers by the bottle; the draught selection is very well-rounded. They include Fosters, Kronenbourg, Strongbow and a range of McMullens ales. The bottle selection is similarly well-rounded but more international (Becks, Tiger, San Miguel and Tiger).
The Last Word
The Backstage Bar may not be a fully-fledged music venue, and the food and drink may be mediocre, but you can count on live music five days a week - that has to count for something.