Want to experience an artistic haunt that's low on pretension? Head along to this members' club for artists and immerse yourself in the theatrical side of London.
Opposite the neon-signed Foyles, nestled between Blackwells and a second hand bookshop beneath the Phoenix Theatre (where the everlasting Blood Brothers plays) lies the appropriately named Phoenix Artist Club. An inconspicuous side door wards off any unwanteds from the tourist-worker-shopper heavy crowds of Charing Cross Road with the sign declaring it’s members only. It is true, you must sign in after 8pm; however, before then anyone is welcome.
This is an actor’s bar, on either side of the stairs leading down to the cabaret-styled Phoenix Artist Club hang heavy red velvet curtains for their entrances. Inside you are welcomed with show tunes quietly playing amongst the chit-chat of the customers and newcomers' eyes settle on frame upon frame of washed up actors, old play posters and the odd phallic flower picture. The bar runs alongside one wall and looks out to the plentiful tables, chairs, booths, arches, nooks and crannies. The back room is separated by bookshelves and a curtained archway and this space is often reserved for birthdays, leaving dos or book launches. Lights are dim, walls are dark and the furniture oak heavy – on a side note the owner is always present, almost a part of the furnishings himself.
The Phoenix Artist Club is like no other. With the continuous show tunes playing and the plethora of theatre pictures one could assume that this bar isn’t to everyone’s taste but somehow instead of hindering, these aspects only add to the friendly, buzzing atmosphere of the place. Conversations always appear to be passionate and the urge to play musical chairs around every group is strong. It is an artist’s bar and there is an element of the bohemian to the Phoenix, making it a perfect romantic spot and conversely the perfect social spot to meet a group of friends for drinks, then more drinks before tumbling back out into the grey of Charing Cross Road.
Food is served until 9pm and includes a basic but filling selection of cheap platters for £6 or sharing combos for £11 and a standard choice of main meals such as burgers, fish and chips, sausage and mash, and stir fry (£6.50-£8.50). The ubiquitous bowls of chips for £2.60 are an inexpensive way of lining the stomach.
The Phoenix Artist Clubs is a place to go to for the atmosphere and the people; drinks are your usual fare. Red Stripe, Kronenbourg, Ichiban and Guinness are on tap. The wine list is limited, with the house red and white just about drinkable; however, prices are low with bottles costing just £12.50-£19.50. Even the Champagne is cheap – a bottle of Veuve Clicquot is just £54 here, which far undercuts most bars in Central London. There are a also a wide selection of spirits.
The Last Word
The Phoenix Artist Club is a jewel amongst the urban drool of Central London. This is a proper old school luvvie haunt and all the better for it.