Reassuringly expensive

Drink - Victoria Moore discovers the delights of drinking in style

Just about every day, a new bar opens in London, purporting to lie on the restless tropic of cool. It will usually have a thoroughly nasty list of cocktails each costing 50 pence more than they did at yesterday's bar; a tightly controlled level of dinginess; a crowd of half-baked wannabes; some chrome and a smattering of those funny little leather and suede things for which no one can agree on a name, but some people call pouffes. I remember when I was very nervous about entering such places and would hover anxiously on the threshold to give them a chance to refuse me entry so as to avoid being hoicked out in front of everyone as I approached the bar.

Now I'm so tired and unimpressed by these places that I don't even go to their launch parties, despite knowing that I'll be able to drink frenziedly all night without having to pay for it except with headaches the next morning. So I was quite surprised the other day to find myself trudging down Berners Street trying to look breezily unselfconscious and carefree as I approached the doormen at Ian Schrager's new hotel, The Sanderson. Part of my nervousness was owing to the fact that a few drinks at its bar temporarily cost one of my friends almost £8,000. It wasn't that I was afraid my own credit card might be similarly gang-banged by a "computer error", but that, when my friend phoned the PR company and the hotel manager to ask what they were going to do about it, both parties behaved in such a relaxed, unperturbed manner as to suggest that £8,000 was no great sum of money to have disappear from your account for a few days. Imagine how filthy rich their clients must be.

Outside the grim grey facade of the hotel was a huge and stylised arrangement of palest pink peonies, as well as two doormen who grinned genially rather than moving together to block our entrance. Inside was another smiling, good-looking young chap with an easygoing record-shop manner. But it was the entrance hall that made us catch our breath. Modern is too old-fashioned a word to describe the vast room and its peculiar assortment of furniture - among them a bright turquoise chaise longue and a painfully space-age yellow chair-creation - ranged about so that the whole room resembled a Kandinsky painting.

We went to get a drink. "It reminded me of the Eighties," my friend had told me wistfully. "Everyone was drinking champagne." And everyone was, at a glowing, creamy yellow bar so long that it seemed to stretch to the horizon. All the everyones were immaculate and beautiful, in a very general way respective of age, class and probable occupation. The waitresses were all slender with a swish of long hair and a uniform black, flippy, barely-there dress. We sat down and ordered champagne (at £9 a flute, plus 15 per cent service charge, which last sum, given that we were sitting at the bar, presumably went towards compensating the barman for the effort of tilting the champagne bottle over a glass), because to do otherwise would have been absurd. And then we relaxed, seduced.

It was a supremely elegant place to be in. We gazed in wonderment at everything around us. Then, although we couldn't afford it, we ordered another glass of champagne. As we finished that, we talked with longing about the days when we could have stayed in a bar all night long drinking champagne because we had the kind of jobs to go to the next day that it wouldn't matter too much if we couldn't. Then we remembered how much the drinks were and unravelled ourselves from this nirvana of nirvanas, the place where I should now like to pass every moment of my waking hours.

On our way out, we made a diversion to the Ladies, which we found at the end of a staircase with lime-green walls and a lime-green carpet. It took us a long time to work out how to open the door (and this was nothing to do with the champagne). Then, in the immaculate whiteness of the washrooms with the sinks that didn't really look like sinks, we found a cigarette burn. How pleased we were.