There are only two things in London that would survive a nuclear holocaust: long-tailed rats and Bar Italia. Opened in 1949, this buzzing West End institution has seen six decades of business (despite the rabid influx of chain coffee shops in the area) by offering a unique 24-hour bolthole for the city’s artists, writers, musicians, strippers, hustlers, greasers, mods, trannies, dandies and small-time gangsters. But few of the fiercely loyal regulars here come for the food (standard issue pizzas and paninis) or the coffee (unremarkable and often pricey), and definitely not for the less-than-polite staff.
The big pull here is the combustive after-party vibe and the 1950s doo-wop kitsch of the interior; made up of red leatherette button stools, chrome fittings, Formica surfaces and the famous Rocky Marciano poster. Bar Italia’s authenticity is stamped by its huge popularity with the capital’s Italian diaspora, who gather here en masse to watch football on the big screen. Definitely a scene to discover.